As you read this over the weekend, you are probably aware of twenty-four young Bangladeshis, some two dozen of our best and brightest, having taken the decision to go on hunger strike - coming up to 48 hours soon - are suffering in bitterly cold weather up north in Sylhet, and several have already started falling sick.

They are the students of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), who went on a 'hunger strike unto death' last Wednesday (Jan. 19) demanding nothing less than their Vice-Chancellor's resignation. As the hunger strikers started taking ill, one reportedly had to be hospitalised.

Kajal Das was taken to a hospital in Sylhet city around 1:30 pm on Thursday, more than 24 hours after the strike began, as he fell seriously sick. Things are bound to

The agitating students vowed not to break their fast until the VC steps down. Besides, a delegation of teachers came to the students around 8:45 pm on Wednesday and requested them to break their fast, reported our correspondent at SUST

Prof Anwarul Islam, a spokesperson of the delegation, said, "The students didn't respond to our request, they gave us some conditions and asked us whether we support their ongoing movement."

"We just came to the students to ask for some time to identify those involved in the incident. But the students remained stuck to their demand saying that the attack was carried out at the VC's behest. We also told them that we want a high-profile probe committee to look into the incident but the students failed to be convinced," he said.

Failing to break their fast, the teachers left the place.

Earlier, 24 students went on a hunger strike unto death around 3 pm in front of the residence of the VC on Wednesday demanding the VC's resignation. The agitated students also made an effigy of VC Farid Uddin Ahmed and placed it in front of his residence. They also placed various placards there.

On Monday, the protesting students wrote an open letter to President Abdul Hamid, demanding the immediate removal of the vice-chancellor. A student read out the open letter outside the residence of SUST Vice-Chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed on Monday. The president is the Chancellor of the university.

The students also rejected the notice of shutting down the university for an indefinite period on Sunday, the truly black day among even the darkest of days. The direction coming to leave the halls, but the students resolutely not heeding. Currently, the students are staying on the campus and have locked the hall gates from inside. The sprawling campus and its wild, ragged beauty are under the students' control.

Defying orders

SUST was to close, following a clash on the campus between the cops and the protesting students on Sunday (Jan. 16). Its students were asked to leave the dormitories by 12pm on Monday.

Originally, everything had stemmed from trouble centring Begum Sirajunnesa Chowdhury Hall, a residential hall for girls, where the provost, one Zafrin Ahmed, had allegedly misbehaved with the girls when they had pointed out some pretty serious shortcomings (poor wifi, unhygienic environs, dirty toilets, the lot) of the hall as a living space. This was Thursday, January 13.

The timeline is important, for it reveals the situation was in fact very close to having been resolved and should have been over fairly quickly, but then it was allowed to slip - somewhere between the 15th and 16th - and from there everything just escalated, with apparently no ideas on the ground at all, of how to calm things or get a grip.

And so it is with very little sympathy that we read the papers this morning, or more specifically from Dhaka, the Tribune, that the SUST authorities believe the situation is no longer favourable for them in the wake of the one-point fast-unto-death demand for Vice Chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed's removal.

The agitating students have refused to sit for any discussion or give any response until the VC is removed.

Saturday to forget

On Saturday, some 30-40 BCL activists and leaders allegedly attacked the protesting students on the campus, injuring 10-12 of them.

The protesting students alleged that former BCL leader Mrinmoy Das Jhutan, current BCL leader Khalilur Rahman, Ashraf Kamal Arif, Sajibur Rahman, Sabbir Hossain, Mosharraf Hossain, Sumon Sarkar, Rishan Tanmoy, Mahbubur Rahman, Sajjad Hossain, Shafiul Haque Rabbi and others carried out the attack.

Immediately after the incident, the students took out a torch procession around the campus in protest.

Sadia, one of the protesting students, said that the protestors had made way for two ambulances carrying patients, and at that point, some BCL members and activists intentionally got mixed up among them.

She alleged the BCL members severely beat up 10-12 students who had come to express solidarity with the movement. "The attack took place in the presence of the university's proctor and student adviser," she said.

Some female students were also harassed while trying to save the protesters from the attackers, she added.

Bloody Sunday

On the morning of January 16th, the SUST campus felt like the edge of hell. A group of students on Sunday confined vice chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed to a room during ongoing protest on the campus.

Nearly 200 female students of Begum Sirajunnesa Chowdhury dormitory continued their demonstration for the fourth consecutive day on Sunday to press home their three-point demand.

During their peaceful demonstrations, some other male students joined them and allegedly tried to assault the VC while he, along with some teachers and proctor, appeared there and assured them of meeting their demands within a week.

The students allegedly assaulted the VC in front of IICT building and confined him in a room of the building since around 3:00pm.

The students of Begum Sirajunnesa Chowdhury hall, a dormitory for the female students, have been protesting since Thursday to have their three-point demand met by the authorities.

The demands include the removal of the hall provost Jafrin Ahmed and punishment to those who earlier attacked them.

Last (Jan. 13) Thursday night, students of the hall gathered outside VC's residence protesting alleged misbehaviour with them by the hall provost.

How the movement started

The agitating students said earlier in January they went to Begum Sirajunnesa Chowdhury Hall Provost Zafrin Ahmed and wanted to ensure their basic rights such as increasing the quality of food in the dining room, lowering the price of food in the canteen, increasing WiFi speed, safe water, allowing guardians (mothers) to enter if someone is sick, keeping the hall toilet and bathroom always clean and not allotting more than four students for each room of the hall in the first place.

Around 8pm, the students of the female dormitory called on provost Zafrin Ahmed Liza to apprise her of their problems about accommodation. But the students alleged that the hall provost misbehaved with them, rejecting the students' demand and made disrespectful and offensive remarks. Later, they left the hall at night and started a movement in front of the VC building, raising three demands, including the resignation of the provost.

The students claimed that they would no longer tolerate the "misbehaviour" and the "highhandedness" of the provost. Eventually the VC came out after 3am and asked the students to lodge a written complaint with the demands at 11am the next morning.

When the students lodged a written complaint, the VC warned that the demand for the resignation of the provost would not be accepted. He said that other demands would be resolved within a month. That same day however, it was learned that the antagonising provost, Jafrin Ahmed, went on leave.

General students, including female students, started their protests by boycotting classes and exams in response to the attacks.

Later, when the students wanted to talk to the VC again in front of the administration building, he allegedly pushed the students aside and entered the ICT building. The students then confined him inside the building. In this situation, the treasurer of the university tried to enter the building saying that he would talk to the VC.

During their peaceful demonstrations, some other male students joined them and allegedly tried to assault the VC while he, along with some teachers and proctor, appeared there and assured them of meeting their demands within a week.

The students allegedly assaulted the VC in front of IICT building and confined him in a room of the building since around 3:00pm.

At that time, the police suddenly attacked the protesters, said the agitating students. They fired rubber bullets and sound grenades to break the human chain. Police say they were attacked first but could not identify the attackers. Many students were seriously injured when the police baton-charged the protesters.

Treasurer Prof Anwarul Islam Dipu said while the administration had informed the students about the resignation of Provost Zafrin Ahmed, they (student) wanted to confirm her resignation in writing. The situation got out of control when an altercation between the agitating students and police took place.

Prof Anwarul said: "The rescue team of the police came on their own initiative after seeing that the VC was confined in a building by the students."

Following the incident, the administration accepted the initial demands of the students. However, the students started a new movement for the removal of the VC in the wake of the brutal police attack

Latest update: Day 3 of Hunger Strike

Eleven students of SUST have been hospitalized as of Friday after they fell sick during a hunger strike - a large jump in the space of just 24 hours.

Some 24 students embarked on a fast-unto-death on Wednesday afternoon, demanding the removal of Vice-Chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed. Several attempts have been made by teachers and guardians to talk to the students, but the students have refused to take part in any discussions or give responses until the VC is removed.

"Most of them are suffering from dehydration, while a few have different symptoms because of having no food or water for 42 hours," the spokesperson said, citing volunteer doctors on duty.

Among the hospitalised students, six are at Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital while one at Jalalabad Ragib Rabeya Medical College Hospital and another at Mount Adora Hospital.

Earlier at 4am this morning, a group of teachers, who are also alumni of the university, came to speak to the students. However, the students are simply refusing to talk to anyone unless they are there to join their cause. Students must learn to give an inch, or the miles will be always out of reach.

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