Ten years ago, Uday Singha Palash, a student of Murari Chand College and a Bangladesh Chhatra League activist, was murdered in Sylhet city's Tilagarh area in a factional clash.
The college's BCL unit was then dissolved and no new committee has since been formed, but BCL activists are still involved with factional politics.
Since 2018, four BCL activists were murdered in separate incidents, and they were said to be victims of factional clashes.
The actions of BCL activists have come under the spotlight after six were accused – and four arrested yesterday -- of raping a woman in the college's hostel on Friday night, creating a furore in the country and sparking protests.
Asad Uddin Ahmed, former general secretary of Sylhet city Awami League, said, "It took a long process of bad practice to turn some young BCL activists into people who could commit heinous crimes.
"There are senior political leaders backing them. To achieve their [leaders'] political ambition, they use the students. Overlooking these activists' smaller crimes has led to the situation we are facing now. The backers of the rape accused should be punished or at least socially dishonoured," he said.
It was learned after talking with several present and former BCL leaders and activists that the two main BCL factions in Tilagarh are allegedly led by two friends -- Advocate Ranjit Sarkar, former youth and sports secretary of Sylhet district AL and Azadur Rahman Azad, a councillor of the city corporation and former education affairs secretary of the Sylhet city AL.
Shafiul Alam Chowdhury Nadel, organising secretary of Bangladesh Awami League central unit, said, "Even though there is visible conflict between them, they are united. In the last Eid-ul-Adha, they were united when it came to securing the lease of Animal Haat at MC College field."
All the accused of the rape at the Murari Chand College hostel last Friday were supporters of advocate Ranjit Sarker, local BCL activists and leaders said.
Contacted, Ranjit Sarkar told The Daily Star, "It's been 20 years since I left Chhatra League and entered the legal profession. All I am involved with is the politics of Awami League.
"The conflict between me and Azad is media created. We have been good friends for decades. Whenever anything happens in Tilagarh, everyone brings our name to the forefront. How could we be close to activists who are the age of our children?"
When asked about photographs of him with the rapists on their social media profiles, Ranjit said, "Anyone can take photographs and claim my acquaintance; that doesn't prove the claim."
Ranjit, also a lawyer practising in Sylhet Court, said, "The problem is there are no BCL committees, which means there is no guidance."
4 ACCUSED RAPISTS ARRESTED
Four of the accused in the rape case were arrested yesterday.
In the morning, Saifur Rahman, the prime accused, was arrested from Chhatak upazila in Sunamganj while Arjun Lasker, fourth accused, was arrested from Madhabpur upazila in Habiganj, said Jyotirmoy Sarker, additional deputy commissioner (media) of Sylhet Metropolitan Police.
Around 9:00pm, Shah Mahbubur Rahman Roni, 25, was arrested from Habiganj Sadar upazila, said Additional SP Obain, also media officer of Rab-9. An hour later Rabiul Islam, 25, was arrested by the Detective Branch of Police in Habiganj's Nabiganj upazila, Anwar Hossain, additional superintendent of police in Habiganj, told The Daily Star.
The other accused, Mahfuzur Rahman Masum, 25, of Sylhet's Kanaighat and Tarek Ahmed, 28, of Sunamganj town are on the run.
VICTIM'S TESTIMONY RECORDED
The victim's testimony was recorded in a closed court yesterday afternoon.
The victim was taken to the court where Sharmin Khanam Nila, metropolitan magistrate, recorded the testimony in a closed court, said Amulya Bhushan Chowdhury, assistant commissioner (prosecution) of Sylhet Metropolitan Police.
Sylhet City Mayor Ariful Haque Choudhury and councillors of the corporation protested the heinous crime and demanded justice yesterday afternoon.
They walked from the city hall to the SMP commissioner's office after a meeting where they decided to keep protesting such crimes and vowed to make a safer city for women.
Meanwhile, around 4:00pm, cultural activists of Sylhet protested the rape in a demonstration in front of the hostel, jointly organised by Sammilita Sangskritik Jote and Sammilita Natya Parishad in Sylhet.