On the occasion of the 72nd founding anniversary and reunion of Bangladesh Chhatra League on January 4, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave a rousing speech addressing future leaders of the student front. Reminding them of the glorious past of BCL in democratic movements in the past, she urged them to uphold the foundational values of the student organisation and establish themselves as respectable, moral and honest leaders that the public can put their trust in and who can lead the party in the future.
On the same day, and to celebrate the same occasion, 8,000-10,000 BCL members blocked the Dhaka-Barishal highway near Goyna Ghata Bridge for at least 35 minutes, reportedly to cut a cake, followed by a procession, causing a tailback and unwarranted suffering to commuters on both sides of the road. Admittedly, an obstructed highway is a benign transgression compared to a track record which includes torture, extortion, tender manipulation, and even murder. Nevertheless, it highlights the fact that they have a developed a mindset that they can do whatever they want and get away with it.
We join the prime minister in condemning the use of brilliant students as armed cadres during successive military and BNP regimes, but we cannot help but wonder if the same condemnation does not apply to the party’s own student leaders who have been allowed to reign freely and supremely on all public universities and college campuses, and who have been photographed with rods, sticks and guns, on innumerable occasions, swooping down not just on unarmed protesters but also their own party members (armed or otherwise). We do not need to remind readers of the brutal end to promising Buet student Abrar Fahad’s life in October 2019, or the gruesome stories of torture in the residential halls at Buet and other institutions that were reported soon after. Like the prime minister, we too echo that that there is no place for “those who were involved in Abrar murder and insulting a principal in Rajshahi” but we ask, about those who severely beat up and injured Ducsu Vice President Nurul Haque Nur and threatened him just last month with even more severe consequences if he didn’t leave office? What about the countless allegations of extortion and corruption in multiple campuses across the country which have made the headlines all of last year? While the prime minister has consistently urged the student leaders to behave in accordance with the glorious history of the student front, in the last 10 years, we have only seen them regress into its antithesis. We expect the prime minister to not only urge but ensure a return of BCL to its former glory, through exemplary action against errant members.