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21.02.2009 Feature Article

Campus violence, a socio-political problem in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, Campus violence is a severe socio-political problem. Sometime this becomes a concern for the government. Political observers said that absence of proper, independent student activism is the main cause of campus violence making the society an anti-political though student community of the country had contributed a lot in all political achievement of the nation including the struggle of independent, language movement and the struggle for democracy.

It must be mentioned that the Bangalee nationalism, developed under the semi-colonial rule of Pakistan, was demonstrated in the language movement of 1952 in which students were the main players of that bleeding full struggle. Then in 1962 for the cause of education rights and the 1966 movement for self-rule students' were in the forefront. Peoples upsurge in 1969 against military rule was also mainly participated and organized by the student community. Liberation War of the nation was a youth movement as well. Youths from the peasants and workers society were the front fighters, and of course students were the organizers and commanders of the freedom struggle. In the post independence era, decades-long struggle for democracy against military or semi-military rule were also led by the student unions.

This glorious era of struggle obviously was led by many student organizations those were supporters of different political parties. Before 1971, the year of independence, Bangladesh Chhatra (student) League (BCL) and two factions of East Pakistan Student Union (EPSU) were the major student units active in the then East Pakistan. The members of those organizations contributed a lot for the nation. These student unions were affiliated to Awami League (AL) and two factions of Communist party. The military backed Muslim League had also a student wing named National Student Front (NSF). In campuses, NSF was known as an association of hoodlums. NSF was the student organization that introduced violence in campuses. But mainstream student groups were involved in the struggle for democracy, self rule and independence, and of course in the struggle for the causes related to student rights. NSF hooligans were treated as demon. In 1969, after student-people upsurge NSF was eliminated from the Campuses.

In post liberation era, few more left inclined student organizations like Bangladesh Student League, Socialist Student Front, Biplobi Chatra Moitry (revolutionary student unity) etc. and Jatiotabadi Chatra Dal (nationalist student organization) commonly known as JCD, the student organization of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) remain active. Jatio Party Military autocrat of HM Ershad also has a student wing named Notun Bangla Chatra Samaj (New Bangla Student Society). There has been a major change in post liberation student wing concept among the political parties.

Before 1971, all student organizations had a similar character of independent body, not controlled by the leadership of their respective political parties. After 1971, few of them emerged as direct front of political parent; this made them only a supporter of particular party. In 80s of last century, educational institutions went for frequent closed sine die position for military rule. At that time student organizations were involved in the struggle for democracy. The closed sine die situation pushed the student leader shifted the units from schools, colleges to wards, thanas and districts. As a result local leadership of student organizations also shifted from real students to local non-student youths. On the other hand, political parties had started giving emphasize on capability and influence instead of knowledge, dedication and honesty. Furthermore, military backed student organizations were harbouring hooligans to extend influence over the campuses. And again the era of NSF demon came back in the campuses.

As 80s of last century was the time of struggle for democracy, with many limitations, mainstream student activism was solely concentrated on the democratic movement. Once the V-day came, the military autocracy was toppled down. And the student activists went to their normal activities, it was December 1990.

In 1991 first post-90 elected government led by BNP came into state power. The power party student wing took control over the campuses. Opponents were expelled from the educational institutions with active or passive cooperation of administration. In 1996, AL came into state power and again in 2001 BNP reoccupied their 91 position over the state machinery. All these changed the dynamics of campus power structure including the faculty and university administration.

By the time student activism got the popular name of STUDENT POLITICS. In other words student organizations became the political wing of a certain political party in the student thus these organizations have lost their independent character and leadership of those organizations went to the people who are not students anymore. Consequence of the process is welcome of hooliganism and violence in the campuses. Blind support to the party politics replaced the glory of knowledge based debate-full support to the political parent.

The impact of this change in student activism is very negative on the society. The mass, no matter literate or illiterate, thought that student activism is a bad phenomenon of society. This social thinking, in fact, makes the weaker part of population more vulnerable. Because, in Bangladesh, as of statistics 60 percent of population is lettered but the people conscious about their rights are not more than 15 percent. Student community is also included in this number.

Student community was the only section of educated people who fought for others causes and of course the student organizations were in the leading role. Now, as the student unions are simply the wings of political parties, those student bodies are not addressing the socio-economic and political issues of their poor parents, rather they are working to establish particular agenda of political parent.

One thing should be spoken loudly that without political philosophy a student organization cannot come forward to do something better for the country and people they owe to. So intellectuals, academics and the politicians, who think about the mass, suggested that banning of student politics is not the solution. Solution is tracking back the student activism in its old dignified history.

It is known to all that an unwanted situation put the nation into an unconstitutional rule for almost two years. In that period many of our politicians, academicians, intellectuals and civil society leaders advocated to stop the student activism with political flavour. But it was not accepted to the concerned people as well.

After the December 2008 election, there was a hope that old practice may not be practiced in the campus. Though the pivotal leadership of government and the ruling AL instructed to control the youngsters to be in tolerance and told party men to advice student wing for showing broadmindedness to other organizations, campus violence is returning slowly.

As campus violence is a demon and no one like to see it again, the government is also keen to make campuses violence free and making student activism a process of leadership building for future, people concerned want to see immediate steps from the government and elder politicians in this regards.

Mohoshin Abbas
Mohoshin Abbas, © 2009

This author has authored 26 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: MohoshinAbbas

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