DU dignity in the dust

Update: | Print Edition

DUGeeti Ara Nasreen, Sheikh Hafizur Rahman Curzon, Mohammed Azam, Mohammed Tanzimuddin Khan, Samina Lutfa, Debashish Kundu, Ashiq Mohammed Shimul, Fahmidul Huq

If we venture to write anything on the recent events surrounding the Senate session summoned for the election to the highest position of Dhaka University and the various incidents related to this, we are likely to receive letters from the university authorities. We may be given forced leave or we may be informed that a disciplinary committee has been formed against us, or charges may be filed against us under Section 57 of the ICT Act.

It is like Michel Foucault’s contention of this being an age of discipline and punishment. There are fearful and cautious faces all around. Teachers and students alike prefer to remain silent. After all, the strategies of that discipline and power have stemmed the natural propensity to protest. But things have been pushed so far that now even the most innocuous persons who go with the flow, can no longer remain silent.

The incidents have taken place over the past few days, no matter whom the actors may be, have splattered everyone with mud. So we are compelled to write. We need the people to know that there are many teachers of the university who dislike all these happenings. Not everyone has lost their conscience and conscious spirit.

Students of Dhaka University held a protest programme on 29 July, stating that the Senate session cannot be held that without student representation. The DUCSU elections must be held first and then the students’ representatives be called to the Senate session. DUCSU hasn’t been around for a few decades now and so no leadership has emerged among the new generation. The students have no say in the functioning of the university. So their demand is a justified and democratic one.

Even at the recent convocation ceremony, the Chancellor spoke on the need for DUCSU elections. It was with this demand that a large gathering of students, mostly members of left-wing organisations, took up position at the Senate building premises. They found the gates closed with a few teachers waiting on the other side.

The student’s demonstration was a human chain. They pushed open the closed gates. Demands for a DUCSU election were democratic demands. There was no reason to lock the Senate building gates. But then the most unfortunate and unprecedented incident took place when the teachers came forward to block the students. Video footage and photographs show aggressive teachers and injured students. Even girl students were assaulted by the teachers. Some students were seen trying to pull the girls students away from the teachers’ attack.

Back in 2002 students of Shamsun Nahar Hall were attacked, but that was by the police. But this time it was teachers, indicating how low the teachers have fallen from the moral ground they are purported to have. An assistant proctor was in the forefront of these aggressive teachers, a teacher who had been accused of enticing a girl student with marriage proposals with dubious intentions, a teacher appointed without the minimum required qualifications and an outsider, and a teacher of Jagannath University. A multifarious lack of ethics is glaringly evident here. The proctor even said that the outsider teacher had applied to Dhaka University and would soon be appointed.

The question is, once appointed, how can a teacher turn against the students? The shadow cast by these incidents falls upon all the teachers! They have to take the responsibility. You break a student’s glasses, tug at a girl student’s scarf, throw them to the ground and in doing so you break a finger. You do not have an iota of sympathy from us. We condemn you to no end. You have fallen from your duties and responsibilities and demeaned us in front of the entire society.

At the end of the day, it is the dignity of Dhaka University that is in the dust. The persons involved in  the manipulations of power play and muscle flexing that have dragged the university down to such a level, cannot evade responsibility. We strongly condemn everyone from top to bottom, who are involved in this incident.

We hear an inquiry committee has been formed to look into the incident. We hope the committee does justice. We hope they correctly identify the attackers and the victims. In our opinion, the teachers who have dashed DU’s dignity to the ground, must be punished. They have blackened the entire teacher community. We are protesting in advance against any possible attempt to take anti-student action under cover of the inquiry committee.

* The authors are teachers at Dhaka University. This article, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir.

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