The struggle for a seat in a DU dorm
Mir Lokman has been a well-known face on Dhaka University (DU) campus since his first-year as a student. He was the founding president of "DU Mime Action" and staged at least 300 mime dramas at that time at various government and non-government institutes.
But despite all his accolades, Lokman was driven out of his residential hall twice by his seniors. In both incidents, he was in no fault. It was the simple whim of the ruling political party's student wing, as, according to Lokman, it rules the dorms of DU.
To explain the situation, he shared his experience with The Daily Star.
Lokman, who joined DU in 2009-10 session, comes from a rural area of Narsingdi's Shibpur upazila. As he has no relatives in Dhaka, and his family was not financially able to pay house rent, he requested a senior acquaintance in his hometown to manage a seat (hall accommodation) for him.
He then moved into a "gonoroom", which had only four beds but accommodated around 25 students, with his bags and started living there. Sometimes, when every student was present in the room, some then had to resort to sleeping at a nearby mosque.
The "rule" to live in the gonoroom is to attend the ruling party's rallies and other political activities.
"Whoever could show that they are active in those events got priority to get a good seat. Some took the chance, and when they got a seat, they became inactive. It's just the process," Lokman said.
Asked why he did not complain to the hall provost after being driven out, he said, "Political activists are the supreme authority when it comes to giving seats or cancelling allotment."
This whole situation is nothing new; it's a common experience in the dorms of DU. Residential halls are controlled by the ruling party's student wing. Whoever wants to stay there would have to obey the party leaders or maintain good relations with them, said students who talked with The Daily Star.
Every year, a number of students are driven-out by the ruling party's student wing. As DU turns 100, the institution is suffering from the worst seat crisis ever.
With time, the number of students at the university increased, but residential and other facilities did not.
For 877 students, there were three residential halls in the 1921-22 academic year (one hall for 292 students). Now, the figure of students stands at 47,197, and there are 19 halls to accommodate them (one hall for 2,484 students).
Educationists and political analysts say this practice remains only for producing "loyal slaves" in the name of political workers on campus. Students are helpless when they get admitted, and political parties take the chance to use them.
The Daily Star talked with 10 first-year students who lived in residential halls. The students, both men and women, wishing not to be named, said seat crisis is a great hassle for them.
They said they are bound to their "political brothers" to get seats in the dormitories.
And if anyone fails to join a political programme, they are harassed at the "guestroom".
A first-year student of Haji Muhammad Mohsin Hall said, "We faced a lot of mental torture. The guestroom is horrible. They order to do lots of unethical things."
A student of Kabi Jasim Uddin Hall said, "I think first-year students need residential facility badly, as most come from outside Dhaka. I didn't find a suitable environment to study after getting seat. When I have no classes, I have to attend the political programmes. If we don't attend, we have to face the guestroom torture."
A student of Zahurul Haque Hall from Netrakona said, "If there were any clashes between political groups or with outsiders, they called us to go there with rods and sticks."
Another student of the hall said, "I didn't agree to go to political programmes and started living in a hall mosque. One day, they called me in the guestroom and said if I want to stay at the hall, I should attend the programmes. They were cursing me out."
A female student of Rokeya Hall said, "Most of us move to the hall by recommendation of any teacher or political leader. Whoever can get a teacher's recommendation, they are lucky, as the leaders make others' lives hell."
In 2016, Hafizur Molla, a student who stayed at Salimullah Muslim Hall, died from pneumonia, after attending a guest room programme on a winter night. Students loudly demanded for an end to this seat crisis at that time, but after four years, there has been no change.
Contacted, DU Vice Chancellor Prof Md Akhteruzzaman said, "It's a long-accumulated crisis, which cannot be resolved in a day. We need to build more halls. We have a plan to resolve the crisis and add this issue in the master-plan."