AKM Masud is the president of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Teachers' Association. The professor of Industrial and Production Engineering department recently spoke with Prothom Alo about the killing of BUET student Abrar Fahad and the overall condition of the university. The full text of the interview is here:
Prothom Alo: How come such a brutal killing took place at BUET?
AKM Masud: The country's most meritorious students get a chance to study at BUET, but some of them undergo a moral degradation. It's the responsibility of the teachers and the administration to control them. Failure in that has resulted in such violence soaring day by day. The disciplinary rules have not also been implemented properly.
Prothom Alo: You've condemned the authorities for their failure to protect the students -- are BUET students insecure?
AKM Masud: The insecurity has been there for long. It didn't happen in one day. If the authorities had taken measures earlier, the situation would not have got such worse.
Prothom Alo: The current vice-chancellor is the head of the disciplinary committee. It's said that he is meritorious, but not an efficient administrator. Has it anything to do with his failure to contain the students' misbehaviour?
AKM Masud: Certainly. We welcomed him, but we're frustrated by his administrative inefficiency. According to a 30 June resolution, most of the files have sat idle for one-two years due to his inefficiency. The administration is at a standstill. It even takes a semester to recruit a lecturer. He is late, regularly coming to office after 12:30pm. The academic council meetings are not held regularly. In three and half years, he has held only 14 syndicate meetings. The university failed to receive a Tk 240-million-fund due to his incompetence. A number of 21 teachers as well as 22 officials and employees did not get pension for his unfair decision. He didn't want to obey the verdicts produced by the High Court or Appellate Division as well as the review as they went against him. The victim teachers and employees have been suffering for two years.
Prothom Alo: Is it true that the VC scheduled a meeting for 11:00am on the following day of Abrar killing and was late for one and half hour?
AKM Masud: It's true. The teachers present there were enraged. According to the rules, the VC has to stay on the campus for 24 hours, but he stays at his own residence at Lalbagh.
Prothom Alo: Is it true that he went on 23-33 overseas trips in three years? What about receiving consultation fees without doing anything, an accusation denied by the syndicate?
AKM Masud: He went on at least 22 overseas tours in two and half years. The consultation fee was not claimed by him, the director of the bureau of research and testing and consultation demanded for it which was unfair. It’s unethical to expect reward (0.25 per cent) only for a position without doing anything.
Prothom Alo: Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) tortured three journalists in December. BCL’s Soumitra Lahiri hit Abhijit Kar as the latter didn’t get his hair cut in two weeks. His eardrum was injured. Soumitra is at large. In another incident, two BCL activists were expelled from hall but they still roam there.
AKM Masud: I’ll not say about any specific incident, but the recent steps taken against the accused ones were just to show off. If exemplary decisions were taken, ragging and violence would have decreased. That’s our responsibility, too. Nothing has happened.
Prothom Alo: A young teacher has blamed it on power politics for the situation at BUET. Another said it was an extension of the diseased national politics. There were less grouping and division at BUET, how did it worsen so much?
AKM Masud: Power politics is a matter of the upper level. There’s rather a symptom of rotten politics. But I’ll condemn the BUET administration. The situation worsened as they did not take proper steps. Administrative failure resulted in the spread of violence across halls.
Prothom Alo: Did the killing take place for just a Facebook status?
AKM Masud: Though it’s a status related matter, but we know that the ones with dissenting views are called to several rooms in the hall. Now it’s revealed that they are even tortured in some cases. Their Facebook posts are monitored. The administration should have monitored these.
Prothom Alo: Has freedom of expression become a subject of ragging too?
AKM Masud: The issue of water (Feni river deal) has become a common topic. He was not killed for the status he posted on social media, but it has happened due to a culture. Because, this is illogical that someone could be killed for only expressingg an opinion. The culture to grill someone is responsible for this. This has gradually evolved and turned violent.
Prothom Alo: According to the teachers' association, the university administration cannot avoid its responsibility over the killing. Will BUET compensate the death? Or should we expect a High Court rule?
AKM Masud: There is no such rule, but Abrar's family could be compensated in various ways. I think they should be compensated.
Prothom Alo: What decisions will you take in today's meeting?
AKM Masud: The principle agenda is the actions required after Abrar’s killing and proposal for necessary amendments.
Prothom Alo: Thank you.
AKM Masud: Thank you, too.
*This piece, originally appearing in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten here in English by Nusrat Nowrin.