Department-wise committee at NSU: BCL now eying private universities

BUET students demonstrate protesting entry of BCL leaders on the campusProthom Alo file photo

Amid the ongoing debate across the country on whether there should be student politics in the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) has announced its committees for five departments at North South University.

The student organisation of ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) has made the move as part of its initiatives to extend its political and organisational activities in the private universities.

The BCL constituted its organisational committees at 16 private universities in September 2022. Authorities of several private universities opposed the initiative saying formally that they will not approve student politics on the campus.

This time, the central BCL leaders have been highlighting political activities at the educational institutions including the private universities as “a normal process”.

The central BCL leaders said that they have been thinking about extending their organisational activities and restructuring those. For this, regular organisational activities including forming committees will continue.

Currently, there are 108 private universities in the country. BCL has committees in 39 of them. The ruling party’s student wing formed a 23-strong committee to supervise the activities of those committees in November 2022.

Now department-wise committee

BCL formed a committee at the North South University around a year and a half ago. This time the BCL leaders have constituted department-wise committees as part of extending its activities.

NSU unit BCL president Ashikur Rahman and general secretary Masud Rana on Friday formed the partial committees at five departments - business administration (BBA), law, civil and environmental engineering (CEE), electrical and computer engineering (ECE) and pharmaceutical science. The committees have been directed to form full committees by one month.

Opposition of NSU authorities

The Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh (APUB), a platform of the entrepreneurs of private universities, issued a letter opposing the initiative when BCL formed committees at NSU and several other private universities in 2022.

The letter, sent by the chairmen of the board of trustees of all the private universities, said that the private universities under the trust are essentially non-profit and non-political higher educational institutions that do not have any session jam. The rules of the university will determine whether student politics can be run in a private university.

On its Facebook page, American International University - Bangladesh (AIUB) wrote at that time, “Neither the name of the university nor its logo can be used at any programmes, or event or by any organisation without any prior permission from the authority,”

In an email to the students, the BRAC University authorities said, “BRAC University is a politically neutral institution and does not support any political club or organisation.”

The vice-chancellors of the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), Daffodil International University (DIU) and Stamford University also expressed to Prothom Alo their negative attitude towards student politics.

However, the Private Universities Act, 2010 does not explicitly say anything about student politics.

The then central BCL leaders rejected the opposition., saying that there should be student politics at every educational institution to realise the reasonable demands of the students.

Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, student wing of key opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), formed committees in nine private universities, including the NSU, in November 2022, just two months after the announcement of BCL committees.

What the BCL says

Central BCL president Saddam Hossain told Prothom Alo on Friday, “Our long-standing organisational structure needs to be restructured in some areas as there have been many changes in the education system and role of universities. In such a situation, we are thinking about the overall organisational structure at private universities and specialised educational institutions.”

He further said, “We are working on an outline that will meet the expectations of all the quarters involved. We will make decisions accordingly at a reasonable time. Our regular organisational process will continue until then.”

Speaking about the fear of an atmosphere of conflict in private universities due to student politics, the BCL president claims that no one from the BCL is allowed to be involved in the conflict.

BCL working on an outline for politics at BUET

BUET student Abrar Fahad was beaten to death at Sher-e-Bangla Hall in October 2019. A group of leaders and activists of BUET branch of BCL were sentenced in connection with the killing. After that, the BUET authorities banned organised student politics on the campus through an “emergency notice” in the wake of the student movement. But the students started protesting on 29 March this year after some leaders of Bangladesh Chhatra League entered the BUET campus on 27 March. The BUET students stated their stance against student politics on the campus.

In this context, the High Court suspended the “emergency notice” banning student politics in BUET as a BCL leader filed a writ petition. This has opened a path for the return of student politics in BUET. However, the demonstrating students are still against student politics in BUET campus.

Speaking about this, BCL central president Saddam Hossain told Prothom Alo, “BUET is a specialised educational institution and there should be specialised student politics there. Since there is an issue of students’ movement, we want to set up an outline and form committees of the Bangladesh Chhatra League there through open dialogue with the students.”