An injured BCL leader of Eden College after infighting on Sunday

There has been rumours against Bangladesh Chhatra League’s (BCL) Eden Mohila College unit for quite some time, about extortion, seat-allotment business and forcing students to engage in illicit activities. The allegations have surfaced again due to infighting of the ruling party student wing’s college unit. A majority of the BCL leadership maintain that their leaders are behind these activities.

The gravest allegation against the BCL leadership is that they force the students to engage in illicit activities after taking compromising pictures of them under duress. Sometimes they even collect toll from the hapless students threatening to make these objectionable pictures go viral.

The BCL leaders confined two female students in a room last August and threatened to take their nude videos and make this public. The allegation was raised against Eden College BCL president Tamanna Jesmine Riva. An audio clip of the incident that went viral drew huge criticism. The college authorities have not taken any action against this allegation. In the latest incident, college BCL’s vice president Jannatul Ferdous on Sunday alleged that associates of the president and secretary Rajia Sultana forcibly took compromising pictures of her.

The 25 BCL leaders on Sunday brought out some allegations and placed their 8-point demand. Most of these are related to extortion of the top BCL leadership of the college, seat-allotment business and security issues of the general students. The president and secretary hold a separate press conference on the same day which ended in a clash between the two groups. Later the central BCL expelled 12 out of the 25 leaders and 4 activists.

The college saw a rather calm day on Monday as the associates of the president and secretary did not make any ‘showdown’ on the campus. The other group held a press conference on the campus and demanded the withdrawal of the expulsion orders against them. Later they went to the Awami League office to fast unto death. They, however, did not stay there for long and departed without holding the hunger strike.

Upon coming out from the AL office, expelled vice president Jannatul Ferdous told journalists, "We came here (AL Office) to inform the seniors of the matter. They have taken the responsibility to resolve the issue. We will no longer observe the hunger strike. We have no programmes either centering the expulsion issue." 

Shameful incident in a historic college

Eden College is one of the oldest and most prestigious colleges in the county. According to the college website, it was founded in 1873. Around 35,000 students study in this college. Over 8,000 students stay in six residential halls though these are retentive of 3310 pupils. General students say most of the seats are controlled by the BCL. This phenomenon is not new, though. Student organisations of the ruling party always exerted their clout in the college.

But the general students claim the allegations against the current leadership have surpassed all the precedence. The allegation of taking objectionable videos and pictures emerged as a means of torture during the tenure of this leadership. The general students are too frightened to speak up on this matter fearing reprisal. Also, no action is taken on account of such allegations. Now, the BCL leaders themselves and other student bodies have started to break the silence.

Nusrat Keya, an honors student of Eden College, at a programme organized by Chhatra Odhikar Parishad on the Dhaka University campus on Monday shared her experience.

They capture objectionable videos of the students and threaten to make these videos public if they don’t leave their seats
Nusrat Keya

Nusrat Keya, also vice president of Chhatra Odhikar Parishad, said she contacted a BCL leader and spent Tk 12,000 to get into the residential hall. Keya could manage a place on the floor in a room where 12-13 students live cheek by jowl.  She could not sustain the oppression and left the hall.

“Later I contacted teachers and managed to get a legal seat. But I could not stay there either as they torture there too. They capture objectionable videos of the students and threaten to make these videos public if they don’t leave their seats,” Nusrat Keya alleged.

The leaders of the opposition group in their press briefing brought out allegations against the president and secretary of collecting toll from the college canteen, internet service providers and grocery shops. Their eight demands included ensuring the safety of the general students.

The BCL leaders collect Tk 8,000-10,000 at first from the students and collect Tk 2,000 per month, said Nusrat.

She alleged that not only president and secretary but many other BCL leaders of the college are also involved in such malpractices.

The leaders of the opposition group in their press briefing brought out allegations of collecting tolls from the college canteen, internet service providers and grocery shops against the president and secretary. Their eight demands included ensuring the safety of the general students. A student on Saturday night’s protest was seen holding a banner that reads ‘we don’t want a leader who is involved with illicit activities'.

Susmita Barai, an expelled vice president on Monday’s press conference said they heard that the president and secretary win contracts for different works from ministries through ‘different means’.

Sources and general students said the student leaders try to establish supremacy to engage in seat-allocation business and extortion.

Administration’s ineffectiveness

The studentship of many of the BCL leaders in Eden College has already ended and some others have maintained their studentship in various ways. Many of the leaders who are protesting against the president and secretary have already finished their studies. President Tamanna Jesmine Riva is a marketing department student of 2009-10 academic sessions. She stays at the residential hall for 12 years. Tamanna denied the allegation of extortion and seat-allotment business at the press briefing on Sunday. She could not be reached on Monday.

In an audio clip which went viral in August, Tamanna was heard saying, ‘None is above the president of Eden College.’ She apologized to BCL leaders over the comment. The BCL, however, did not take any action against her.

Although there is administration in the college, students say BCL is the veritable controller of the college. The college administration can neither stop the wrongdoings of BCL nor they speak up about these. Despite several attempts, journalists could not reach the college’s principal Supriya Bhattacharjee for her comment on the prevailing situation on the campus. She did not respond to calls on Monday either.

Tanzim Uddin Khan, the teacher of Dhaka University’s international relations department, told Prothom Alo that the issue of grave misdeeds in Eden College came to the fore as the two factions of BCL are at loggerheads. But you can never be sure such incidents are not taking place in other institutions.

He said student politics has derailed due to malice in mainstream politics and the absence of democracy. The effect of lack of accountability in the parent organization has impacted the student organization negatively.