It is said that education is the backbone of a nation and the students are its future. Student life should be spent in study and interaction with all in order to gain knowledge and groom oneself as an ideal human being.
But at present the alarming fact is that student politics is considered as a powerful weapon for the political parties in Bangladesh. As a result, students in public universities become involved in atrocious party politics and indulge in illegal activities like killing, tender and admission businesses and so on in the name of student politics.
Nowadays student politics is neither people oriented nor educational; rather it is oriented toward personal interest and political gains. Student movements are not directed towards the betterment of students; rather this is pursued as a tool to strengthen party and individual position in the campus.
Now-a-days, innocent students are bearing the brunt of student politics as they are often the victim of untoward incidents, including death. The regular students often sustain injury resulting from inter-party and intra-party student clash. Often these injuries turn fatal and lead to death. Unrest and atrocities sparked by student politics first hit Jahangirnagar University (JU) in the beginning of this year, while a series of such clashes erupted in other public universities like Shahajalal University of Science and Technology, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Comilla University, Khulna University of Engineering and Technology, Jagannath University and Chittagong University.
The last political victim till now is Zubair Ahmed, a fourth year English department student in JU, who was brutally murdered on 9th January by some activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) of JU, a student wing of the ruling party. In other universities as well, students are killed and blood shed in the name of student politics.
According to newspaper reports, 74 murders have taken place in Dhaka University since the Liberation War in 1971, about 28 students of different parties in Rajshahi University since the university began its journey in 1953 of which nine were killed by the Chhatra Shibir, a student wing of Jamat-E-Islami Bangladesh.
Since the Awami League-led alliance came to power on January 6, 2009, several hundred students have also been injured in repeated clashes mainly between the activists of the AL backed Bangladesh Chhatra League, BNP backed Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), the Workers Party’s student Front – Bangladesh Chhatra Maitree, and Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS) of Jamaat.
The period has seen a total of 19 students killed in violent clashes at Dhaka, Rajshahi, and Chittagong universities, Dhaka Medical College, Rajshahi Polytechnic Institute, Khulna Government City College, Sylhet MC College, Comilla Victoria University College, Dewanganj Madrassah in Jamalpur, Mohammadpur in the capital city, Mehendiganj in Barisal, and in Khulna, Rangpur, and Narayanganj as well as Narail and Panchagarh, as have been reported in the newspapers.
BCL factional clashes accounted for 11 of the 19 students killed during this time. Of the rest, four ICS activists, two JCD members, and one Chhatra Maitree worker were killed in clashes over various disputes including tender bids, incidents of extortion and drug peddling.
While talking to this writer, teachers and students identified several core reasons behind the increasing violence in the name of student politics, which include political affiliation of students, corruption, power thirst and even teachers’ politics.
However, in the history of Bangladesh, students played a significant role to free the country from foreign dominance and repression in 1971 and they also initiated the language movement in 1952, mass uprising in 1969, and lastly the demonstration against the autocratic regime in 1990.
But with the passage of time, the nature and characteristics of post liberation students’ politics, activities have been changed a lot. In the past, students fought against oppression, repression and injustice. They were to move for humanity against brutality. Unfortunately, characteristics of our students’ organizations have undergone radical changes. The present day student politics is mercenary in nature – rent-seeking, violent and crime loving.
Another important trend is found in students’ politics; the political groups are interchanged with the changing of government. For this, to take power over the entire campus they do not hesitate even to kill their opponents. Killings occur sometimes even to their own activist as several rival factions of the same party are present in a respective university.
Mohd. Shahidul Haque, a student of Jahangirnagar University, said, “Student politics in our country is just a dirty reflection of how political parties exploit the students, which should be stopped immediately.”
All the student bodies are exploited by politicians who use them to perpetuate their position in and outside the party. The students at large matter little to the leaders who manipulate business bids, hoard benefits and climb the socio-economic ladder, and strengthen their position within and outside the party. So, various student fronts are just a reflection of the main political parties whose immediate goals have more to do with grabbing power and enjoying it while it lasts.
Dr. Amran Hussain, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Dhaka University says, “Students politics should not be stopped because the students have the right to protest against injustice and they should have the platform to voice their concerns. But these should not be related to political agendas which only benefit political leaders.”
He also adds, “In foreign countries student politics is mainly related to welfare of students and such students platforms abroad are controlled by students themselves, not by the political parties. So student politics should be based on student interest to ensure their welfare.”
Mohammad. Ferdous Hossain a professor of Political Science Department in Dhaka University says, “Students politics in our country is totally devoid of morality. It hampers the regular activities of an educational institution as well as demoralizes the regular students. Student politics only paves the way to become corrupt politicians.”
Ferdous, however, also offers solution to this problem by citing ways of overcoming the confines of student politics, “At first students should be conscious about their own rights and they should not respond to provocation by the political leaders or organizations. Secondly, political leaders should not encourage students to join their political organization and use them as their tool. The civil society, guardians, and the media of our country should organize the students’ and people’s opinion against student politics.”
Experts are worried about the deteriorating trend of student politics of our country. It is important to bring student politics on the right track to produce honest and dedicated leaders for the future.