Ensure level playing field for DUCSU elections

Update: | Print Edition

A decision of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has lifted the prohibition on DUCSU elections. This is a step in the right direction. The DUCSU (Dhaka University Central Students Union) thus should take place within March this year.
Looking back at the last DUCSU election and then at today’s circumstances, there has certainly been vast changes in Bangladesh’s political scenario. And traditional student politics has changed too.
After the fall of the autocratic rule of Ershad through the mass uprising in the nineties, the need to maintain the continuity of student politics was felt, but there were calls for change in definition. Accordingly, the political parties officially recognised their respective student bodies as supporting organisations rather than their ‘wings’. But in actuality, there was no change. The political parties continued to use these student bodies as tools to implement their political agenda. And just as the main political opposition BNP has been suppressed in national politics, on campus too the opposition student groups have been isolated.
The situation on campus is hardly conducive for Chhatra Dal, and other student bodies affiliated with various opposition parties, to take part in the DUCSU election. Only the ruling party’s Chhatra League and the student fronts of the mahajote allies face favourable circumstances for these polls. The last DUCSU election was held in 1990. After that no election of this body was held for a long 28 years. There were demands for these elections, but the university authorities did not acquiesce. Now, however, the court order has made it compulsory to hold the election.
One of the preconditions to render Dhaka University’s autonomy meaningful was to have the involvement of elected student representatives. But we note with concern over the past few years that this autonomy has crumbled. There have also been allegations of irregularities in the election of the teachers to the university’s senate. So now holding the much-awaited DUCSU election in a free and fair manner is a serious challenge.
The opposition student groups are repeatedly stating that the prevailing environment is not conducive to fair elections. They point out that the residential halls are fully occupied by the ruling party’s Chhatra League where no one else can do anything. Chhatra League even selects the rooms for the students, they say.
Chhatra League may deny these allegations, but the fact remains there are hardly any Chattra Dal leaders and activists on campus. Neither do they have any tangible programmes. They are even assaulted if they come to campus for a cup of tea and talk, according to media reports.
Just as there was no level playing field in the national elections, the same situation prevails in the Dhaka University campus. Before the parliamentary polls we had continuously demanded a level playing field and we do so again prior to the DUCSU polls. The Dhaka University authorities must ensure that all the student bodies can carry out their organisational activities on campus. We hope that the DUCSU election, to be held after such a long time, will take place in a festive mood with inclusion of all, and free of any irregularities.

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