Who owns Dhaka University?

Heroically standing their ground — Photo by Syed Zakir Hossain

William Shakespeare once most wonderfully put it: “Lawless are they that make their wills their law.” It’s no secret today who the lawless are in the context of Dhaka University.

The powers of the few immoral, criminal, and moronically pretentious vigilantes amongst thousands of sincere seekers of knowledge within the largest bastion of traditional Bangladeshi education remain completely unchecked, and the impunity with which they commit various crimes, staggering.

The ideological identities of these evil, misled, and deeply dishonourable bunch of criminals within DU is forever shifting. These destructive elements that police the corridors of our largest educational institute have alliances with everyone.

Their nexus and changing loyalties are always with those who deal with politics, influence, money, and violence. They recruit passionate innocents to boast larger numbers in movements, who invariably fall for their luring stories of heroism and who find actionable purpose in protecting our culture, heritage, and whatever the prevailing dominant political structure is.

Unlike student politics way before I was born, student politics today, practiced by reckless, overweight old men and women, is devoid of honour, purpose, a moral compass, and students.

The leadership of the new recruits within any particular political umbrella have admitted to a lack of control on extremists within their groups and ranks, yet they do nothing to expel them. I leave it to your imagination as to why that is so.

The single largest dormant tumorous cancer waiting to activate in our nation today is student politics. It’s the premiere breeding ground for crimes, negative politics, and viral cynicism that affects the very foundation of Bangladesh’s future.

This tumour, regardless of nostalgia for a golden era, must be removed. In Bangladesh’s present circumstances, there is no place for student politics. It does tremendous harm to the student class and to the quality of politics in general.

Our honourable prime minister has to take a positive step to reign in and bring to book these criminals, and ban student politics from Bangladesh on a priority basis.

What happened to Imtiaz Alam Beg, Saba Ahmed, and Rubaiya Ahmed at DU is not tremendously surprising to people like me, who have been spotting events like this at the university premises for over a decade now.

There has been an uptick of residence hall-based raids by student political activists, interrogation of fellow students, corporal punishment, violent ragging, assault on women, and policing of conduct within DU.

I was once interviewing an artist for a project at Charukola in March 2010, when a group of six guys approached us at the gates, told us to keep it down and show IDs. I explained our purpose and after a brief lecture on correct conduct within DU premises, we were told to scoot off.

Similar events have happened to friends of mine and there are countless stories like this that you may find from your own friends affiliated in some way with DU now. It’s all over the place. What happened recently isn’t an isolated event, as many will have you think. So to that extent, it’s clear who owns DU. The question that remains unanswered now is: Should they be allowed to?

It is Beg, Saba, and Rubaiya today who faced violent assault within DU, tomorrow invariably others will. Today the attackers committed the crimes within DU and tomorrow they will do so outside the boundaries of DU.

As long as politics is allowed within universities, events like this will continue to happen, and the responsibility for all that results from it lies with all of us and the government overseeing this trend.

Like most tragic events that find social resonance and viral participation, this will surely also be forgotten, left to the urban archival memory banks as yet another sign of the deterioration of Bangladesh’s social power balance. The violent minority prevailing over the silent majority yet again.

It is therefore, tremendously brave of Beg, Saba, and Rubaiya to seek justice against the attack and encroachment of their beloved university by crass criminals and further politicisation; that stands, if successful, to benefit everyone who loves DU, knowing full well that the end result might not change anything at all.

Very rarely have people ventured to fight against such incidents at DU, or for that matter any national university in Bangladesh. For the three on the receiving end of this assault, I am sure they are standing up with hope that someday the social power balance will change for the better because of these small ripples created by people just like them, in the hope for a tsunami in the future.

It was downright heroic of Beg, Saba, Rubaiya, friends, and well wishers this past Monday (November 10, 2014) to stand their ground in protesting for terrorism of this nature to no longer exist at DU; in the face of tremendous intimidation, threats of violence, and verbal abuse from a counter-protest that had no permission or business being at the Shaheed Minar, at the same time having been organised by a student political body.

The counter group with sandals raised towards the Brotee protestors (a civil rights group supporting Beg, Saba, and Rubaiya’s stand) and the Shaheed Minar (in a exhibition of their true nationalist standing) kept chanting the most crude words at Saba and Rubaiya, who simply countered back along with friends with traditional Bengali songs — the stark contrast of their approaches in protest making it abundantly clear whose culture needed reprimanding and whose was truly representative of Bangladesh and it’s indomitable spirit of never giving up in the face of bullying, adversity, and cruelty.

Originally published at www.dhakatribune.com on November 13, 2014.

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