DU Dormitories: The ghost of ‘Gono Rooms’ still haunts
Although Dhaka University authorities recently spoke of their desire to get rid of "Gono" rooms at dormitories, first-year students had no other choice than to cram into such rooms again as the residential halls fully reopened on Sunday after a Covid-induced closure of a year and a half.
It happened mainly because some other rooms newly allotted to first- and second-year students are still occupied by former students, who are involved with Chhatra League, alleged common students.
Thirty to 35 students had to sleep on the floor of each "Gono" room, which can accommodate eight, on Sunday night.
Besides, the pro-Awami League student wing continued to use the dormitories' guest rooms for political gatherings, violating a ban imposed by the university. As many students were gathered in the rooms, physical distancing could not be maintained.
Several students said freshers are compelled to attend the political gatherings. If they skip them, they might be driven out, they said.
Several teachers and common students said the "culture of Gono Room and Guest Room" continues to thrive because of political reasons, rather than an accommodation crisis.
Citing a supposed accommodation crisis, the dormitories previously did not allot seats to first year students. So, they had to move in with the help of BCL men and cram into the "Gono" rooms. The students are also forced into attending political processions and meetings.
It happens at a time when many former students -- mainly BCL leaders -- illegally occupy rooms showing muscle power.
The DU halls had reopened for honours fourth year and master's students on October 5. That day, Vice-Chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman sought help from all students to get rid of "Gono" rooms.
"Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina does not like the 'Gono Room' culture. She does not want students' living standards compromised. She has advised me on several occasions to address the issue... Now, we need help from everyone [to end this culture]," the VC said.
Later, authorities of several dormitories said they were allotting rooms, occupied by former students, to new freshers.
The ghost of 'Guest Room' has returned despite a ban by the university.
First-year students had to attend gatherings at the guest rooms of Shaheed Sergeant Zahurul Haque Hall, Mastarda Surjasen Hall and Kabi Jashimuddin Hall, among other dormitories, on Sunday night, said students.
One resident of Zahurul Haque Hall said seniors from the BCL had instructed them to be present at the guest room. "We were told that we must attend the programme if we want to stay here," he said.
Asked, a BCL leader of the dormitory said they asked freshers to go to the room to make them aware about hygiene amid the pandemic.
Hall Provost Prof Dr Delwar Hossain said, "Many students have to stay in Gono rooms because we could not ensure seats for all students. We want another week to accommodate them properly".
He admitted that some students gathered at the guest room, but said they left immediately after the house tutor informed him about the gathering.
Contacted, Saddam Hussain, DU BCL general secretary, said there was no scope to hold such gatherings at halls following an instruction from the university authorities.
"We welcomed the authorities' decision. We will take action if we find that any of our leaders and activists violated it," he said.
He denied BCL was involved in forcing anyone to do politics. He binned the other allegations against the student organisation.
DU Provost Standing Committee Convener Prof Abdul Bachir said, "It is true that first-year students went to Gono rooms. They will stay there for a while. Rooms will be allotted to them within a few days."
On the overall situation, DU VC Akhtaruzzaman told The Daily Star, "The halls have just opened. The long-standing accommodation crisis will be resolved with the cooperation of all".