There was much enthusiasm and aspiration among the students of Dhaka University as well as of the whole country over the DUCSU polls. People hoped that, this time, the questions and allegations of irregularities over the last parliamentary elections would be dispelled. They hoped the opposite would happen. In actuality, all the student organisations except Chhatra League boycotted the polls. This is frustrating.
The political parties, too, became optimistic with the DUCSU polls announcement as they saw it as a way to develop future politicians. There have been no student union elections at any university for decades. Many people thought the opportunity to raise political leadership from the grassroots has been lost. There is a predominance of businessman in the current parliament. This vacuum was created by the absence of the student council election. Youth are not joining politics. This space is being filled by businessmen and retired government officials. It was undesirable, but it happened.
A Chittagong University teacher once told me that if the student councils were there at 35 to 40 universities and the elections were held there on a regular basis, we would get so many talented politicians in the future.
But what happened in the DUCSU polls is just the opposite.
All the student organisations except the BCL demanded amendments when the schedule was announced and the election procedures were fixed. One of the demands included setting up polling centres in the academic building instead of the halls as those were dominated by the BCL. As a teacher I know there is less scope for dissenters at the halls. The tradition at the guest room and gana room (a room at the dormitory shared my three or four times more students than a usual one) is also quite known. The demand, therefore, was just, but was not met.
Reports are in the media that the students could not enter the halls to cast their votes uninitiated. This happened especially with the dissenters. Several students could not even cast their votes. Sacks filled with stamped ballot papers were found. A provost was sacked over such grave irregularity.
A few days earlier, holding a press conference, pro-BNP-Jamaat teachers said they were omitted from election related tasks and committees. During the BNP-Jammat regime, no pro-Awami League teacher was appointed as hall provost, but why does such old unjust rule prevail still? If the pro-BNP-Jamaat teachers were included in the committees, such strong allegations would not arise.
Many of the candidates were elected without any contest. This is incongruous with the spirit of politics. This is even more undesirable at university student council elections as the question arises as to what election examples are being set for the future. On top of that, ballot boxes were filled up prior to the elections. The university authorities may say irregularity occurred only at one or two centres. This is the election of the Dhaka University students' council and they are the ones to guide the nation in future. Is this the way to show the path?
I hoped that the DUCSU elections would be transparent, fair and free of any allegations. This did not happen. The ballot boxes were not even kept transparent. Why was the election been carried out when there were so many questions? I also hoped that DUCSU polls would be a paradigm for CHUCSU, RUCSU and other university student councils. I have to be, now, looking at another university for carrying out an exemplary election, but that too is highly improbable.
There was a note of hope among all this. There was no bloodshed. We can start our journey again from this.
The DUCSU elections have revealed a dark aspect of our teacher politics. To a teacher, each student is equal, regardless of his political identity. The teachers failed to reflect this. The students would lose their trust in them for this. As teachers, more or less, we will lose our respect too.
*Syed Manzoorul Islam is an educationist, author and former teacher at Dhaka University. This piece, originally appearing in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin.