We consider the University of Dhaka to be the Oxford of the East. Famous litterateur-critic Ahmed Sofa commented about it: “If it is called Oxford because of the resemblance of Curzon Hall then it is okay; but if academic contribution is considered, comparison can never be made with Oxford.” Nevertheless, comparison may now hardly be made with the contribution of Dhaka University when it comes to national politics. The students of Dhaka University were at the heart of ‘52, ‘69 and ‘71. Thus for very opt reasons Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU) elections were able to have our attention.
The students of the university went to the polls after 28 long years on Mar 11. Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, won the vice-president post in 12 out of 18 hall unions. But Nurul Haque Nur, a leader of the quota reform movement, snatched away het crown to become the 26th VP of DUCSU. The list of his predecessors features Rashed Khan Menon, Tofail Ahmed, ASM Abdur Rab, Mujahidul Islam Selim, Mahmudur Rahman Manna, Sultan Mohammed Mansur, and Aman Ullah Aman.
One thing we should notice here is all the VPs, except Nur, used political banners. Nur was a candidate of Bangladesh Council to Protect General Students’ Rights, a group having no affiliation with any political party. One of the reasons behind their popularity is the quota reform movement.
“Faulty system naturally leads everything to disbelief. On the contrary, gentle and sophisticated streams are always open and freedom centric.” (Noam Chomsky; ‘Making the future’; page: 21).
The DUCSU election marred by alleged irregularities might not have fulfilled everyone’s expectation. Until the beginning of the voting, everyone was optimistic about it even though the residential halls were used as polling centres despite objection by most of the panels of candidate. A provost was relieved of her duty because of her alleged involvement in irregularities and an election commissioner felt embarrassed. The election surely failed to uphold the glory of Dhaka University. BCL workers besieged the vice-chancellor for around half an hour when he declared Nur the winner. They demanded Nur’s expulsion from the university, which was not democratic at all. Again, when the results were out, VP Nur acted dubiously demanding re-election and at the same time taking oath for what he says continuing protests from within. Teachers’ role was also questioned. English Department’s Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam wrote in an op-ed published by the Prothom Alo on Mar 12: “The DUCSU elections have revealed a dark aspect of our teacher politics. To a teacher, each student is equal, regardless of his political identity. The teachers failed to reflect this. The students would lose their trust in them for this. As teachers, more or less, we will lose our respect too.”
Still I will say we have gained something from this election. There was no bloodshed or big riots. The reports of irregularities pained me, but still I love the evening of Mar 12 when the defeated candidate, BCL President Rezwanul Haque Shovon, hugged and welcomed Nur promising to work together. I will call it a ‘great achievement’ – something that makes us optimistic. Such courtesy is very rare in our politics now. If we take it as an example, to be very specific, our brilliant peace-loving young minds may not shun the path of politics.
Our economic development in the last decade is not completely dismaying. Annual GDP growth is above 7 percent now, per capita income has increased to $1,752; but still “Development is a social change- which doesn’t only emphasise income but it is also efficiency-competence, functioning and freedom of people in a society. Many oil rich countries’ per capita income is very high; but these countries are often accused of hindering freedom of speech, women’s rights, democracy etc. Yet, India has democracy instead of having far less per capita income than many oil rich countries.” (Abdul Bayes & Mahbub Hossain; ‘Golpe Golpe Arthaneeti’; page: 5). Therefore, guarantee of reflecting peoples’ opinion through elections is a stipulation for development, which we have seen partially in DUCSU. Let’s hope for the full reflection. May everyone’s conscience rise!