In a rare instance, the government yesterday deferred today's public exams as a Qawmi madrasa platform will stage a rally in the capital's Suhrawardy Udyan to express gratitude over recognition of top Qawmi degree.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to join the programme titled “Shokrana Mahfil” as the chief guest while Hefajat-e Islam supremo Shah Ahmed Shafi will be in the chair.
Al-Hiyatul Ulya Lil-Zami'atil Qawmiya Bangladesh, a combine of Qawmi education boards led by Shafi, organised the event to hail the passage of a bill making the Dawra-e-Hadith degree equivalent to master's in Islamic studies and Arabic.
As rescheduled, the tests of Junior School Certificate and Junior Dakhil Certificate will now be held on November 9.
Organisers are expecting a gathering of around 10 lakh people at today's rally, said Maulana Farid Uddin Masoud, a leader of the platform, after inspecting the venue yesterday.
Mainuddin Ruhi, a joint secretary of Hefajat, said 15,000 leaders and activists of the organisation would come from Chattogram for the meeting and they already hired 250 buses for this.
“We have set the rally date after discussing it with the government,” he told The Daily Star.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police has imposed restrictions on traffic movement for today while some schools announced closure because of the rally, beginning at 10:00am.
The government decision to shift the exams drew criticism from educationalists and guardians as it would put extra pressure on examinees, who now have to sit for three tough tests in a row -- math on Thursday, English on Friday and science on Saturday next.
Some also denounced it as a compromise with the Qawmi group.
The platform backed by controversial Islamist organisation Hefajat is arranging the rally at a time when the 90-day countdown for the next general election already began.
On May 5, 2013, Hefajat activists got involved in deadly clashes with law enforcers and ruling party men, turning Motijheel and Paltan areas virtually into battlefields to press its 13-point demand.
They went on the rampage setting fire to hundreds of shops, vehicles and police checkpoints, which led law enforcers to swing into action to flush them out in a raid after midnight.
After the incident, 83 cases were filed against 3,416 people, and many of its senior leaders went undercover fearing arrest.
However, things would drastically change in the days to come. The Qawmi madrasa-based group got close to the AL and the government, getting benefits, according to a number of its leaders.
Hefajat now remains almost silent over its 13-point demand as, insiders say, the government has convinced it to refrain from taking to the streets.
The education ministry yesterday shifted the JSC and JDC exams citing “unavoidable circumstances”.
But Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid told this newspaper, “We have deferred the JSC and JDC exams keeping in mind the rally.”
He added students would suffer before and after the exams today as it has been known that several lakh people would join the meeting. “That's why we have taken the decision.”
November 4 (today) was fixed for English test of regular students and English first paper of irregular students of JSC and Arabic second paper of JDC.
Guardians and educationists said deferring public examinations were “unnecessary”. The rally should have been rescheduled instead of a public exam in which 26.70 lakh students are taking part.
“Why students have to be victimised because of a rally?” questions Mahmud Hossain, a guardian of a JSC candidate from Mirpur.
Dhaka University Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said postponement of exams for the rally delivers a “massage that the government is compromising with and giving discount to the Qawmi group.”
He said the group was successful to bring changes to textbooks by mounting pressure on the government though that went against the spirit of Liberation War.
The group also succeeded to have the government recognition of Dawra-e-Hadith, which, he said, “is not viable for the society.”
Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam termed the government decision “unfortunate.”
Both the educationists think a public exam after class-VIII is “not necessary at all” as this is a burden for students. And rescheduling exam means even more pressure, they added.
Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education, said it is a rare instance that public exams were shifted for a rally. “Students have the right to sit for their exams without any suffering”.
She feared further upsetting of academic activities as many political programmes will take place ahead of upcoming general polls.
In a statement, Bangladesh Chhatra Union said deferring exam will hit hard the students.
The education ministry's step was irresponsible and the government showed its political bankruptcy by allowing a rally during a public exam, it added.
Meanwhile, Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee shifted its today's discussion on “Constitution Day” to November 8 while organisers of Dhaka Literary Festival also deferred their press conference to tomorrow.
The DMP on Friday asked all heavy and light vehicles to avoid Suhrawardy Udyan area and adjacent places today. The roads from Shahbagh intersection to Matsya Bhaban will remain off limits to traffic from dawn till the end of the rally.
Besides, there could be traffic diversions in areas including Banglamotor, Shahbagh, Katabon, Nilkhet, Palashi, Bakshi Bazar, Chankhar Pool, Gulistan, Paltan and Kakrail.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader earlier on several occasions said no rallies or processions would be allowed anywhere in the city on weekdays.
In January, Quader, also general secretary of ruling Awami League, even directed the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority to formulate a policy in this regard.