Beating up newspersons: BCL’s old way of suppressing free speech

Prothom Alo illustration

The leaders and activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League’s Chittagong University (CU) unit have beaten up Prothom Alo’s CU correspondent. He was assaulted by BCL leaders and activists in front of the faculty of arts and humanities in the campus on his way to the office of the vice-chancellor for reporting.

The BCL activists first shove him off and then hurled punches on his face, ears and forehead. At one point, the members of the student wing of the ruling party took him inside a residential hall and started beating him up randomly with cricket stumps. His eardrums were torn in the assault.

The BCL leaders and activists threatened him not to report on them saying, ““Write up any more reports and we’ll see who comes to save you. There should be no news about the Chhatra League.”  It means that the Chhatra League will continue to be engaged in clashes with local and crude weapons, they will carry out attacks and burn down infrastructures, but nobody will be allowed to write about it.

The BCL activists in the CU got involved in clashes at least eight times in the last three days. Prothom Alo’s CU correspondent Mosharraf Shah came under attack for reporting this. However, this was not the first incident of BCL activists assaulting newspersons on campus. Earlier on 9 September, BCL members harassed and threatened Samakal’s CU correspondent Marzia Akter.

They don’t believe in anything less than killing. Different groups of the CU unit of BCL have been involved in various sorts of violent activities on campus over the years. In 2015, a university student was killed in their factional clash, but the university administration remained silent. They always find the end of their duties in forming probe committees only.

After the assault on Mosharraf Shah on Sunday and another round of factional clash, the university administration has ordered the outsiders to leave the hall. They also recovered machetes and rods during raids in three residential halls.

The question remains as to what took them so long to go into action when they knew that outsiders were staying in the halls. When regular students hardly get any seat in the halls, the BCL leaders and activists continue to stay in the halls even after their studentship is over. It’s simply not acceptable.

Meanwhile, the BCL unit of Jahangirnagar University (JU) besieged the vice-chancellor for two as he didn’t appoint the candidate of their choice. They can even force the authority to cancel the meeting of the recruitment board.

In Rajshahi University, the BCL leaders and activists locked up the main gate of the Monnujan hall as the authority ordered a female BCL leader to leave the hall as her studentship was over. Not only in these two universities, the BCL has established a reign of terror in all public universities in the country.

The BCL central leadership has ended its responsibility by dissolving the unit in CU. After such a decision from the BCL central committee, we must ask, where have they been?

Why do common students fall victim to the internal dispute within the student wing of the ruling Awami League? Why will they beat up newspersons? The two influential Awami League leaders patronising this dispute cannot evade responsibility.

We, the journalists, strongly condemn the attack on journalist Mosharraf carried out by the CU Chhatra League unit and demand exemplary punishment for those involved. They should be brought to book immediately.