Bangladesh Chhatra League leaders and activists allocate and control eight residential halls for male students at Jahangirnagar University.
BCL is the student wing of ruling Awami League.
The hall administration virtually has no role.
General students said that the Chhatra League leaders are the ‘seat ministers,’ the ‘senior brothers’ who assign the rooms or ‘seats’.
Ruling party student wing BCL men use the room crisis to wield their power in the dormitories and unleash repression and harassment.
The tenure of JU unit BCL committee has expired, but it still remains in place.
General students have made various allegations against the leaders of the expired committee. The allegations include tender manipulation and torturing students in the name of ‘teaching manners’.
Prothom Alo investigations have found that at least 30 BCL leaders grabbed seats despite expiry of their studentship.
According to the university planning and development office, about 7,700 students are staying against 4,645 seats in eight dormitories of male students.
Students have to stay over two years in ‘gono rooms’ (mass rooms) after joining the lone residential university of the country.
On condition of anonymity, several provosts said the administration is helpless in the face of BCL leaders regarding allotment of seats.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, provost committee president and Sheikh Hasina Hall provost Bashir Ahmed said the monitoring system in the dormitories is very weak.
A list of those staying despite expiry of their studentship is being prepared, he added.
Students said about 100 to 150 first-year students have to stay in two ‘gono rooms’. Later, they get the scope to move to a ‘mini gono room’ in the second year. Six to eight students stay in a room meant for two. Eight to 12 students stay in a room meant for four.
Those affiliated with BCL politics, get seats in comparatively better rooms. Those indifferent to politics, have to stay six more months in ‘mini gono rooms’. They are ultimately allotted seats at the end of third year.
Who are in charge of the halls?
Student of the archaeology department and BCL assistant secretary Rashed Al Nayeem and students of the mathematics department and BCL activist Noor Amin Akanda allocate seats at Mir Mosharraf Hossain Hall.
Student of physics Chinmoy Sarker and student of philosophy Imran Ahmed allocate seats at Al Beruni Hall. Both of them are executive members of BCL JU unit committee.
Student of the finance and banking department and JU unit BCL assistant secretary Abdullah Al Azim is in charge of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Hall.
BCL activists Sajiduzzaman and Saurov Kapali are in charge of Maulana Bhashani Hall. BCL activists Asifuzzaman alias Mahdi, Minhazul Morshed and Walid Islam are in charge of AFM Kamaluddin Hall.
BCL deputy health and treatment affairs secretary Arif Ahmed allots seats at Shaheed Salam Barkat Hall.
Drama and dramatics student Nizamuddin and anthropology student Nahid and Sajjad are in charge of Shaheed Rafiq-Jabbar Hall.
BCL leaders Ariful Islam and Pavel Rahman allocate seats at Biswa Kabi Rabindranath Tagore Hall.
JU unit BCL president Jewel Rana said there are only seven to eight resident teachers in hall administration and they cannot look after all the halls. So BCL leaders assist the hall administration, he added.
A full committee consisting 214 members was constituted on 28 April 2017 and it still exists.
BCL sources said the studentship of 68 members of this committee has expired. Around 50 leaders have left campus for various purposes including jobs.
Ten leaders have got married although married persons cannot hold posts of the committee.
According to Prothom Alo investigations, at least 30 leaders still hold their posts despite expiry of their studentship.
BCL president Jewel Rana stays at room 245 of AFM Kamaluddin Hall. General secretary SM Abu Sufian alias Chanchal stays at room 301 of Shaheed Salam Barkat Hall.
Among those who stay at halls despite no longer being students, are Niamul Hasan, Mamunur Rashid, Majed Simanto, Masud Yunus, Shamim Ahmed Sikdar, Yunus Ali and Sarwar Hossain.
When asked about the matter, BCL JU unit vice president Sadaat Saem said, “We are staying at the halls as we are in politics.”
Torture at ‘guest rooms’ and ‘gono rooms’
Around 25 to 150 students have to stay in gono rooms of residential halls.
Speaking to at least 20 students, it was learnt that students are mentally and physically tortured in the ‘gono rooms’ in the name of ‘teaching manners’.
On 8 February 2018, Mizanur Rahman, a student of Shaheed Salam Barkat Hall, had a mental breakdown after being ‘ragged’. He is a student of the 47th batch of the science and engineering department. He returned to campus on 27 July 2018 after undergoing lengthy psychiatric treatment.
Later he was accommodated at Al Beruni Hall. He is now attending classes in the first year. Speaking to Prothom Alo, Mizanur said, “I lost one year of my life due to the incident. I should have been in the second year now.”
The largest ‘gono room’ is in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Hall. Around 100 to 150 students stay here.
In July this year, marketing department student Shihab slapped Foysal Alam, a student of mathematics department and damaged his ear. Many first year students have to pass the night under the open sky as part of the ‘ragging’.
Chhatra League president Jewel Rana said, “We have declared war against ragging and harassment. We will take organisational action if anyone is found involved in ragging and harassment.”
In an emergency meeting of the provost committee on 13 October 2019, a decision was taken to form four committees to monitor and prevent ragging. These committees were given the power to inspect halls anytime. Another decision was taken to install CCTV cameras at the guest rooms and the main gates of the halls.
Several BCL leaders, maintaining anonymity, said there are large numbers of local and fire arms in the eight halls for male students. BCL leaders control these arms.
Former provost of Maulana Bhashani Hall and Bangla department professor, Nazmul Hasan Talukdar, said trivial matters leads to serious clashes due to the availability of arms. The administration should take action against this, he added.
Students of Al Beruni Hall and Mir Mosharraf Hossain Hall clashed at night over a female student being stalked during the admission test of the 2018-19 academic session on 2 October.
BCL president Jewel Rana said, “I am unaware of the firearms with the Chhatra League leaders and activists. Outsiders may possess arms.”
Former vice chancellor Anwar Hossain said the university administration is also responsible for the reckless behaviour of Chhatra League.
He said the administration has to use an iron hand. Party politics of teachers is an obstacle to their administrative duties.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.