All political activities are banned at BUET, the varsity administration announced Friday to calm massive protests on the campus and across the country against the murder of one student.
In a further action the troubled Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology also suspended 19 students accused of beating Abrar Fahad to death.
“All demands of the students have been met in principle,” said Vice-chancellor Prof Saiful Islam emerging from a meeting with the demonstrating students, who had put forward 10-point demands for justice in Abrar murder and the cleansing of the university campus of partisan politics that generated horror stories of ‘torture cells’ and muted torture of general students by a section of Chhatra Leaguers.
However, the students decided to carry on their protests and sit-in until their demands are fulfilled and necessary purge is done to restore congenial academic atmosphere.
BUET VC Prof Saiful admitted “some lacking” on his part in acting swiftly after Abrar was murdered. “I was found lacking. Being a father figure, I beg your mercy.”
The VC said he had received the 10 demands raised by the protesters and promised to meet all of them.
He said the 19 accused in the Abrar murder case were suspended following information gathered from security camera footage.
“In addition, there will be no organisational politics at BUET,” he announced.
Saiful said BUET will bear the cost of the legal battle for Abrar murder justice and financially compensate his family.
“We will write to the government for a quick completion of the trial.
Ragging will end at BUET,” he added.
The meeting, chaired by Acting Registrar Saidur Rahman, started with a minute’s silence remembering Abrar in the crowded auditorium.
Directorate of Students’ Welfare Director Mizanur Rahman, Teachers’ Association President AKM Masud and deans of some faculties were onstage with VC Saiful.
The students launched the protests on Monday after Abrar was tortured to death allegedly by leaders of the ruling Awami League’s student front, Bangladesh Chhatra League, in Sher-e-Bangla Hall on Sunday night.
The BCL operatives reportedly bludgeoned Abrar for his Facebook post protesting against a recent deal between Bangladesh and India.
The protesters demanded capital punishment for the killers, identification and expulsion of the killers from the university, fast-tracked trial in a tribunal, publication of a copy of the charge-sheet in the case, and a ban on organisation-based politics in the university.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said she is averse to the idea of banning politics in educational institutions altogether, but added BUET can separately enforce such a ban like many other institutions have.
The others of the protesters’ 10-point charter of demands included explanation of the VC’s absence for 30 hours after the incident, statement of the teacher in charge of the DSW, expulsion of those involved in torturing students in the name of “ragging” and “suppressing dissent”.
The rest of the demands were withdrawal of Sher-e-Bangla Hall provost for his silence over the incidents of driving students out using political powers and his failure to ensure student security, payment of expenses for the legal battle and compensation for Abrar’s family by the administration, and disclosure of all previous incidents of violence and the establishment of a common platform to regularly review complaints and institute immediate measures.
Some of the demands, including resignation of the hall provost, have already been met.
Police have so far arrested 18 students, including 14 BCL leaders, out of 19 named in the Abrar-murder case.
VC Saiful, however, continued to face intense criticisms for his “failure” to act quickly following Abrar’s murder after failing to ensure safety of Abrar and other victims of torture by BCL leaders.
He faced the protesters’ wrath when he came to the campus 30 hours after the incident on Tuesday.
The demonstrators laid a siege to his office for over four hours even though he agreed to their demands “in principle”.
He also faced public anger again when he went to meet Abrar’s family in Kushtia the following day. Angry residents of the area barred him from visiting Abrar’s home.
The associations of BUET’s teachers and alumni have demanded his resignation for his “failure” to perform his duties.
On Thursday, the protesters demanded a meeting with him and set a Friday deadline threatening to lock up the offices until the demands are met.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Friday said incidents like Abrar killing might not have occurred had the BUET administration been a little more careful.
He came up with the remark replying to reporters’ questions after inaugurating the newly-built main gate of Bangladesh University of Textiles, commonly referred to as BUTEX, in the city’s Tejgaon area.
The Home Minister hoped that the administration will pay more attention to students in future.
Abrar, 21, a second-year student of electrical and electronic engineering department, was beaten to death on Monday reportedly by Chhatra League leaders at BUET’s Sher-e-Bangla Hall.
Replying to another question, Minister Kamal said almost all perpetrators involved in the killing have been identified and arrested.
Abrar’s father, Barkatullah, filed a case at Chawkbazar Police station on Monday evening accusing 19 persons. Police arrested 17 suspects and one of them confessed to his crimes.
The case was transferred to the Detective Branch on Tuesday.
Minister Kamal said chargesheet in the case would be submitted quickly and hoped that the investigation would be completed soon.
Meanwhile, a common consent appears for dissociating student organizations from national political parties as major political quarters all oppose an outright ban on student politics as initially demanded out of traumas of Abrar murder.
Also, a strong plea is being voiced for a taboo on ‘teacher politics’ in educational institutions as critics find a nexus between student and teacher politicos affiliated particularly with ruling parties by turns, which is held responsible for the downgrading of standard of education for political appointments and pecuniary offences.
To substantiate a divorce between party and student politics, analysts and some politicians pointed out ‘criminalization of politics’ in view of what are being discovered in the current crackdown launched by the premier for a political purge of her own party.
While all were appalled by the finds and the expulsion of two top leaders of the Chhatra League over an extortion scam involving a university’s development-project money, another outrageous incident of bludgeoning to death of a BUET student allegedly by BCL men of the varsity triggered a countrywide outcry.
They say student politics as adjunct to the realpolitik pursued by the alternately ruling parties has lost cause and bogged down to unwanted acts like hall capture, running torture cells to coerce allegiance, tendering manipulation, and toll taking.
“Economic criminalization pollutes politics and polluted party politics pollutes student politics,” said even a senior Awami Leaguer, Nuh Alam Lenin, as demand for a ban on student politics grew louder.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also opposed a blanket ban on student politics but said individual educational institutions can opt for the taboo if deemed necessary, including the troubled Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
The BUET teachers’ association, in solidarity with the demonstrating students, had decided to ban student politics, as also teacher politics, on the campus.
“We’ve decided to ban student politics as well as teacher politics at the university,” said Prof Kaikobad after a decision taken at the association meeting, as the teachers also faced with morality question after the grim discoveries at the premier seat of learning.
He Friday expressed the hope that a congenial academic ambience would now return at the varsity following the measures being taken. (NA)