Chhatra League leaders and activists continue in their propensity to attack their opponents and even engage in feuds among themselves. And now added to this is mugging and extortion. In February alone, 5 leaders and activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) were suspended by the Dhaka University authorities for mugging and extortion.

The names of this organisation's leaders and activists have also come up in allegations of leaking out examination question papers and even abduction. Sources within Dhaka University administration say that over the six years between January 2017 till February this year, at least 45 leaders and activists of Chhatra League have been suspended and expelled from the university or the halls. At least 20 among them have been permanently expelled (though the expulsion of one has been curtailed to a two-year suspension). Legal action has also been taken against many for various criminal offences. But despite these punitive measures, the criminal proclivity among the Chhatra League leaders and activists has not lessened.

Leaders and activists of ruling Awami League's student front Chhatra League are being repeatedly accused of harassing general students.  Chhatra League is taking organisational action against those involved in such offences. Over the past six years, at least 50 have been expelled from the organisation for their involvement in various incidents.

Within a few days of taking over the reins of Chhatra League in December last year, its central president Saddam Hossain and general secretary Sheikh Wali Asif issued a 10-point directive to all units of the organisation, aimed at creating a 'Smart Chhatra League". These directives included maintaining the academic environment of all educational institutions while carrying out organisational activities and playing a responsible role in all areas connected to students' interests. Shortly after these directives were given, the Dhaka University Chhatra League president Mazharul Kabir and general secretary Tanveer Hasan issued an 8-point directive. Prominent among these directives was to ensure an academic environment at the residential halls.

However, all these directives appear to be merely on paper. Over the past two months, four incidents of clashes involving Chhatra League's internal feuds took place at the Dhaka University campus. At least 33 leaders and activists were injured in these clashes. That is not all. Dhaka University Chhatra League men have been accused of involvement in at least six incidents of mugging and extortion over the past two months. A case was filed against Chhatra League leaders Rahul Roy and Tanzir Arafat alias Tushar for assaulting a couple at Suhrawardy Udyan on 15 January night and snatching away gold ornaments. Rahul was a central member of Chhatra League in the recent past and Tanzir was joint general secretary of Kabi Jasimuddin Hall Chhatra League unit. Then the general secretary of Amar Ekushey Hall unit of Chhatra League, Imdadul Hasan, was accused of sending his men to smash up the goods of a shop at Bangabazar on 30 January as the trader has refused to respond to his summons to pay 'toll' money.

Over the past half a dozen years, six different leaders have been at the helm of the Dhaka University unit of Chhatra League. Recent incidents indicate the change in leaders have made no difference to the situation. Master Da Surja Sen Hall unit Chhatra League committee members Fahim Tajwar and Sajid Ahmed have been accused of snatching and assault on 4 February night at the central Shaheed Minar area. Next, Chhatra League activists Fazle Naveed, Sadiq Ahmad and Md Rahat Rahman were arrested for halting a covered van late on the night of 5 February at the BUET mosque area, snatching away goods and beating up the driver. Then on 16 February night, Surja Sen Hall Chhatra League vice president Mohaimenul Islam and Shaheed Sergeant Zahurul Huq Hall Chhatra League vice president Rajib Hossain were caught red handed and arrested for extortion in the guise of policemen at Suhrawardy Udyan.

Exam paper leak scam

On 23 June 2016, the police's Central Investigation Agency (CIA) submitted a chargesheet to the court against 125 persons, including 87 students of Dhaka University, for involvement in leaking out the university's admission exam question papers and forgery. In four phases from January 2018 to September 2021, a total of 87 students were permanently expelled from the university. Of them, 14 were Dhaka University Chhatra League leaders.

According to CID, former student of Dr Mohammad Shahidullah Hall, Mohiuddin Rana, permanently expelled from Dhaka University, was the main perpetrator of the question leak scam. He had been an assistant secretary of central Chhatra League at the time. He had been arrested for leaking out the exam papers. After being released from jail, in November 2020 he was made central member of Jubo League.

And former international affairs deputy secretary of Sergeant Zahurul Huq Hall Chhatra League, Md Bayzid, who was permanently expelled for question paper leakage, still resides at the hall.

Crime must be seen as a crime. There is no scope for anyone criminal to escape because of any connection with a political organisation
Saddam Hussain, President, Chhatra League

Endless allegations

A review of the various criminal incidents that took place in the six years from January 2017 to February this year at Dhaka University, reveals that most of these incidents included beating up residential hall students for not attending Chhatra League events between 2017 and 2018, picking up and torturing students on allegations of their being involved in Shibir politics, and attacking political opponents. Towards the end of 2018, incidents of mugging and extortion began to increase.

On 23 January 2018, various left-leaning student organisations, under the banner of 'students against repression', broke into the office Dhaka University's vice chancellor and laid siege to the VC Md Akhteruzzaman. Chhatra League men later came, beat them up and rescued the vice chancellor. At least 40 of the demonstrators had been injured in the incident. On 22 October that year, Chhatra League activists Nafiur Rahman, Abir Hasan and Kamrul Hasan were arrested in a case of snatching at the Ramna Kali Mandir area. On 14 December the same year five Chhatra League men, including BCL leader Akhtaruzzaman, picked up two persons from the central Shaheed Minar area and demanded ransom from their families.

Leaders and activists of Chhatra League and Muktijoddha Mancha on 22 December 2019 turned the lights off in the room of the DUCSU leader at the time, Nurul Huq, in the DUCSU Bhaban and beat him and his associates mercilessly.

The campus was closed in 2020 and 2021 during the Covid pandemic. At that time, allegations of mugging and extortion arose against the deputy office secretary of Muktijoddha Ziaur Rahman Hall unit Chhatra League, Aktarul Karim. He became known as the 'King of the Udyan' because of his misdeeds. He was arrested in July 2021 when he beat up someone and injured him seriously. He was later expelled from both the university and from Chhatra League.

Central Chhatra League on 12 February this year expelled 15 leaders and activists of its Dhaka University unit for their involvement in mugging, assault, harassment, extortion and other offences. Five of them were expelled from the university as well. On the same day, general secretary of Sergeant Zahurul Huq Hall Chhatra League, Imdadul Hasan alias Sohag, was dropped from the university unit of the organisation on charges of extortion.

Even after all these measures, on 16 February Chhatra League leaders Mohaimunul Islam and Rajib Islam were arrested while forcefully collecting toll money from persons at the Ekushey Boi Mela (book fair) at Suhrawardy Udyan, in the guise of police.

Concerning the involvement of the organisations leaders and activists in criminal activities, Chhatra League central president Saddam Hussain told Prothom Alo, "We have taken action in the incidents where there has been proven evidence. Crime must be seen as a crime. There is no scope for anyone criminal to escape because of any connection with a political organisation. If any crime takes place, we ensure strictest organisational measures. In the case of criminal offences, Chhatra League extends all cooperation for legal action and will continue to do so."

The continued criminal tendencies of the ruling party's student organisation are unfortunate and reprehensible. The university authorities and the higher authorities must all be alert and cautious about this
Prof. Nazrul Islam, former chairman, UGC

Condoning crime

Student Ehsan Rafiq almost lost an eye when tortured on 6 February 2018 by Salimullah Muslim (SM) Hall Chhatra League men. His eye was seriously injured and he had to undergo extended treatment at home and abroad. He later left Dhaka University and is studying at a private university in Malaysia.

The Dhaka University authorities expelled assistant secretary of SM Hall Chhatra League, Omar Faruk, for his involvement in the incident. The hall unit Chhatra League assistant secretary for training affairs Mehdi Hasan, assistant secretaries Ruhul Amin Bepari and Fardin Ahmed, executive members Ahsan Ullah and Samiul Huq were suspended for two years from the university and vice president Ariful Islam for one year. However in February 2019 the authorities cut short the punishment of all seven. Omar Faruk's expulsion was turned to a two-year suspension and the two-year suspensions of the others were shortened to one year each.

Dhaka University proctor AKM Golam Rabbani, however, told Prothom Alo that they do not condone any sort of crime. If they receive specific complaints of any crime or offence, based on evidence they take action according to the rules. Many have been expelled from the university at various times for various offences.

On the night of 14 October last year, Ahsan Ullah, who had been accused of torturing Ehsan Rafiq, was made vice president 1 of SM Hall Chhatra League. Fardin Ahmed was made vice president 3, Samiul joint general secretary 4 and Ruhul, organising secretary 5.

The authorities in March last year permanently expelled six Bijoy Ekattur Hall Chhatra League activists for beating up two students. But on 26 September, all of them were given posts in the full-fledged hall committee.

In recent times, no action has been taken in the case of such mugging and extortion until and unless it is flashed in the media. In the campus it is common understanding that the leaders and activists involved in such crimes are being condoned.

Former chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Prof. Nazrul Islam, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that the continued criminal tendencies of the ruling party's student organisation are unfortunate and reprehensible. The university authorities and the higher authorities must all be alert and cautious about this. It should be ensured that these criminal proclivities do not not grow further. Such tendencies must not be condoned. If these are condoned, not only the education system but the entire social system is harmed and heads towards a breakdown.

* This report appeared in the print an online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir