BCL strikes again!
We are always bemused at how the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) is able to stay at the forefront of things – rarely for better, and mostly for worse. Just on Monday afternoon, a faction of the ruling party's student wing reportedly vandalised chairs, tables, crockery items and several flower tubs in front of the Chittagong University (CU) vice-chancellor's office. They also halted shuttle train services between CU and Chattogram city, causing immense suffering to students. What did the organisation deem significant enough to react to so intensely? Reportedly, the vandalism was carried out because the university administration passed over the application of former BCL leader Raihan Ahmed for a teaching position at the CU's marine science department. The group's real gripe, as they have claimed, is that the teachers being hired by the university harbour "anti-government" sentiments. Whether one sees such violent displays of loyalty as positive or not, such activities of the BCL are almost yawn-worthy, given the dismal track record of the group inside and outside public university campuses.
The disrespect shown towards the VC of CU, and by extension towards the institution itself, is almost elemental to how the BCL operates. More importantly, this is only a repeat of what happened in 2017, when BCL members vandalised the front of the VC's office when their demand for the removal of a teacher, who they alleged was "spreading personal enmity" against elected representatives, was not being met. In August of 2022, in the span of a few days, the BCL at CU made headlines on two separate occasions: 1) when they enforced a shutdown of all academic activities (even semester final exams) for 35 hours to protest members of a faction of the BCL not being elected in its new CU committee; and 2) when two BCL activists, who had been suspended by the CU for harassing some female students in 2021, were able to sit for final examinations.
But of course such audacity and impunity of the BCL extends outside of CU and disrupts the regular operation of many public universities. At Comilla University in November 2022, for example, the president of the BCL unit there reportedly misbehaved with the university's VC for not recruiting BCL men in different posts at the university.
There is no denying that, for years, the ruling Awami League has consistently turned a blind eye to the myriad terrors caused by the BCL across the country's public university campuses. From the kind of vandalism mentioned above, to attacking students (physically and sexually), university staff, and teachers, to even murdering people, there are few forms of crime that have not been exercised by this group – and all while being practically coddled by the AL, save for a few harsh words of admonishment now and again from party seniors at the BCL's rallies and such. How long will this continue while our public universities increasingly become unsafe for anyone not satisfying the arbitrary whims of this group? The ruling party needs to stamp down on its student wing and hold them accountable for their disproportionate reactions to public universities' official decisions. While it is well-known where the BCL draws its sense of authority from, the government must, through its actions, establish that it is illegitimately gained.