Golam Rabbani is the newly elected Dhaka University Students’ Central Union (DUCSU) general secretary. He talks to Prothom Alo joint editor Mizanur Rahman Khan in an exclusive interview.
Prothom Alo: How will DUCSU perform with Nurul Haque Nur and Akhtar?
Golam Rabbani: Nur was with Chhatra League. He is a younger brother and I love him. He quit BCL. Now he has won the post of vice president of DUCSU. The prime minister has advised us to work with all. We expected a hundred per cent win, but lost two posts. There are bureaucratic tangles in the DU administration and nothing happens smoothly. We went to see to that. See, I have received calls from Nur.
Prothom Alo: Why does Nur want to shut down the ‘gono room’ (a room where large numbers of students are crammed into small spaces)?
Golam Rabbani: He is considerably junior to me, less experienced and emotional too. Students of first and second year cannot become residential as the demand for residence is five to six-fold higher than the available accommodation. Residence for all students of Dhaka University is under process. Bijoy Ekattar and Sufia Kamal halls have been established. A project has been passed at ECNEC to build a 20-storey building of Zahurul Haq Hall. Around 5,000 students will be accommodated there. SM Hall will be rebuilt. Joy Bangla Bhaban is being built at Bangabandhu Hall. The residential crisis will be solved in the next three to four years.
Prothom Alo: Do 20 students stay in one gono room?
Golam Rabbani: Around 30 to 35 students stay in 400 square feet room. All are the students are of the first year. This scenario has been going for about 10 to 15 years.
Prothom Alo: Have educational activities been hampered over the last 15 years?
Golam Rabbani: They have been affected certainly.
Prothom Alo: Did you bring out processions, hold sit-ins demanding a solution? What is the result, if you did?
Golam Rabbani: We organised processions, strikes and human chains. Our achievements are the 7th March Bhaban, Bijoy Ekattar Hall, Sufia Kamal Hall, the under-construction Joy Bangla Tower, Rabindra Bhaban to be built, Santosh Chandra Bhaban and Tk 25 billion to be allocated for Surja Sen Hall. Work on a number of halls will be done expeditiously if Tk 7 billion is allocated. The prime minister never rejects files of Dhaka University. ‘Apa’ (the prime minister) approves the file if it is placed at the ECNEC meeting.
I went to the engineering department today so that the standard is maintained in the development work. I have ordered not to pass any bill without supervision. Those who will work badly, will be blacklisted. I said that representatives of DUCSU have to be included in the evaluation committee. We never want any gono room. The university authorities have to shoulder the responsibility of housing first year students. Students from villages manage places in the hall with the help of ‘boro bhais’ (senior students) and teachers. Where will they stay?
Prothom Alo: We hear of manners being taught to the new comers in halls. Their shocking accounts of inhuman stories taking place at late nights in the halls. When did this start?
Golam Rabbani: You are talking about the guest room culture. It started long ago. It is a family of the students, new comers and old ones in the halls. The objective is very honest and good. There will be a get together of juniors and seniors.
Prothom Alo: How often does this take place in a month?
Golam Rabbani: This takes place a day or two in a week. And it takes place in a friendly environment. The seniors need to advise what type of manners the juniors should follow. Very few have misused it and some untoward incidents have taken place. But now that type of incident does not take place any more. Such incidents have been taken place at Mohsin Hall and SM Hall and action has been taken instantly. Nothing of that sort including ragging now takes place as you indicated in the ‘guest rooms’.
Prothom Alo: A student told me a bit earlier that he was slapped on his ear as he did not join the procession. There is also a photo of a critically injured student.
Golam Rabbani: Is it possible to beat a student in a room where around 200 students are present? Is there nobody to protest it?
Prothom Alo: Is it mandatory to participate if there are programmes and processions despite classes and examinations. Is it true that Facebook posts are monitored to prove it?
Golam Rabbani: No. As general secretary of Chhatra League, I tell you that after taking over the responsibility of DUCSU, we have taken a policy for studies first and politics later. Nobody can compel anyone if there is an exam. We have got double AA+ grades and first class degrees. It is a weak argument that politics creates obstacles in studies. We organise programmes for one or two hours for a day or two in a week, it cannot hamper studies. I have managed Bangabandhu Hall for about three years, I did not shout at anybody. I asked good students to provide notes to bad students. Students stay at the guest room and lead life like a family. We want to positively continue this culture. Nur does not stay in the hall. He stayed in the hall for one or two years. You yourself go to halls and you will see no ragging is taking place in the name of guestroom. It is completely abolished.
Prothom Alo: I have heard of your personal humanitarian qualities. You even treated an injured bird. But you did not show such humanity towards Benazir.
Golam Rabbani: Benazir?
Prothom Alo: The footage has gone viral. I watched the footage on Channel 24 where someone was kicking Benazir.
Golam Rabbani: Why did he go to SM Hall? Did you watch her using abusive language?
Prothom Alo: The photo is taken from a road in front of the hall. You cannot just say a girl was assaulted as she went to the hall and used abusive language.
Golam Rabbani: No. I am not arguing in that way. I am describing you the complete picture. Nur went there without consulting anybody. The female students were not supposed to go there. Someone who went there has to shoulder the responsibility. If she crosses the limits, we are not compelled to take the responsibility. Why did a female student go to a male dormitory?
Prothom Alo: You called for investigation while talking to Independent Television. Why is BCL not investigating it? Why do you depend on administration or police?
Golam Rabbani: Those who went, I must say as a law student, crossed the limit. We have seen students throwing eggs and shoes in developed countries. We did not hear about anyone kicking somebody or assaulting physically.
Prothom Alo: Some 30 to 40 students, who left halls, could not return as they were connected to the quota reform movement.
Golam Rabbani: It is not true at all. We did not receive such allegation. If we get complaints, we will take steps. At that time, I was not at the policy level and I worked as an activist. We noticed the infiltration of BNP-Jamaat into the demonstration for quota reform or safe road. I myself detected this while making 100 school uniforms in New Market.
Prothom Alo: Is ‘Helmet League’ created by the media?
Golam Rabbani: I was also a victim of the incident on that day for which ‘Helmet League’ is blamed. Four activists were wounded and five bikes were set on fire.
Prothom Alo: Around 200 students, who leaked question papers for admission exams, have been identified. Do you too also want expulsion of those students?
Golam Rabbani: Yes. Following the allegations last year, CID and DB carried out investigations. I said whoever they are must be expelled. Akhtar alone protested against question paper leaks at Raju Sculpture. As a result, he defeated our candidate for social welfare post. Chhatra League expressed solidarity with the protest.
Prothom Alo: Channel 24 reports that several BCL leaders of Ruqayyah Hall and Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib Hall are among the 200 students. Have you taken any organisational step after verification?
Golam Rabbani: I did not get any formal complaint. Give me a list. I will take action after investigation. I will ask the vice chancellor to expel them. Nobody has right to do politics of BCL if he or she is not a legal student. I request to you as our elder brother to talk to the VC in this regard. Let the administration expel them, we will not shoulder responsibility.
Prothom Alo: What do you want from the authorities?
Golam Rabbani: DUCSU was not active for 28 years. DUCSU has to be included in all committees including the syndicate. I told engineers that the recommendation of DUCSU has to be taken before any bill is passed. I have asked for all electrical and other such repairs in the various halls within 24 hours.
The speed breaker in front of Ruqayyah Hall has to be extended, this will be done in seven days. The registrar building has many problems and we are working on this. Bijoy Ekatrar and Ruqayyah Hall are 16- storeys but lifts are kept shut after 11:00pm. Now these lifts will remain open. Now mothers will be able to enter female halls. I have asked to keep Ruqayyah Hall open till 11:00pm.
No one can use political muscle to grab free meals. We are monitoring this. Those who have completed their studies have been given 15 days to leave the halls. Even Chhatra League leaders will not be able to stay. Outsiders staying in the halls will be handed over to the police. The university authorities are not mentally prepared to assist the representatives of the students. Teachers and administrators have the mentality to centralise power. If that is not addressed, we cannot work.
Prothom Alo: What about transparency in recruitment of teachers?
Golam Rabbani: There is no transparency. There is nepotism in recruiting teachers, officers and employees. The recruitment should be how it happens in developed countries. I have seen a teacher of law to take classes for only three days in a year. Those who will not discharge their duties, will be exposed under the Right to Information Act.
Prothom Alo: Is it not possible to inform the matter to the high command?
Golam Rabbani: We are the sufferers. A pressure from the policy level and students’ representatives is needed. Teachers may think that I talk big. It may be discourteous. With due respect, I want to say that the recruitment of teachers has to be transparent. But it is not happening.
Teachers have to be recruited on merit. There are around 5,500 officials and employees in DU. Of them, around 10 to 20 per cent do not work properly. There are at least 1500 gardeners and cleaners. If they worked the campus would have been clean and not such a garbage dump.
Prothom Alo: Thank you.
Golam Rabbani: Thank you.
*The interview, appeared in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam