The newly elected DUCSU vice-president Nurul Haque recently gave an interview to Prothom Alo's joint editor Mizanur Rahman Khan at the DUCSU building of Dhaka University. Texts from the interview are as follows.
Prothom Alo: As a former Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) member, how is your relationship with the DUCSU general secretary and others? BCL has condemned the attacks on you. Have you sat with them at Madhu's Canteen?
Nurul Haque: We had lunch together during a programme hosted by the university treasurer. My father met the GS and the AGS too and we had tea. Our personal relationship has always been good. We discuss various issues.
Prothom Alo: What will DUCSU's priorities be if it can function properly?
Nurul Haque: I want an orientation among DUCSU, the hall unions and the provosts. The DUCSU cafeteria requires improvement. They had also agreed to stop political harassment in getting seats in the residential halls. They had electoral pledges to eliminate the harassment in the ‘guestroom’ and the ‘gono room’ where many students have to live in cramped spaces. There will be 250 rickshaws on campus from this month. The rickshaw pullers will have a dress code and the fare will be fixed as well.
Prothom Alo: Is the ‘guestroom’ a torture cell?
Nurul Haque: The first year students do not reside in the halls legally. That is the cause of this problem. Those who stay in the halls are forced to join political party programmes. Regular meetings are held in the ‘guestroom’. They are punished if they do not comply with the leaders.
Prothom Alo: Did you join any procession with the current GS and the AGS before?
Nurul Haque: No, I didn't. But we have an understanding. However, there are times they oppose moves only for political reasons, despite knowing that they are wrong. These things happen because of corrupted politics. The role of the GS at the SM Hall incident is not his personal choice. It was to serve the party. Both the GS and the AGS spoke to me in a nice manner. It can be termed as just a show, but it's still something positive.
Prothom Alo: Did the GS or the AGS come to this room? Or did you go to their room?
Nurul Haque: I went to both of their rooms and talked to them. None of them have come here yet, but they greet me when our paths cross.
Prothom Alo: What is the priority of DUCSU?
Nurul Haque: To free the halls from the non-students and the outsiders. At the girls' dormitories the problem is not this acute. The problems exist in the halls because about 30 per cent of the seats are allotted on political considerations and the rest is allotted by the administration.
Around 20-25 male students are crammed into the gono rooms. We want to bring an end to this. The admission process to the university should be digitalised. The reading rooms at the halls must be developed, too. We have taken measures to solve several issues, including clean water and washrooms.
Prothom Alo: How many non-students stay in the halls by political backing? What is the ratio of the students who are non-students on completion of their studies and complete outsiders?
Nurul Haque: Around 30 per cent are no longer students and 7 to 8 per cent are completely outsiders. The number of jobholders paying the student leaders’ money for staying at halls is the highest at Mohsin Hall, Surja Sen Hall and Jagannath Hall.
Prothom Alo: What measures did you take regarding this?
Nurul Haque: Though two separate meetings have already been held being presided over by the VC and the treasurer, we could not sit with the other student representatives yet. I have informed the GS several times, but he was too busy. I have realised that the DUCSU VP cannot do many things on his own. As the BCL holds the majority, I face obstacles while doing things without them. The elected body of DUCSU could not yet sit together.
Prothom Alo: How could you come to a negotiation with the GS over freeing the SM Hall from outsiders?
Nurul Haque: The students of the hall staged a movement to oust the outsiders of the hall before the clash. We the VP and the GS were at DUCSU then and we went to the hall. We examined each of the rooms there in presence of the hall union and the provost. The hall administration has never been able to oust the non-students there.
Prothom Alo: The BCL has a bad reputation over various issues. Do people like you can dissent or protest?
Nurul Haque: Since after 1975, a kind of autocracy, like the one prevalent in the national politics, has been practiced here, too. The student politics, too, evolved around the leaders instead of the people. The student leaders began using arms after 1990. Sycophancy is still prevalent here.
Prothom Alo: A void has been created after the Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) had been driven out. Has it been filled?
Nurul Haque: The innocent students are victims of the politics of power of the muscle, arms and money. The students want a way out, they want an alternative.
This has been reflected in the quota reform and anti-question paper leak movements. The DUCSU election also tells us that general students are looking for an alternative.
Prothom Alo: Does anyone feel free to introduce himself / herself as someone not from the BCL?
Nurul Haque: Such an environment is still not there. What the Chhatra Dal did once, BCL did that for three consecutive terms and it has strengthened their hold. I had quit Chhatra League as I could not protest from inside. It is not easy. The teachers, after the DUCSU elections, have made some effort to ensure that the student organisations can work on the campus. This is praiseworthy. But that has not happened at the halls.
Prothom Alo: What are they thinking about the 30 December election? No stickers were seen over this.
Nurul Haque: The students of Dhaka University are meritorious. Like the whole world, they know what is happening in the country. We can neither speak nor write. The state controls everything, so we have been muzzled.
Prothom Alo : How can the next DUCSU election be free and fair?
Nurul Haque: The authorities have to relinquish their arrogance. I am frustrated with the probe committee formed to look into the election. I demand specific announcements regarding the next election date and use of transparent ballot boxes and indelible ink.
Prothom Alo : How to stop political sycophancy?
Nurul Haque: Our national leaders have to play a role. The way students give the ministers protocol when they come to the campus is unacceptable. At Oxford, no one asks a student if he supports the Labour Party or the Conservatives. Why do we do that here then?
Prothom Alo: Do the students and the teachers discuss the poor ranking of DU?
Nurul Haque: Anyone would do that. But the problem is that our teachers have made things vastly politicised. We hear voters are being recruited, not teachers. Departments like philosophy and zoology have research funds of only Tk 500,000 while teachers are busy lobbying instead of encouraging students for research.
Prothom Alo: What did you like about the PM?
Nurul Haque: She always handles things her way. She gave everyone a patient hearing, I liked that too. Her reading is also commendable. I have urged her to make sure the people in the villages get proper treatment. My mother, who was living in the char area, died without treatment, when I was very young. The PM said she was trying to make sure the doctors serve the village people.
Prothom Alo: Will you criticise anything of the government?
Nurul Haque: Democracy has shrunk and the constitutional bodies have become a laughing stock. Justice is hardly served. When I was threatened at my hall room, Shahbagh police did not record my case. We do not want development in a controlled democracy. It is against the four principles of the constitution. The spirit of the liberation war was creating a society free from discrimination.
Prothom Alo: Thank you.
Nurul Haque: Thank you too.
*The interview, appeared in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin