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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.

22 Responses to “The ugly face of power politics”

  1. Md. Ashequl Islam

    Mr. Habib, thanks you a lot much for summing up the present scenario.

    Ashequl Islam

  2. Majbah Ahmed

    Another tragic story. Thanks Mr. Meer Ahsan Habib. We have been talking about this or so long but unfortunately it’s taking a toll on us till today. We really need to wake up. Year and a half back we came up with a website with an objective where people can share their experience on anything. We have a section where you can put a review on any personality. Let’s all create awareness by naming all the cadres in different campus. We should start from somewhere. May be this could be a starting point. Please visit http://www.reviewmela.com and post your review on any personality that you think taking this society backward. I will encourage at the same time to recognise the personality who are helping us to take us forward.

    • Meer Ahsan Habib

      Thanks for going through it but I didn’t find anything at a glance in the site you mentioned – it is rather a trade site like cell bazaar!

  3. Ezajur Rahman

    There is no mention here, as in many places, about the root causes of such wickedness. Until we talk directly about root causes all words will be meaningless. Decent people complain to decent people and nothing changes. Because no one dares to challenge the indecent people who are the root causes of such things.

    The root cause of violent student politics is the violent political culture of our country which is financed, sponsored and protected by our so-called democratic political parties. A BNP student cadre kills an AL student cadre and an AL student cadre kills a BNP student cadre… and no one holds AL or BNP responsible! It is a ridiculous situation where we all have our head stuck in the sand.

    Wake up people!

  4. Muhammad

    On-campus party politics should be banned. Students and teachers may have political affiliations but they must not show/practice it within the campus. University is a place for education and research; it’s not a place for thugs. How come we don’t have any of our universities within the list of top 1000 universities of the world even though we have brilliant professors/students who are doing wonderfully well abroad? The on-campus party politics is the main reason behind this. Students/Teachers can raise their voices for establishing their rights, for better facilities, etc. But they must stay away from publicly aligning with any political party in the campus.

  5. Mozammel

    Mr. Habib is right to describe all the demerits of present students politics and he mentioned merits in the glorious student politics in the past.

    With his comment I will add my comment. A agree with him but to me the most important factor behind this politics is less guardian control over children, poverty and “Hunt to eat” reflected in “Fao Khao”.

    And these can be prevented with the participation of the guardian, right information about the fund for education and lodging in the admission form.

    And any wrong information will be considered by the monitoring authority to change his academic institution near to his guardian choice.

    And meritorious and poor students should have many offers of aids to meet the expenses.

    One of the options could be recruitment in voluntary services.

    There are many government sectors where a volunteer can perform the job of a regular employee. The students can perform the voluntary services against remuneration.

  6. yamuna Jaman

    Not really!
    It has been more of a “muscle power” politics that just only “power politics”. Freedom under absolute solid democracy (in Bangladesh) have been working so wonderfully! Isn’t it nice?

    • Meer Ahsan Habib

      Everyone of us does have a specific role to play. Let us play it and combining other’s. That would be nice.

      • yamuna Jaman

        “Everyone of us does have a specific role to play”. What are those to any “ordinary citizen” like me? Please be specific and focus on details. Thanks.

      • Meer Ahsan Habib

        You are not an ordinary citizen — you are reading this at least and encouraging me and others to write. You see the world is changing though not always in positive ways. You know what to do. Don’t you 🙂

  7. russel

    Well articulated by the writer. I hope many students will take a lesson from this tragic story. I wish they came out from bad politics in order to fulfill the parents’ and nation’s bigger interest. May God help them to realize this from the traumatizing events.

    • Meer Ahsan Habib

      Dear Mr Russell, I am not sure how many students have read this. But I wish I did not have to write such an op-ed. As a former Jahangir Nagar University student, this really hurt.

  8. Steven Miller

    Students should not engage in active politics, rather they should be unbiased and observe the present political parties to learn good lessons. This is as some kind of general knowledge. They enter the universities to study, to do higher studies, so they should abide by their duties. Politics is for the politicians not for students. If the university students study well without engaging in active politics, then Bangladesh can develop very fast.

    So, if you want to see a better Bangladesh, please study, not engage in active politics. GOOD POLITICS GOOD FOR EVERYONE, BUT WHAT WE HAVE NOW IS CORRUPTED POLITICS, IT IS A DESTRUCTIVE FORCE.

    • Ali

      Very well summed up.
      Fact is the political parties will continue to USE the students, and now the ‘teachers’ for the party interests. Little do they realize the life-long impact of getting into politics and that they are being USED as muscle power. At the end, the involved students obtain poorer result as they cannot study or prepare well, and become irregular. Sometimes they pay with their lives!

      A lot has been said, yet absolutely nothing is done to ABOLISH this practice of getting politically biased and hence the deteriorating academic standard. Are we going to see and say “Death to meritocracy and long live politics?”

    • Meer Ahsan Habib

      Thanks for your comments.

      Student politics is there even in developed countries — let’s start with Berkeley free speech movement at the University of California. What about the latest 99% movement or student movement in UK? The difference between theirs and ours is that these students are not partisan while we are.

      • Ali

        In North America or UK, Europe students develop consensus to oppose policies that are directly ‘hurting’ them, like fees etc., or going for wars against supposed WMD and the like, and their country’s support for similar unpopular issues.

        That is genuine Student MOVEMENT for common cause. Yes there are student bodies everywhere for upholding issues and their causes not as cheap and mass party muscle or affiliation.

        But we are so inclined, influenced and MAD worshipers of party politics that even if the policy is sometimes wrong we pay with our lives.

        General appeal to ALL CONCERNED — please FREE campuses from party politics and see the positive trend within three months. Teachers should demonstrate their qualities by inspiring their students and DESERVE respect.

        Mr. Habib, your opinion is sincerely appreciated.

      • Meer Ahsan Habib

        “In North America or UK, Europe students develop consensus to oppose policies that are directly ‘hurting’ them, like fees etc., or going for wars against supposed WMD” – these sort of protest are happening here in Bangladesh too and I am sure you are well aware about these.

        Sometimes I wonder what would happen if there is no student wing of ruling party!

        Thanks for your comments. I too appreciate your notion.

      • Syed Imtiaz Ali

        Simple, many would be out of JOB! Bereft of Godfathers.
        A movement and political self-destruction are different. Thanks.

    • yamuna Jaman

      God gave up and “Satan” fled from Bangladesh many years ago! Satan has nothing “better” to do in Bangladesh. His mission is accomplished there with 200% performance & capacity.

Comments are closed.