Chhatra League decides who stays where in the halls

Dhaka UniversityUNB file photo

Although there is a hall administration including the principal and residential teachers to manage the residential halls of the students of Dhaka University, in reality they do not have any control over the halls. Instead, Chhatra League, the fraternal organisation of the ruling Awami League, decides who stays where in the halls. Apparently, Chhatra League has taken up a role of a parallel administration in the campus.

Although, various factions of Chhatra League engage in clashes every now and then over establishing supremacy in the halls, the university authorities cannot take any action.

Two factions of Chhatra League units in Sir AF Rahman Hall, Salimullah Muslim Hall and Masterda Surja Sen Hall clashed at least six times in the last six and a half months. However, the hall or the university authorities did not take any action in these incidents.

Due to lack of residential facilities, the first-year students of the university do not have any chance to get a valid seat at the halls. Those who are forced to stay at the halls due to different reasons, find themselves in a common room controlled by Chhatra League. There are many cases, where around 40-50 students stay in a single common room. The students have to take part in various political activities, including the processions and rallies of Chhatra League regularly. In addition to that, they also have to take part in ‘classes on manners’ conducted by the leaders of Chhatra League.

Starting from the place in the common room in first year, the students are shifted to different rooms gradually by the leaders of Chhatra League. The leaders of Chhatra League use them for their political gain in exchange of giving a place in the common room. Many non-students and outsiders stay at the halls under their shelter.

However, despite having complete control over in the halls of male students, Chhatra League does not have much control in the halls of the female students as their is administrative control in allocating seats for the female students.

The ‘guestroom culture’

The first-year students are tortured if anyone goes against Chhatra League. Chhatra League leaders regularly conduct 'trials' of these ‘disobedient’ students in the hall receptions. To the general students of the campus, it is known as the guestroom culture.

In the name of teaching norms to keep the students under control, the are being tortured mentally. There are instances of physical assault as well. In addition, the students have to face the trial in case of missing any programme.

On 26 January , a first-year student was taken to the guestroom of the Bijoy Ekattor Hall. He was forced to stare at an electric bulb continuously as punishment for not taking part in programmes of Chhatra League. At one point he fainted.

The victim, Aktarul Islam, is a first-year (2020-21 academic year) student of the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at Dhaka University. However, the administration expelled three Chhatra League activists from Bijoy Ekattar Hall for six months.

Speaking to Chhatra League leaders at different levels it has been learned that more than 150 common rooms of the 18 residence halls of the university are under the control of Chhatra League. Not only that, Chhatra League also control around 80 per cent rooms of the 13 halls for male students.

Almost all the 298 rooms of Dr Muhammad Shahidullah Hall are under the control of Chhatra League. Of the 104 rooms in Sir AF Rahman Hall, 100 are under the control of Chhatra League.

70 per cent of the 388 rooms of Masterda Surja Sen Hall are under the control of Chhatra League. Most of the 388 rooms are under the control of Chhatra League.

There is also a ”political block” called 'Mantripara' in the residential halls which are occupied by the senior leaders of Chhatra League. Many of them are not students anymore. Even some outsiders also live in the hall under the protection of the Chhatra League.

Despite admitting the allegations of establishing control over the halls, none of the BCL leaders wanted to reveal their identity.

This process of torturing students at the hands of the ruling party's student body has been going on for decades due to the almost indifferent role of the hall administration. When the BNP was in power, Chhatra Dal used to do the same.

However, Dhaka University vice-chancellor, Akhtaruzzaman claims that the administration has control over the halls. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said, “Traditionally, the residential halls of the university are run under administrative management. Each hall has an administration. The provost in that administration, the residential teachers are doing their job.”

55 per cent student do not have accommodation facilities

The number of regular student of Dhaka University is 37,018. Of them, 20,773 are male and 16,245 are female.

There are more than 11,000 seats in the 13 halls and two hostels for male students. There are five halls and 2 hostels for 5, 700 students. In other words, 55 per cent of the total students do not have any accommodation facilities.

The election of the Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU) was held in March 2019 after 28 years. During the election campaigns all the candidates from all the panel, including Chhatra League, promised to evict the guestroom culture to ensure a proper environment for study.

But in reality, the Chhatra League-majority DUCSU (Chhatra Adhikar only won the post of VP and a secretary) could not bring about any change. However, students in different halls said that the DUCSU election had reduced the level of mental and physical abuse in the ‘guestroom’. But with expiration of that DUCSU committee, the environment returned to its previous state.

Speaking to Prothom Alo regarding this allegations, Saddam Hussein, general secretary of the Dhaka University Chhatra League, told said, "Occupying or establishing control in the halls are political terms only. These are used to give political essence to any incident and to demean Chhatra League. We stand by the students who do not have an alternative option for accommodation, we urge the university administration for their accommodation. We try to help them in various ways. We do not do this for political or organisational gain This is done to make the new students feel comfortable.”

Hall administration politicised

The provosts and the residential teachers of the halls are being recruited under political consideration. Therefore, the provosts and the residential teachers give the student wing of the ruling party the opportunity to establish supremacy in the hall due to their soft corner towards the organisation.

There are discussions among the common students that the provosts do nothing else than signing the papers of the students. They are not bothered about the discipline of the hall, merit-based seat distribution or the food quality of the hall canteens at all. The residential teachers even do not go to the ‘blocks’ in their responsibility. Most of the residential students do not even know the residential teacher in charge of their block.

All the 18 provosts of the 18 halls are associated with the politics of the pro-Awami League teachers' 'Blue Panel'. Similarly, about 99 per cent of residential teachers are directly involved in the politics of the Blue Panel.

Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan, a professor in the Department of International Relations at Dhaka University, told Prothom Alo that in most cases, the distribution of seats in residential halls or the overall management is not under the control of the provosts and residential teachers.

In almost all cases, the ruling student body control everything.

Provosts and residential teachers are usually appointed on the basis of their political affiliation and good relations with the top brass of the university administration.

As a result, strict teachers who stand up against the misconduct of the student body of the ruling party and work in the interests of the students are not being considered for posts of provosts or resident teachers.