Bangladesh Chhatra League has apparently assumed the role of law-enforcement agencies on the Dhaka University campus, as two recent incidents suggest.
Usually, members of the proctorial team or police are entrusted with maintaining campus security, but the current administration seems to be counting more on the activists of the pro-Awami League student body for the job.
In case of the two latest incidents, the authorities did not call the police, and BCL men foiled the students' protests, harassed female students and beat up demonstrators at will, students alleged.
On Tuesday, several hundred BCL men from the DU as well as from outside attacked a group of students and leaders and workers of left-leaning student organisations to "rescue" DU Vice Chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman, who was kept confined in front of his office by the protestors. At least 50 male and female students and two journalists were injured in the attack.
The students were demonstrating to press home their four-point demand, including punishment of the BCL men who harassed some female students a few days ago.
Earlier on January 15, BCL men foiled another demonstration on the campus, harassed female students and beat up the protest coordinator, before handing him over to the authorities.
On that day, demonstrators were staging a sit-in before the VC's office demanding cancellation of the affiliation of seven colleges with the DU.
Sources at the proctor's office said that the DU authorities called in the BCL men on both occasions.
Both the DU authorities and the BCL denied the claim.
On Tuesday, more than 100 demonstrators -- comprising leftist student leaders and general students -- besieged the VC's office after breaking down three gates -- the main entrance of the Registrar Building and two more inside. The VC was holding a meeting inside.
“Normally, the gates remain open. But the authorities locked all the gates preventing us from meeting the VC. So we broke them to place our demands,” said Tuhin Kanti Das, DU unit president of Chhatra Union.
However, at one point, BCL men led by its General Secretary SM Jakir Hossain and its DU unit President Abid Al Hasan swung into action to escort the VC away, punching, slapping, kicking and beating up students and leftist leaders with iron rods, witnesses and victims said.
The BCL denied the claim, saying it was the BCL men who came under an attack by "outsiders" and "Chhatra Dal activists".
But photographs published in newspapers and video footage aired on TV channels tell a different story.
They show BCL leaders and activists, including Assistant Secretary of central unit Ashraful Alam, Office Affairs Secretary of Bangabandhu Hall unit Sadikur Rahman and its Vice-president Mehedi Hasan Shanto and Publication Affairs Secretary Saidur Rahman Shanto of the same unit, Mohsin Hall BCL activist Elahi hasan, Organising Secretary Abu Said and activist Md Sajjad of Ziaur Rahman Hall unit beating up the protestors with iron rods and sticks.
They also show female Chhatra League leaders including Fazilatunnesa Mujib Hall unit President Benjeer Hossain Nishi, Ruqiayyah Hall unit President BM Lipi Akter, Kuwait Moitri Hall unit President BM Farida Parvin and General Secretary Srabony Shaila were seen beating up female students and tearing up their dresses.
However, the female BCL leaders claimed that the protestors assaulted them and that they took treatment at the the DU Medical Centre. They also posted photos of “taking treatment” on Facebook and demanded punishment of those “who attacked them and the VC”.
In fact, there was no attack on the VC, although the protestors had a long, heated argument with him over their demands.
Interestingly, although the BCL leaders admitted that they were present at the scene, DU Proctor Prof AKM Golam Rabbani yesterday claimed that no BCL activists were there.
Asked if he called in the BCL men, he told reporters at the VC's office that they were not in a situation to call anyone.
Asked how the BCL activists then came to “rescue” them, he said, "I have already given you my reply."
In a press release on Tuesday night, the university authorities said that some agitating students of the university and some outsiders launched a pre-planned attack in the name of demonstration. The release made no mention of the BCL attack on the protestors.
Contacted, BCL's DU unit President Abid Al Hasan yesterday claimed they went to the VC's office on information from general students. "Rescuing the VC was our moral duty."
Meanwhile, amid criticism over the Tuesday's attack, BCL men carried out similar attacks at Chittagong University and MC College in Sylhet yesterday, injuring nearly 30 students (see separate story on page 3).
In another development, Pragatisheel Chhatra Jote, an alliance of left leaning student organisations, yesterday called for a strike at all educational institutions across the country on January 29, protesting Tuesday's incident.
They will hold a rally at the base of Raju Sculpture at the DU on January 26 and a nationwide demonstration on January 28, said Imran Habib, coordinator of the alliance.
General students under the banner of "Students against repression" at another press conference placed a five-point demand, including a fair investigation into the attack.
BCL leaders and activists under the banner of "Shacheton Shadharan Shikhkharthibrinda" too staged a sit-in in front of VC's office around noon yesterday, demanding punishment of those who "attacked the VC and assaulted their female leaders".
'CRIMINALS FROM OUTSIDE'
In a press release, Dhaka University Teachers' Association expressed concern over the “unwanted” incident before the VC's office.
The Association does not believe DU students can commit acts like vandalism and destruction of university properties and misbehaving with teachers, officials and employees and attempting to attack the VC, it said.
“It appears that it was an attempt by criminals from outside to create unrest on the camps and thus create instability in the country ahead of the election as part of a conspiracy by a vested quarter,” it said.