The audacity shown by some Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) activists to allegedly force a resident student of Dhaka University’s Haji Mohammad Mohsin Hall to leave his dormitory over a Facebook post criticising the recent fuel price hike is simply astonishing. But unfortunately, cases like this have become a common phenomenon at our public universities, where ruling party activists have become a menace. We are continually reminded by media reports how BCL activists have all but taken over the functioning of public universities, continually obstructing educational activities, harassing, torturing and, in worst cases, murdering fellow students over the most trivial of matters, such as expressing an opinion that differs from the party line. And while all these happen, top-officials of the ruling party who are so eager to admonish the public ~ that they are meant to serve ~ for criticising government policies, barely make a peep. But it is their silence that speaks volumes.
Over the years, the ruling party has provided immense leeway to its student activists, despite their repeated involvement in violent, uncivilised, and criminal activities. And this leeway, as well as direct pressure sometimes, has led to a situation where university administrations, law enforcers, and others, are also reluctant to pursue any action against BCL members involved in criminal behaviour ~ for fear of reprisal. Only this week, a Rajshahi University student accused the BCL general sectary of the Matihar Hall unit of beating him up after confining him to a room. Despite the national outrage that followed after a similar incident led to the murder of Buet student Abrar Fahad, it seems that some BCL activists are the only ones who did not get the memo that such behaviour is not, in any way, acceptable in a civilised society. Earlier this month, we saw how BCL members shut down educational activities at Chattogram University for their own petty gains.
A few days later, we saw two BCL activists who were suspended by the CU authorities on July 25 for one year for harassing some female students on the campus, sit for the second-year semester final examination. All these ~ and many more similar incidents ~ clearly show that it is not that the BCL has “a few bad apples” problem. It has a “violence and criminal behaviour” problem. And that has now reached its zenith due to the privileges that the ruling party has given it. The ruling party may have given the BCL such leeway thinking that BCL’s thuggery may help the party maintain its grasp on power. But BCL excesses have reached a point where its activists are doing the party much more harm than whatever temporary gain it thinks it’s getting. Therefore, it is time for the ruling party to have a serious reflection on how it will stop the nuisance that it has let loose.
A version of this story appears in the print edition of the August 28, 2022, issue.