History tends to repeat itself, as back in the 1960s, during the mass revolution against West Pakistani dictator Ayub Khan, his East Pakistani representative and governor Monaem Khan had created the National Students Federation (NSF) to do their dirty work against the protesting students in Dhaka University. It was sponsored by government and served government purposes. Its function was mainly to counter general people. Leaders and members of this organization under the protection of administration used to involve themselves with corrupt, anti-social and criminal activities to fulfill self and group interests. Student community never accepted them. They could not gain trust of people and were hated. NSF met its natural extinction at the beginning of the War of Liberation.
We can see a repeat of history where the ruling party’s student wing, the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), is strong-arming its way into intimidating whatever anti-government sentiment surfaces every now and then. Things have taken an uglier turn recently when its leaders and activists had been found to disperse the peacefully-protesting quota reformers in a violent way. In Rajshahi, it was worse when they were found to mercilessly beat up one Toriqul Islam, a master’s student and convenor of the reform movement in Rajshahi University. He now has two bones of his right leg broken, eight stitches on his head and bruises all over his body. Worse, a live video of him being beaten up by BCL workers are still making rounds on social media.
One of the BCL men, Abdullah Al Mamun, pounded his back and legs with a hammer as seen in photos and footage published in the media.
Drivers behind such madness
Such anarchy among the BCL cadres seems to show a state of repressed anger and frustration among the workers, according to many high-level party insiders, wishing to remain anonymous.
One such insider, a top-level leader of BCL’s Kalabagan Thana unit, told Dhaka Courier that it is used as an incentive to lure budding BCL position-aspirants. Many such aspirants conduct such violence to come into the limelight and attention of the party’s leaders, under the image of “a loyal party worker”, albeit a violent one.
They are usually among the low-tier post-aspirants, who do not calculate their moves. They blindly follow what their “local Boro Bhais, or elder brothers, tell them to do”. He says they are usually motivated by power and money. Such acts will make them look stronger in front of the general people, he said, and people would start to fear him, similar to a gangster. With such a false sense of bravado, that person will go on to participate in many illegitimate ways to climb the ladder of success and money.
“If you see the post-assault interview on Facebook of Rajshahi’s Abdullah Al Mamun, or Haturi Mamun, as he used a hammer to break Toriqul’s legs, you will find that he is non-repentant of his actions and claims that he had heard Toriqul disrespecting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, from someone else, and on the basis of that, he did what he thought was right. But everyone knows what his ulterior motives were. He is a position-holder of BCL at Rajshahi University. He thinks it would help him to gain a better position ahead of the general elections.”
Another reason why the top BCL leaders order the workers to do this is to come under “the good graces of the party’s central leaders”, said another high-ranking individual of Lalbag Thana Chhatra League. IF those leaders are impressed by his/her acts of loyalty, they can recommend their names while a new committee is formed.
Once that committee is formed, he said, and if their names come up, then the sky is the limit. Everybody knows that the city units of BCL are as powerful as the law enforcement agencies. They hold pseudo-influence over everything, from infrastructure development to private employments – becoming a BCL leader is as good as a shadow MP.
Image cleaner, or distortion?
It is because of their reckless activities that Bangladesh Awami League is getting a bad name, said another leader of Lalbag Thana Awami Jubo League. Despite the government’s achievements, the inter-BCL rivalry which graces news headlines often puts AL leaders in a false position, he says.
He declined to comment on whether the AL leaders get impressed with those whose names make the headlines or not.
But he did go on to say that Jubo League intends to stay away from BCL. “BCL has truly lost its way. Run by an expired central committee is causing it to spiral into anarchy. It has steered far away from the vision of Bangabandhu and his daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. You will always find BCL in the news for all the wrong reasons, but seldom the Jubo League”.
It is clear that the BCL can no more ensure the safeguarding of the general students. They are carrying on their own vicious agendas in their party’s interests, as well as their own personal and vested interests. Their main function now is to intimidate and silence whoever it is they consider as opposition. The government should rethink about restructuring their student politics wing.
The aforementioned BCL leaders opined that there could be youth fronts having country wide network to include young generation. This would supplement strength to party structure. This would also create openings for the youths to be involved and learn politics from an early age.
Additionally, they believe that all educational institutions should be instructed to arrange for elections regularly free from influence of political parties to have democratically elected student leadership. The elected student representatives will take decisions, prepare work programme and arrange implementation with consent of students. This way they would develop mentality and skill of a responsible pro-people leader. Students are the future of our nation. It is our responsibility to ensure that they can prepare themselves to build an ideal homeland.