Dhaka University's decision to set up polling centres for the March 11 Ducsu election inside its 18 dormitories has sparked mixed reactions among different student bodies.
The pro-BNP Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) and all the left-leaning student organisations are against the move. They fear Bangladesh Chhatra League, which currently dominates all those halls, may hamper the election environment.
On the other hand, BCL, the pro-Awami League student organisation, and similar bodies of the ruling party's partners in the 14-party alliance, hailed the decision, saying it was part of a “century-old tradition and custom of the university”.
At a press conference at the Madhur Canteen yesterday, Samajtantrik Chhatra Front demanded that the authorities have the polling centres of the Dhaka University Central Students' Union (Ducsu) polls inside the academic buildings.
Reading out a statement, the organisation's President Salman Siddique said the objective of holding the polls would be hindered if the authorities failed to ensure a free election.
“But we have witnessed that the university administration has taken the Chhatra League's side by coming up with the decision of setting up polling centres inside the dormitories,” he said.
The left-leaning body made several other demands, including allotting dormitory seats to students based on merit, at the briefing. It plans to submit a memorandum to the university's vice-chancellor on Sunday to press home the demands.
Pragatisheel Chhatra Jote, an alliance of left-leaning student organisations, also brought out a torch procession on the campus, demanding that polling centres be set up inside the academic buildings.
Meanwhile, Chhatra Sangram Parishad, a platform of student bodies loyal to the AL and its partners in the 14-party alliance, yesterday protested the leftist student bodies' stance on the issue.
In a press statement, the Parishad termed the protests “an attempt to create confusions”.
“We are witnessing that a quarter is intentionally trying to create confusions over the polling centres of Ducsu and hall union polls,” read the statement, signed by Central BCL President Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury, also coordinator of the platform.
Nearly 65 percent of the university's students stay at the dormitories and academic tasks and co-curricular activities are done centring the halls, the statement said.
All the dormitories have been brought under CCTV surveillance. Thus, there remains no scope of any confusion about the polling centres. Common students will freely pick the leadership of their choice, it said.
“By raising the demand of setting up polling centres outside the dormitories, the democratic values, culture of tolerance and collective efforts of the general students towards building the campus of dreams have been insulted,” added the statement which was issued after a meeting of the Parishad.
Leaders of Bangladesh Chhatra Moitri, JSD Chhatra League and Chhatra Samiti were present at the meeting.
In May last year, the university authorities started updating the voter list for the long-pending election. They published the first draft on October 31.
Talking to The Daily Star on January 23, DU Proctor Prof AKM Golam Rabbani said, “As of now, nearly 38,000 students have been listed as voters and we hope that the final list will have names of more than 42,000.”
Ducsu was formed in 1922, a year after the DU was established. The aim of the platform is to promote cultural activities at the university and foster a spirit of cooperation among the students of different dormitories.