Eight BCL men identified with machetes

Arafat Raihan, former deputy office secretary of CU BCL, and activist Mohammad Shamim were spotted with machetes during the recent clash on the Chittagong University campus.A screengrab from video

Khaled Masud, a postgraduate student of Chittagong University’s (CU) law department, was once known on the campus as a close aide of Rejaul Haque, former president of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) in the university.

Taking the advantage, he secured the post of legal affairs secretary in the plenary committee of the BCL’s CU unit on 31 July 2022.

The situation took a dramatic turn when Khaled Masud declared Rejaul unwanted on the campus soon after assuming the position and shifted his allegiance to Mirza Khabir, former vice president of CU BCL and chief of a subgroup called Choose Friends with Care (CFC).

Now, Khaled Masud often appears with a machete on the frontline of the CFC subgroup whenever any clash erupts on the campus. He was expelled from the university two times – in October 2021 and June 2023 – for his involvement in a clash and an attack on a journalist.

However, the authorities withdrew the expulsion order on humanitarian grounds in both cases.

In the wake of fresh clashes, Education Minister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury requested the university’s vice-chancellor to take stern action against the responsible students and ensure that no perpetrator gets spared citing political influence. The education ministry issued a press release in this regard on Saturday.

On Thursday night and Friday morning, two BCL subgroups – Sixty-Nine and CFC – clashed on the campus, leaving 29 injured, including three policemen. At least 60 BCL men were seen with machetes during the clash. Among them, Khaled Masud was spotted with a machete in his hand on the premises of Shah Amanat Hall on the campus.

The CU BCL has long been divided into two factions, one aligning with Education Minister Mohibul Hasan and the other with former Chattogram City Corporation Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin.

His involvement was confirmed through a number of video clips, stills, and conversations with BCL leaders and activists.

However, Khaled Masud spurned the allegation outright and claimed that he was inside the hall during the clash. Arguing in favour of the claim, he also said he no longer gets involved in clashes since he is now a senior student and the juniors now take care of the fights.

Apart from Khaled Masud, the media personnel identified seven other BCL men who were seen with machetes during the recent fights. Three of them are Arafat Raihan, former deputy office secretary of CU BCL; Mohammad Shamim, a third-year student from the communication and journalism department; and Emon Ahmed, a third-year student from the philosophy department. They all are CFC members and reside in Shah Amanat Hall.

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The others are Ahmed Anik, a master's student from the marketing department; Mehedi Hasan, a fourth-year student of the Institute of Modern Languages; Naim Arafat, a third-year student of the botany department; and Mohammad Hossain, a second-year student of the accounting department. The four are members of the Sixty-Nine subgroup and followers of Saidul Islam, the joint general secretary of CU BCL.

Asked about the issue, Saidul Islam claimed that he did not see any of his followers carrying machetes. He, however, admitted that many of them were carrying sticks in their hands. He also assured that they will look into the matter if anyone complains about carrying machetes.

Contacted, CFC leader Mirza Khabir Sadaf told Prothom Alo that such incidents would have decreased had the administration taken actions against those carrying weapons.

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Mehedi Hasan, Arafat Raihan, and Emon Ahmed claimed that they were not present on the spot during the clash, while Anik and Naim Arafat could not be reached over the phone.

Mohammad Shamim said when one member of his subgroup was hacked by a Sixty-Nine member, they took machetes in their hands but did not attack anyone.

Regarding the clashes, Proctor Nurul Azim Sikder told Prothom Alo that an investigation team has already started working on the issue and they are scheduled to hold a meeting on Sunday to determine the next course of actions. The meeting will be attended by different university administration officials, law enforcement personnel, and intelligence agencies.

The CU BCL has long been divided into two factions, one aligning with Education Minister Mohibul Hasan and the other with former Chattogram City Corporation Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin. These factions further divide into 11 subgroups, with Vijay and CFC aligning with Mohibul Hasan, while the remaining nine factions are followers of AJM Nasir Uddin.