Govt to take hardline approach to reinstating student politics

DhakaTribune || Shining BD

Published: 4/2/2024 4:29:06 AM
File Image: Buet students continued their demonstration for the second day at the campus in Dhaka on Saturday, March 30, 2024. Photo: Ahadul Karim Khan/Dhaka Tribune

File Image: Buet students continued their demonstration for the second day at the campus in Dhaka on Saturday, March 30, 2024. Photo: Ahadul Karim Khan/Dhaka Tribune

The government is considering a hardline approach to tackle the ongoing unrest at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).

Simultaneously, to ensure the constitutional right to conduct political activities, the top brass of the government wants to reinstate student politics in the country’s top engineering institutions, amid widespread opposition to student politics raised by Buet students and teachers.

While speaking with Dhaka Tribune on Monday afternoon, Education Minister Barrister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury Nowfel said: “Buet is a public educational institution which operates with public funds, so it cannot take decisions against our constitutional rights."

He added: “It is not legal to take decisions like banning politics on the demand of a group of students or teachers. If certain groups do not want politics, they can leave Buet. Buet is a public institution, and unconstitutional activities will not be allowed there.”

Meanwhile, speaking with Dhaka Tribune, some top-level leaders of the ruling Awami League said they suspect militant activities inside Buet due to the absence of open political activities.

They suspect that some teachers are spreading Jamaat-e-Islami and Hizb ut-Tahrir ideologies on the Buet campus, and some students are also engaging in fundamental religious political activities there.

Student political activities were prohibited at Buet following the murder of Abrar Fahad by Chhatra League members in the university's Sher-e-Bangla Hall on October 7, 2019.

The prohibition became a matter of concern for the ruling party because after October 2019, the ruling party's student wings were not publicly allowed at the Buet campus, which is very close to Dhaka University.

Amid this situation, on Thursday, a group of Chhatra League leaders and activists entered the Buet campus under the leadership of their top leaders. In protest, Buet students initiated a movement on Friday.

During this time, the students presented a six-point demand, including the enforcement of the ban on student politics on campus.

Later, the Buet administration partially accepted the students' demands and published a notice. The notice, signed by Buet Registrar Prof Md Forkan Uddin, mentioned the cancellation of the accused student Imtiaz Hossain Rahim Rabbi's dormitory seat, the formation of an investigation committee, and decisions to be taken according to the investigation while ensuring that all academic activities, including exams, would continue as scheduled.

However, after this move by Buet, the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling party Awami League, took stern action and protested at the Central Shaheed Minar on Sunday, and later, thousands of Chhatra League activists marched to the Buet campus.

Chhatra League President Saddam Hussain condemned the ban on student politics at Buet as unconstitutional, a violation of fundamental rights, and an anti-education decision by the university administration.

Saddam said: "The farce of banning student politics must end in Bangladesh."

The Chhatra League also protested the cancellation of the seat allotted to Imtiaz Hossain Rahim Rabbi, a student of the Civil Engineering Department at Buet.

Simultaneously, the student organization gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the Buet administration to reinstate Rabbi's seat.

In addition to the current Chhatra League committee, former student leaders of Buet also came forward and demanded the reinstatement of student politics at Buet.

Md Abdus Sabur, president of the Institute of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB), said on Monday that a small group of 300-400 Buet students opposed student politics on campus.

Sabur, a former president of Buet Chhatra League, said: "We believe there is no relation between killings or terrorism and student politics. We want to identify terrorists as terrorists and killers as killers. If student politics can be practised freely at Buet, then our campus will be more dynamic."

During the press conference, the speakers also raised five demands before the Buet administration:

  1. Appropriate punitive action should be taken through an investigation of those who created deadlock and anarchy at Buet since March 28 and obstructed academic activities, including term final examinations.
  2. The unwarranted expulsion of Imtiaz Rabbi from the hall without due investigation is strongly condemned, and the expulsion order must be revoked immediately.
  3. In order to protect Buet's reputation, appropriate measures should be taken against the 24 extremists arrested in Tanguar Haor.
  4. The activities of banned groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, Shibir, and other ultra-fundamentalist groups in Buet should be stopped, and legal action should be taken against their patrons.
  5. Measures should be taken to introduce student politics to halt the rise of communal politics in Buet.

On the other hand, the High Court on Monday stayed a notification banning student politics at Buet.

As a result, there is no longer any restriction on continuing student politics at Buet. The order came following a writ petition filed by Buet student and Chhatra League leader Imtiaz Hossain Rahim Rabbi.

Following the High Court order staying the effectiveness of Buet's decision to ban political organizations and activities on campus, its Vice-Chancellor Prof. Satya Prasad Majumder said the university has to comply with what the High Court order says.

Prof. Satya Prasad Majumder told journalists on Monday, "We have to comply with what the court order says, and we cannot be accused of contempt of court.”

However, on Monday evening, Buet students, at a press conference, again voiced their demands for a politics-free Buet campus and urged the Vice-Chancellor to follow legal procedures regarding the verdict of the High Court.

When asked, they did not clarify whether their movement of boycotting classes and exams would continue.

Shining BD