Replaying the past? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 20, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 20, 2010

Replaying the past?

Student politics in Bangladesh has a glorious history since leaders of different student organisations played significant roles during our national crises, including language movement, liberation war and the movement for restoration of democracy in the 1990s. However, these organisations have lost those glory. Nowadays, the perception of student's politics has changed. We usually see that they remain busy in establishing supremacy on the campus, exercising control over tenders, manipulating power etc.
In the past, we witnessed harmful activities caused by different student organisations. For instance, the activities of Chhatra Dal during 2001-2006 were vehemently criticised by the majority of our population. Such activities also demolished the image of the government.
During 1996-2001, the AL government did not have to face as much difficulty in controlling the activities of the Chhatra League as they are doing now. Since taking over state responsibility, one of the problems that the government has been confronted with is the activities of the BCL, which is a potential menace to the image of the government.
From the very beginning of the AL's term, BCL has been busy in intra-group conflict as well as inter-group conflict in most of the higher education institutions in the country. Their main intention is to establish their supremacy on the campuses. As a result of such conflict, many of the higher education institutions, including public universities, have remained closed. Although some of the universities have opened, they are under strict security. We have learned from several newspapers that authorities have remained busy in managing Chhatra League's intra-group conflict instead of managing pressure from the student wings of the opposition. These sorts of activities are really unacceptable.
It is widely alleged that activists of BCL are involved in tender-related violence all over country. They are preventing bidders from dropping their tenders. Sometimes, they compel the bidders to come to an agreement with them in exchange of money.
Apart from tender-related violence, extortion by the BCL men has become another issue of concern for the government. Everyday, if we look at the newspapers, we find cases of such extortion, where the culprits are activists of BCL. Such activities have already created a negative reaction in the minds of the ordinary people. Questions are being asked about the sincerity of the government in preventing such activities of BCL.
On January 7, in Rajshahi Polytechnic Institute, Chhatra League men killed a student who was a supporter of Chhatra Maitree, the student wing of Bangladesh Worker's Party. As a matter of fact, these two student organisations are the part of ruling grand alliance. In the past, it was generally seen that political clashes took place between student wing of the ruling party and the opposition. But, nowadays, most of the clashes in the educational institutions are taking place between different groups of Chhatra League.
One may wonder how long these activities will continue. We have seen in different opinion surveys that the people think that the inability of the government to control the activities of Chhatra League is one of its major failures. How long will the government tolerate these activities of its student organisation, which has already created a negative impact among the population?
There is no denying the fact that the government has taken a good number of steps to control such violent activities. For instance, the PM has withdrawn from the post of organisational head of BCL. Moreover, in their registration papers, Awami League has not recognised Chhatra League as its associate organisation.
Despite the above initiatives, the activities of Chhatra League have not yet been stopped. Now, the time has come for the government to take a well thought out decision on the activities of Chhatra League as well student politics. The government should consider the fact that the majority of voters in Bangladesh cast their vote in favour of AL in the last election where, Chhatra League did not play any role in molding their opinion. Thus, the government should reconsider its decision about the student politics.
One step would be to impose a ban on student politics for at least a couple of years so that the situation is not aggravated seriously. This sort of step would not affect AL and its government negatively since AL secured such a landslide victory without the support of the Chhatra League. It would also allow the leaders and supporters of Chhatra League to rectify themselves.
If such violent activities of the Chhatra League cannot be controlled within a very short time, there is a possibility that the government would lose supports from all concerned. Thereafter, even a positive step would not assist them in regaining public support.

Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday is Chairman, Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh, and EC Member, Eminence, Dhaka. E-mail:

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