Sources say that Chhatra League, the student wing of ruling party Awami League, holds full monopoly in Dhaka College. Student wings of other political parties are not active there.

Chhatra League controls the students' halls and the students have to take part in BCL activities in order to stay at the halls. Chhatra League leaders encourage the students to participate in clashes. If they don’t obey the leaders' commands, they have to face a “trial”. The leaders are also accused of being involved in extorting money from the street vendors and vehicles in the area.

The nefarious activities of the Dhaka College Chhatra League came under limelight once again after the students got locked in violent clashes with shop owners and employees of the New Market area last week. The suspended BCL activists from the last two committees in Dhaka College were also seen active in the clashes in different capacities.

The clashes started after Chhatra League leaders got involved in a personal dispute between employees of two shops in New Market. Other BCL activists got involved at their leader’s command. Allegedly, one of the employees in the dispute had a give and take relationship with Chhatra League leaders.

Committees suspended dissolved after clashes

After nearly one decade, Dhaka College Chhatra League unit announced a 55-member committee on 4 October 2012. In that committee, Fuad Hossain aka Pallab was named president and Shakib Hasan aka Swim was named general secretary. On 29 November 2013, a clash took place between two factions of the Dhaka College Chhatra League unit about a snatching incident. In that clash, a student named Asaduzzaman Al Faruk was killed. The very next day, the Dhaka College BCL unit got dissolved and both the president and general secretary got suspended.

Almost three years after that a convening committee with Nur-e Alam Bhuiyan aka Raju as its convener was announced on 17 November 2016. Two months into the committee’s three-month term, the followers of Nur-e Alam and joint convener Hiron Bhuiyan locked in a clash on 22 January 2017. Several rooms of the hall were vandalised and seven motorbikes were torched by the activists. That very day, central Chhatra League suspended Nur-e Alam, Hiron Bhuiyan and 17 other activists. But the committee wasn’t suspended or dissolved. The committee is still known as the “Dissolved Committee” on the Dhaka College campus.

Since that incident, no other committee has been formed in Dhaka College. Dhaka College Chhatra League leaders think that the absence of a committee was a reason behind the New Market clashes continuing for so long. They believe that a committee could’ve controlled the students.

This correspondent tried to contact central Chhatra League president Al Nahian Khan and general secretary Lekhak Bhattacharjee several times on the phone on Tuesday to know about the reason behind the delay in forming a committee in Dhaka College. But they didn’t respond.

Central Chhatra League vice-president Rana Hamid told Prothom Alo, “Dhaka College Chhatra League is a sensitive unit. There are many deserving candidates. There is also some other things we have to consider. After Eid, we have plans to form committees at Dhaka’s Kabi Nazrul Islam and Suhrawardy College. After that we will take steps to form the committee in Dhaka College.”

The clashes never end

The members of the previous committee are hopefuls of the impending one. The suspended joint convener of the previous committee Samad Azad aka Julfiqar, members Jashim Uddin, Sujon Sarkar and many others have continued to follow central Chhatra League president and general secretary in events, accompany them on motorcycle fleets and taking part in different BCL programmes. They are also seen playing leading roles during clashes. Even in the New Market incident, these leaders and their followers were active.

The candidates for president and general secretary positions in Dhaka College Chhatra League are controlling the campus right now. Their followers regularly get involved in clashes over small matters. Two weeks before the New Market clashes, in the night of 30 March, Dhaka College Chhatra League activists were locked in a clash with Teachers Training College students. That clash started from an argument over sitting in a tea stall. In that clash, around 50 people from both sides got hurt.

After speaking with local businessmen, shop employees and residents to figure out why Dhaka College students regularly get involved in clashes, several perspectives came up. Things like establishing dominance, internal dispute, student halls not being under the control of the college administration, dividing the extortion money taken from street vendors and some Chhatra League activists being “hired goons” of some businessmen came up as reasons. The students feel that no administrative action taken against such students is also a big reason behind such clashes happening so often.

Control of student halls

There are eight student halls in Dhaka College. Seven of them are for undergraduate-graduate level students. Only one hall, Sheikh Kamal Hall, is allocated for higher secondary level students

Several undergraduate and graduate level students of Dhaka College told Prothom Alo, student politics is banned in Sheikh Kamal Hall. The college administration controls that hall. But the administration has no control over the rest of the seven halls. Chattra League leaders decide who will stay in what room in those halls. Every now and then there is unrest in the campus over occupying the rooms. It’s mandatory to take part in different programmes of the Chhatra League to stay in the halls. If the leaders or “big brothers” command, they also have to take part in clashes. If the other students don’t obey Chhatra League leaders, they have to go through a “trial”.

There are rooms designated in each of the seven halls to conduct this so called trial, said a student of Dhaka College’s North Hall. According to him, in every few days 1st year students are brought in for questioning in the room No. 120 of the North Hall. Inside, the student leaders question them about taking part in the Chhatra League programmes among other things. If they don’t like the answer, the leaders scold and threaten them. Sometimes the 1st year students are punished in the playing field of the hall. When these 1st year students become 2nd year students, those who become Chhatra League activists start conducting the “trial” of the freshers. This is how this system of coercion continues.

What the authorities say

When asked if the authorities have control in the student halls, the college’s acting principal ATM Moinul Hasan told Prothom Alo, “Does this problem only exist in Dhaka College? This problem exists everywhere in the country. We try to motivate and control the students. We try to control these things in co-operation with the student leaders. Hall Supers keep an eye on the situation.”

When asked why Dhaka College students get involved in clashes so often he said, “This is difficult to answer because this is about mob psychology. Problems like these occur every now and then. Some people from the inside or outside could be instigating these things. This needs to be looked into. We are thinking about forming an inquiry committee to investigate the recent clashes.”