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OPINION

DUCSU elections should be held regularly

Democratic culture in the campus to be developed for quality atmosphere

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15th-Mar-2019       
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Muhammad Quamrul Islam :
It was with extreme anxiety in view of expectations as guardians and Dhaka University batch 1961, which participated in Mother Language Movement in serene academic atmospheres that led in democratic nationalistic spirit to emergence of sovereign Bangladesh in the eastern wing of Pakistan at huge sacrifices, and living with well and woes within this country, looked at the Dhaka University Hall Union and Central Students Union elections on March 11, 2019.
We are happy to see the responses of the students and their organizations set up panels for Hall Unions and Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU) as well as independent candidates contest election in traditional academic spirit along with studies. Our expectations on this point and campaign for democratic culture in campus thru columns in media and civil society initiatives over preceding decades since 1991 have been fulfilled despite discouraging tones of vested quarters. The students came well in time including non -resident attached students braving traffic jam and stood in long queue in respective Hall to vote despite disturbances off and on.  
In the morning of 11th March I was very much stunned seeing in TV channels sealed ballot papers in favor of Students League panel and the students of Bangladesh Kuwait Moitry Hall staging the demonstrations, to which Pro- Vice Chancellor Muhammad Samad accepted their allegations. I know partisan teachers can do that, but still felt teachers would not go to that extent.  My wife belongs to 1967 batch of Dhaka University became concerned at my uneasiness in present health condition. The Vice Chancellor accepted the demand of the students: removed the Provost and appointed another in the Hall, who conducted election on that day as per revised time schedule. The VC appointed an inquiry committee as usual.  Independents won; Sushmita Dey and Shagufta Busra were elected VP and GS respectively. Whatever we saw from live telecasts from satellite channels on that day on different Hall centers in campus are depressing and dismal, against which the students were struggling hard brought changes successfully.
Print media on the following day carried news of stuffing the ballot boxes, sealed ballot papers, fake voters, indiscipline, postponement and restart of votes, attacks and boycott, etc. Let the new base reviving tradition of 1950s and 1960s be laid that was lost on return of camp dwellers from the other side of porous borders with India to sovereign Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh. In post-independence of 48 years only six times Hall-DUCSU elections were held. Where is the accountability of university authorities and governments including non-party caretaker governments?
Over the years number of students and teachers has increased while the area on establishment of the DU reduced. Campus violence, session jam, sexual harassments, teachers used their students in their foreign funded  NGOs -- a post-independence phenomenon and teachers seeking political positions outside the campus, in the name of autonomy under 1973 ordinance forced by them,  became common features. Had Students Union elections been held annually and functioned as usual along with extra curriculum activities conducting literary, cultural, sports, indoor and outdoor games, publication of annual magazine and related democratic pursuits in the interest of people and  the country; those hydra headed monsters could not rise in campus. The students were demeaned as student cadres were busy for tender businesses as the muscles of parties, land grabbing, occupy Halls to distribute seats, extortion, terrorism and other activities; when DU administration and teachers were on just lookers.      
About 43 thousand students had to vote for 25 posts of DUCSU and 13 posts in each of 18 Halls.  It is really unfortunate DU administration and teachers concerned have failed to ensure proper casting of votes. It is not unexpected as the teachers are proud of their annual DUTA election regularly, irrespective of regime changes, held work stoppage program for grade and salary in spite of Prime Minister's advice, did not mind for Student Union elections till the Supreme Court passed the verdict for holding DUCSU polls on a writ filed in this regard. Students continued to struggle throughout the day and came out successful in the democratic exercise, a historic event indeed.
At the end of the day, the VC declared the result at Senate Building.  Nurul Haq Nur won as VP of DUCSU, candidate of Bangladesh General Students Right Protection Council, also known as leader of quota reform movement, defeated Students League candidate.  It aroused passions, and then subsided and two candidates embraced each other. Independents won post of VP in 6 Halls and all posts in Shamsunnahar Hall. It shows those who were oppressed for upholding rights of students were elected.  
The students are all aware vindicate their right to vote as well as not to fall in any trap to keep Hall Union and DUCSU in abeyance. University administration enjoying autonomy should take note of it and extend all out help to their students. It should be held annually as provided in law and tradition.

(Muhammad Quamrul Islam, economist, advocate and columnist; e-mail: mqislambd@hotmail.com) 

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