Student politics is blended with every glorious achievement of Bangladesh. From the language movement to the national independence, the students were involved at every stage of writing the name of this nation on the world map. After independence also, the students led various movements to restore and protect democracy in this country.
Unfortunately, the glory of student politics is under serious question due to ill use of power, degradation of humanity and widespread use of student politics for wrongdoings. Especially after recent brutal murder of Abrar, a student of BUET, few days back, the moral decay in student politics became so visible that, many are demanding complete ban on student politics in Bangladesh. But the question is if we should treat the disease or should kill the patient as we can never deny the contribution of student politics in the history of Bangladesh.
During the period of Pakistan government, student community was found standing beside not only for the cause of students but also for the oppressed people or for any other greater national concern. Student politics at that time were answerable to general students for their activities and also to an extent to general public. During any national movement, student organizations used to play an important role. Not only were they a deciding factor, they were the pioneer in many occasions.
During sixties, Monaem Khan, the then governor of East Pakistan a crony of military junta led by Ayub Khan, created National Students Federation (NSF), a student organization. It was sponsored by government and served government purposes. Leaders and members of this organization under the protection of administration used to involve themselves with corrupt, anti-social and criminal activities to fulfil self and group interests. Student community never accepted them. They could not gain trust of people and were hated.
Before independence, it was only Bangladesh Chhatra League, student wing of Awami League in the picture. This organization has actively participated in every phase of political movements. In 1952, during the language movement, the students led all the movements. They were the first to protest and to die for Bengali language. Due to the unstoppable wave of protests of the students, the West Pakistani junta had to agree to the language rights of seven million East Pakistanis. The students were the driving force in bringing victory in the 1970 election for Awami League. During the liberation war, the students played a great role by leading from the front.
The West Pakistani junta could have dominated people from all groups but failed to do so with the students due to their power of free will. Along with the lion-like leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the students actually led to our independence in 1971. Hence, student politics is one of the greatest contributor behind the creation of a new nation named Bangladesh.
After independence, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dol (JSD) also started operating its student wing, mostly led by former freedom fighters. But they completely got involved in violent activity which was neither in the interest of the students nor the nation. Every government after 1975 tried to form their own student wing and to utilize them to create reign of terror to secure their rule.
Defending rights of people even risking life for that were no more seen. In contrast, student politics started to be accepted more and more by public as a nuisance to day to day activities, a hazard for safety and a source of insecurity. Their main function seemed to be to intimidate adversaries.
During Jatiyo Party (JP) rule, the then President Ershad once tried to put an end to this anti-people student politics. He called for voluntary banning of student fronts of all political parties. As a gesture of authenticity he unilaterally disbanded ‘Nuton Bangla Chhatra Somaj (NBCS)’, student wing of ruling JP. Opposition parties out of their suspicion refused to follow. However, abolition of NBSC is considered by many a major cause for fall of JP in the wake of opposition led movement.
After restoring democracy in 1990, Chhatro League, Chhatra Dol, Chhatro Shibir and Chhatro Union are the four active student wings of four political parties. Often violent activities were reported which were committed by these student wings. They have acted more of pro-party and hence, they often tried to repress the voice of opposing opinions.
Bangladesh is opting to become a developing and middle income country by 2041 under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Already we are being considered as one of the fast developing countries of the world. But there is yet a lot to achieve. Along with the ongoing development, Bangladesh is facing huge challenge regionally. We are still fighting with Myanmar over the issue of Rohingya repatriation and under the threat of possible aggressive movement of other neighbors too in the upcoming years.
The outsiders also know the history of Bangladesh and they are very much aware that the students of Bangladesh will be very difficult to contain if any wrong influence is put on over the national interest of Bangladesh. Hence, though not visible, but different groups are actively trying to destroy student politics in this country. We must remember that in the time of need, we have to depend on the student politics or to be more precise, on the power of the youths to protect national interest.
If we eliminate student politics, we will not only eliminate BCL but also Abrar, a different voice. This will shatter the right of expressing opinions. Abrar wrote in his status which he believed will protect national interest and not BCL but some goons of BCL took away the life of Abrar as they wanted to please their seniors by uprooting a differing opinion. These goons do not define student politics or even BCL. Rather they represent the misuse of power, the influence of drugs and the depletion of humanity, ethics and moral.
As we are failing to restore humanity, morality and patriotism, we are now talking about banning student politics. A university student, who is a voter, has the right to do politics. We might ban it on campus but outside he is free to get involved in politics. Hence, we cannot restrain students to get involved in politics. Rather if it is in campus, we will have the chance to elect proper leadership from the students.
If it is, we need to eliminate teacher politics from the campus. Before being concerned about the student politics, we must eliminate teacher politics. A teacher will have students from different political groups and if he is politically biased, he will try to oppress those who are from opposing parties.
Moreover, if we look into the violence in different educational institutions deeply, we will find out that, all those acts were committed under the shelter of teachers. The influence of VC, Pro-VC, hall provost, and proctor cannot be denied in student politics today as they allow illegal activities at the campus for their own benefits. Mostly, these positions are now filled by the teachers from the government’s wing and hence, they are busy with satisfying their parties. No teacher should patronize any political ideology on campus for the sake of a competent next generation.
Even two decades back, the student leaders were the most talented ones. They were good speakers and had strong ideology. But this is completely missing today. The worst students are now the top leaders of different student political organizations. They are never involved in humanitarian works or creative works. Rather drugs, extortion and even rape or murder has become their hobby. This will destroy student politics in Bangladesh and its heritage.
The leadership of student wings of different political parties must come through democratic process – election not selection. Only current students with extraordinary academic records and regular participation in extra-curricular activities like; cultural program, debates etc should come into leadership roles. No student with already published result of first post-graduate degree can get involved in student politics. Regular council of these student wings must be held.
The political parties must decide to leave student politics for protecting the national interest or the students’ interests, not the party interest. The student politics must return to the hands of students who want to study in a safe and secured environment but can play a stormy role to protect the country and fellow countrymen.
We have seen members of the police force, government officials, teachers, cultural personalities and even Anti-Corruption Commission top official involved in different crimes and corruption. But that does not mean we should eliminate those profession rather we must restore ethics and moral at every stage of the society. Student politics is the same. The students should limit their political roles up to the extent they are supposed to. They should not work as the muscle of any particular leader or party.
We, as a nation, get overhyped over some issues which often do not let us see the greater good. Student politics is necessary in the political context of the sub-continent but that must be driven by patriotic ideologies. We hope Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government will create a process to eliminate political aggression and violence from the student politics and will establish an environment where all student political organization can work freely with their rights of opinion. Purification must be done in this area also.
With proper student leadership, we will find the leadership of tomorrow. Bangabandhu’s dream of ‘Golden Bengal’ might be achieved by us but can only be sustained by today’s students. We opt for eliminating the disease, not the patient.
The writer is Chief Editor of Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor of Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)