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Photo courtesy: Newaz Mohammad Rifaat.

Jubaer, Ananda and Emil all came from middle-class families. Ananda could have become a renowned economist but instead chose to be a party cadre. He lost his life leaving his family and friends in shock and grief. Jubaer could have become a literary critic or a teacher but this too, did not happen. Emil, once the leader of a cadre faction is now living a half dead life. All three belonged to the ruling party’s student wing at the Jahangirnagar University.

“What if I am next”, read a Facebook status of a student of Jahangirnagar University. She gave this status out of frustration and agony as she, along with other students and members of the JU community have just witnessed the murder of Jubaer, an English department student. Jubaer went to the campus to sit for his honours final year exam but he never knew that it would be the last day of his life. He was allegedly stabbed and severely beaten by members of a faction of the Bangladesh Chattra League activists. Later, a fatally wounded Jubaer died in the hospital.

Jubaer too was once actively involved in power politics but tried to flee from it when he came to realise that he would achieve nothing but a big zero in the end. His parents were probably happy to see their son becoming a student again. But it was too late for him as power politics eventually took its toll.

In July last year, a violent clash between BCL factions left around 50 students critically injured where several students were thrown down from the balcony of the Al Beruni hall. I still remember an appeal for help in the JU group mail – one of the victims was suffering from severe backbone injury but could not get proper treatment as his parents were not well off enough to bear the cost. The parent’s high expectations that their son would bring glory to the family and the country are now buried deep beneath their pain and frustration.

I can’t remember the month but it was back in 1997. I was then a student of JU and witnessed the murder of Ananda – a student of the Economics Department. Ananda was shot when a violent intra-party clash erupted between two factions of the then ruling party’s student wing. Ironically his killing gave his ‘politics mates’ an opportunity to control politics at JU. The group which shot him was ousted from the campus and Ananda’s group took control of it. This group was later blessed by the then administration and others associated with power. It was led by the notorious Manik who along with his party cadres committed every crime that a hooligan is capable of.

And what happened during the military junta and BNP era then? I don’t know much, but what I know is Kabir (JCD activists, murdered in 1989) and Dipu (JCD activist, murdered in 1993) were brutally murdered. Justice was denied in every single case.

Every time a murder takes place, some people or some group reap benefits from the blood spill. Parents send their sons not to become party cadres but to study. But a significant number of male students are forced to join power politics, forced to chant slogan for their leaders and do dirty jobs for them. Leaders pick some of them as cadres and fit them out with arms and drugs. But at the end of the day these potential youth meet their doom. Even if they come to the realisation that this politics will destroy them, it does not help. There is no way to escape; the system does not allow them to.

But is it only the power politics that is to blame? I would say “NO”. Don’t we understand “what is right” or “what is wrong”? Of course we do yet we try to reap benefit from all this even if it is a small opportunity. And what are those benefits other than “eating without paying” or enjoying the right to do “mugging”? Most of the students who were involved in power politics during our campus life are now struggling for a decent living. Power politics gave them nothing but frustration. And what about the parents? Are they so blind that they can’t see what their son is getting into? Dear parents, it is you who are the ultimate losers so don’t let your son to become his own guardian.

There might be a hue and cry to ban student politics. But blaming it is a wrong idea. Student politics does not necessarily mean BCL or JCD and Shibir. If we look back in recent history we will see a glorious contribution of student politics. It is the students and student politics that showed the courage to stand against the emergency of the last caretaker government. The same thing is happening at the Jagannath University. Unfortunately, the BCL has once again shown their true face – the ugly face of power politics loyal to party interest. They stood against the general students and other politically active people engaged in the movement to reduce fees.

When Ananda died, the JU campus saw Manik group protesting the killing. A case was filed and the JU administration formed a usual investigation committee. But the investigation report was never disclosed nor was the killers punished. With the blessings of the then administration, the Manik group succeeded in ousting their opponents from the campus. This Manik later became so powerful that he and the gang even dared to commit crimes like rape. Shockingly, this group received strong support from the administration when the general students stood against them in 1998.

Jubaer killers allegedly belong to the Shamim-Sharif faction while Jubaer once belonged to the Shafin-Sammo faction of the BCL JU unit. Shamim-Sharif faction is now demanding punishment of the killers. Shafin-Sammo is not sitting idle either. They have alleged that the JU administration in the past backed their opponent. It seems that both the groups are trying to use the Jubaer killing as an opportunity to establish absolute authority at JU.

We don’t want to see Jubaer killing used to favour any faction. All we want to see is the killers and their godfathers punished.

On behalf of the former students of Jahangirnagar University, we would like to appeal to the current and future students of JU to rise above such ugly self-interest to become a faction leader or cadre. The taste of power may appear sweet initially, but in the end it is always bitter, and there is no way to escape but pay the price.

Meer Ahsan Habib is a development activist.

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