THE impunity that the Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, enjoys has created a fearful environment on university campuses. University halls of residence are no longer managed by the administration. The Chhatra League, instead, is in complete control of the halls. A recent incident in the Surya Sen Hall in the University of Dhaka shows how academic life of general student is hampered in the hands of Chhatra League activists. On September 4, the hall committee Chhatra League’s joint general secretary locked four rooms after the boarders of the rooms had refused to give him ‘protocol’. The leaders and activists coerce general students into accompanying them to political meetings and events, a practice known on campus as ‘giving protocol.’ The incident shows that university authorities, despite repeated calls from students, failed to take control of the hall administration.
In all public universities, seat allocations of the halls of residence are completely in the hands of the Chhatra League activists. First-year students have to join the Chhatra League hall committees, remain absolutely loyal to them, and join their political programmes to ensure seats. They have to share their allotted seat with Chhatra League activists while Chhatra League leaders live a luxurious life occupying multiples rooms in halls. We have written in this column on how the Jahangirnagar University Chhatra League’s organising secretary raised a German shepherd dog in the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibar Rahman Hall. The student was living singly with the pet dog in a four-student occupancy room. He even erected a pen for the dog inside the hall. A similar situation prevails in other public universities. Since the university administration found directly or indirectly relying on the thuggery of the Chhatra League to maintain their position in power, they have done very little to change the situation. In the past, on a number of occasions students alleged that authorities allowed physical violence by Chhatra League activists to contain dissent or student protests on the campus. It shows that neither the Chhatra League not public university administrations work in the interest of the general students.
The situation demonstrates the Chhatra League’s unbridled power and presents it as an anti-student force that goes against its historical legacy of serving the purpose of students and the nation. The political party in power must discipline its student wing by abandoning its policy of using students as its muscle power. University administrations similarly need to give up their partisan politics and make immediate intervention to ensure the safety of students and academic freedom in residential halls and on the campus.