Chhatra League and Chhatra Dal are two student organisations and according to political party norms, these are not front organisations of any political parties. However, the two student organisations are recognised to be affiliated with Awami League and BNP respectively. That does not mean that they will not have their separate independent identities, or that their existence will be overshadowed by the parent organisation.
There certainly is a difference between national politics and student politics. Education and student problems are the basic premise of student politics. In that sense, they also have a role in the advancement of the democratic system. From back in the days of Pakistan rule, the student organisations didn’t only take active part in the movement and struggle for democracy. They also maintained their identity as independent organisations. In fact, even before the founding of Awami League, Chhatra League was established as followers of that school of politics. In those days, the connection between the student organisations and the political parties was ideological. That ideology has now been replaced by absolute loyalty. The student organisations are at the beck and call of the political parties.
Some within the ruling party try to say that student politics lost its separate identity after Ziaur Rahman introduced the provision for all political parties to have front organisations. Ziaur Rahman was a military ruler. He and his successor Hussein Muhammad Ershad made democratic politics difficult in order to consolidate their own authority. But why are the democratic political parties maintaining that bad precedent set by the military rules.
According to news reports, Chhatra League held its council session three weeks ago, but it still has not formed any new committee. The Chhatra League leaders and activists are looking towards Gono Bhaban, that is, he Awami League president. It is she who, in consultation with party leaders, will decide upon the new leadership of Chhatra League. The old committee was dissolved and soon as the council session was over, activities are still carried out in its name.
Meanwhile, back in October 2014 Chhatra Dal formed its committee with Rajib Hasan as president and Akramul Hasan as general secretary. A section of Chhatra Dal at the time protested in front of the BNP office central office in Naya Paltan against this ‘pocket committee’. No one knows as yet when the full-fledged Chhatra Dal committee will be formed. Before BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia went to jail, there had been discussions about the new committee for Chhatra Dal, but nothing was implemented. BNP leaders say that they are focusing in Khaleda Zia’s release, nothing else at the moment. So that means as long as she remains in jail, Chhatra Dal won’t be getting a new committee.
Elections had never featured in forming the Chhatra Dal committee. It had been the BNP chief who decides upon who will be in the committee.
However, over the past few years Chhatra League’s leadership, the president and general secretary in particular, had been elected by the councillors. Awami League leaders even boasted that Chhatra League leadership was democratically elected. But based on the allegation that the leadership formed a syndicate, they are back to the nomination method.
Awami League’s general secretary has dubbed this as the ‘new model’. If a committee that is formed through elected forms syndicates, it is not hard to foresee what a nominated committee will do.
It is not just Awami League or BNP that has this authoritarian stance as parent organisations. This exists in all the political parties, big and small. We feel it is imperative that student politics be brought of this static state.