DUCSU election: DU authority should see reason
Never before in the long 92-year history of the Dhaka University the central students’ union voting was so severely denounced and decried by thousands of students for rigging, cheating and what have you in the disputed polls that took place after long 28 years. The results came as a shock to the BCL—the pro-government party student body—whose candidate Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury Shovon was defeated by quota reform movement leader Vice President-elect Nurul Haq Nur.
It was beyond anybody’s imaginatios that after the highly controversial parliament elections of 30 December 2018—- criticized at home and abroad —- the DUCSU polls will be tainted, engineered, questionable, unfair, opaque and incredible. From the outset of the DUCSU polls process, the DU authority played a biased, partisan and distrustful role. The prerequisite for any fair election is to create a level playing field for all, nevertheless the university authorities accepted all demands of the ruling Awami League’s student wing Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), paying no heed to the demands of all other student organisations.
Most of the students’ organisations demanded polling stations to be set up outside the residential halls because the BCL—-which has supreme dominance over the dormitories—-could influence the hall administration. The DU authorities did not feel any obligation to consider the demand. The students’ organisations requested the authorities not to send ballot papers at night and to defer election by a few months, but their demands went unheeded. These decisions of the authorities were definitely in the wrong. The decisions were proved wrong when “stamped ballot papers were recovered from halls”. Media outlets also reported that many students could not cast their votes despite waiting in line for long. Besides, there was no arrangement for marking voters’ fingers with indelible ink, which made it easy to rig and cheat.
It was observed that several hall provosts were involved in the rip-off of ballot boxes and papers. In the face of resistance by the students ahead of the beginning of voting, some ballot boxes were opened and stamped ballot papers were recovered from Bangladesh-Kuwait Matiree Hall. Afterwards, the authority removed the provost and suspended the voting. Several hundred blank ballot papers from three boxes were recovered in presence of the university proctor at Ruqayyah Hall. However with the exception of the BCL, all students’ organisations boycotted the election and enforced strike as an instant protest against the rigged DUCSU polls.
Consequently contestant members of five panels, who boycotted Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU) elections held on 11 March, vowed to continue their protest until their four-point demand is met. DUCSU VP-elect Nurul Haq Nur expressed solidarity with the call. The demands are: announcement of a fresh polls schedule, resignation of all the teachers and staff members involved in the “farcical” election, formation of a neutral election committee and withdrawal of all the cases filed against the agitating students.
Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Md. Akhteruzzaman—who has shown complete disregard to demands of a fresh election to DUCSU and said that Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU) election took place in a fair and festive manner—refused to comment on the students who were observing hunger strike for fresh elections to the DUCSU. The VC was leaving his office today after meeting the Ducsu VP-elect Nurul Haque Nur when journalists surrounded him and asked his opinion on the students on hunger strike. Even after repeated questions on whether he will meet the students—one of whom has already been hospitalised after falling ill—the VC refused to say anything clearly.
Surprisingly, to quote the VC, “none of the 450 or so teachers and university authorities on watch during the DUCSU election complained about students being unable to cast votes or irregularities”. On 14 March, when protesting students handed a three-day ultimatum to the VC, he refused to accept their demand maintaining his position that the election was fair.
The DUCSU election ended on March 11 in boycott by all major panels except for the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the ruling party’s student front, over allegations of irregularities and vote rigging. Most participating panels demanded a reelection. The university authorities found proof of vote rigging in Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall, where several hundred ballot papers were found in a sack. All the ballot papers were marked in favour of the BCL candidates, teachers and students said. The hall provost was removed from duty following that discovery.
Truly the birthplace of all intellectual and democratic movements in Bangladesh, the Dhaka University (DU) can rightly pride itself on being the fountainhead of the Language Movement from 1948 to 1952, students’ movement against the Sharif Education Policy that ended in 1962, the Autonomy Movement of 1966, the mass movement of 1969, the War of Liberation of 1971 and the movement against the autocratic rule of General Ershad in 1990. During the War of Liberation, 19 DU teachers were victims of genocide as a part of their evil design of killing of the intellectuals of the country. Moreover, in the War of Liberation the DU lost 104 students, one officer and 28 employees.
Regrettably, after the nation’s independence following the glorious victory after the 1971 Liberation War, adverse and undesirable incidents despoiled the varsity’s ambiance, because violent conflicts blemished this prominent seat of higher learning. The first campus killings in independent Bangladesh occurred on April 4, 1974, when seven students were murdered but killers managed to escape punishment. Since then till 2004 as many as 75 students were killed by their fellow students of different student organizations belonging to the major political parties. Thus, the so-called ‘Oxford of the East’ became a fear-provoking neighbourhood.
While we thank the DUCSU’s VP-elect Nurul Haq Nur for his unique generosity of spirit and inspiring graciousness to relinquish his position as an elected VP for the sake of his fellow students—from whose splendid ethical stand the nation’s political leaders may certainly learn if they wish to—we hope the DU VC will see reason and do the needful.