Bijon B Sarma 
 
INRODUCTION : At times it is said that “not a live one, but a rotten snail cuts one’s leg”. The proverb might become true in case of politics of the students of Bangladesh Awami League. Bangladesh Awami League (henceforth to be mentioned as AL) has excellent records winning by struggle with the odds, the brightest one being the liberation of Bangladesh. Naturally the people of Bangladesh have great expectations on this party. We already know after AL won in the 2009 election, apart from its foes, its students party started doing the worst enmity with the mother-party. Even though Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister and daughter of the father of the nation has been able to suppress them for the time being, the problem is not still over. And the problem would appear with all of its evil consequences to one who can realize the following :

(i) In the politics of our country the student-factions play extremely important role in the national politics. Naturally if AL withdraws them from the field, other political parties would enjoy the consequential advantage. Even some of their student leaders may join other parties with the objective of taking revenge.

(ii) Unquestionably there is need for the students to learn politics such that they can love the people and the country, which is the first step of being the leaders.

On the other hand,

(iii) If AL allows their student faction to work, no government, no person or organization would be able to it committing the worst for the party. Needless to mention that working for the ruling party means earning easy money. Naturally the greedy young men from other parties or no party would come to join this student-faction. If AL says that they are capable of controlling the leaders of their student party, we would say that they would not be able even to stop the joining of leaders from outside, not to say anything about stopping their evil activities.

In such a complicated situation the second challenge before the ruling Awami League government is, how to solve the problem generated due to the “working” or “non-working” of the Chhatra League. In presenting our solution we shall briefly mention the past history of student politics in this country as a prelude to our submissions.

HISTORY OF STUDENT POLITICS :

Those who can remember student-politics in educational institutions in East Pakistan during pre-Ayub Khan period know, how immensely it used to help the new students, specially those coming from the rural areas, in getting proper information and facilities in the institution. During this time, one or two months after the beginning of the new session the authority used to arrange students election (Chhatra Sangsad Nirbachan). The prominent parties were Chhatra League, Chhatra Union and some local parties.

A student coming from a village, sharing a bed with a senior student having no knowledge of where to stay, where to go for various purposes, how to earn money for bearing expenses and so on and thus emerged in a complete hoax might have met a senior student, who would introduce himself and ask his name and other information. The senior student would have continued a long discussion, by dint of which all the problems of the new comer would have vanished. And the senior boy did all these only for a vote for his party. The friendship and easy acquaintance with the educational institution that a student cannot do within 4 or five years were done in that age within a month. Definitely the election was full of excitement, and there was negligible cases of clash.

FIRST POLLUTION BY GEN. AYUB KHAN : The first pollution in students-politics took place in this land due to field martial Ayub Khan, the president of Pakistan (1958-69). Ayub Khan became the leader of a political party where he accumulated the notorious people like Monaem Khan and formed its students’ faction with the name National Students Front (NSF). In the then East Pakistan, notorious Monayen Khan became the best patron of NSF. The government supplied NSF hoodlums money, arms and ammunitions. Also, whenever these hoodlums were engaged against the other parties (Chhatra League and Chatra Union), the police and the secret agents used to help them. That was how an ex-military man polluted not only the national politics, but also the environment of the educational institutions. In order to place befitting fight, specially for restoring democracy against Ayub Khan’s anti-democratic measures including the so called “Basic Democracy” the other parties like Awami League and National Awami Party had to equip their student-factions with similar strength. If judged carefully, the measures of these parties were justified, because unless the students were not equipped in that way, then neither Ayub Khan would have been defeated, nor Bangladesh would have been liberated.

SECOND POLLUTION BY MAJ. GEN. ZIAUR RAHMAN : After the liberation of Bangladesh, in the newly liberated country among numerous problems before the Awami League government, one problem was how to stop the tradition of generous funding to Chhatra League. Before something fruitful could be done n this matter, there happened the sad incident of 1975. As a consequence, another ex-military men Maj. Gen. Ziaur Rahman, who declared to `make politics difficult for the politicians`. He became the leader of his political party that he formed by purchasing the black-spotted leaders including those from the anti-liberation forces. In case of student politics he adopted two policies :

(01) Like his predecessor he accumulated hoodlums and black-spotted students under his students-faction.

(02) Also he caused ruination of many brilliant students. He invited students securing the highest marks in various universities in his “generous entertainment schemes” including those in the ships.

In order to place a befitting fight again Awami League, in their mission for the establishment of democracy amidst so called “army-managed democracy” had to equip their student-faction with similar gadgets.

THIRD POLLUTION BY MAJ. GEN. H. M. ERSHAD : After Ershad rose to power in 1982, he followed the examples set by Ziaur Rahman. He collected members for his student factions mostly from the prisons and avoided the brilliant students. Very soon those elements under the banner of Natun Bangla Chhatra Samaj started their evil activities and intelligent Ershad soon brought an end to it.

If seen impartially it may be seem that most of the crimes and bad deeds happening not only in Pakistan or Bangladesh, but all over the entire world are committed by the ex-military men. If we consider the worst such elements in the context of the world, Pakistan and Bangladesh then they might be Hitler, Ayub Khan and Ziaur Rahman respectively. As professional soldiers the generals are trained to kill people. Among many others they are taught where the heart lies inside bodies and how it works. The physicians are also taught the same thing. But the great difference is, where as the physicians learn those in order to save man’s life, the soldiers do the same in order to kill ‘without fail’.

Throughout the chaotic period of 1975-2007, the ruling political parties mostly practised the habit of raising hoodlums in their student factions for obvious reasons. With long-time use it turned to a convention. It was an open secret that one could earn millions by working as musclemen of the ruling parties.

In 2009, when Awami League came to power with overwhelming majority they inherited a student party that they had to equip once to fight against the coalition of two powerful rival parties, BNP and Jamat and their student factions. It was the time when the notorious hoodlums came to realize the essentiality of joining the ruling party for having profuse money and power.

WHAT CAN AWAMI LEAGUE DO NOW ?

In April 2009, Awami League witnessed that its students faction, enriched with external hoodlums has created tremendous problems in many educational institutions and merchant organizations. The situation worsened to such an extent that the prime minister had to dissociate herself from this organization. Now the most important question is, what AL can do for a permanent solution. We believe the government has got two options in hand, these are :

(01) To allow its student faction and those of the other political parties to work in the country.

(02) Stop all sorts of student politics in the country.

If AL allows all student factions, there will be frequent tussles, where probably their own party would become the most powerful (because hoodlums prefer only the ruling party) and bring tremendous bad names for the party. It is almost sure that, neither AL would be able to control the activities of this faction, nor they could resist joining of the hoodlums. At the end of the day, their actions might even cause the defeat of AL in the future elections.

On the other hand, if AL bans its student faction, then depending on the program of the government there may happen two things : (i) other political parties may utilize the natural advantage, strengthen their student factions and enjoy the benefit in the national election, or (ii) the government may take stern action against by banning activities of the student parties acting as agents of national political parties. It is known to all that in our country the political parties are in the habit of using armed student cadres for fulfilling their illicit purposes.

Awami League can close its student faction and the government may demand the same measures from other political parties. The government can easily do it by utilizing the provisions under the Election Commission. AL may consider it fortunate that there is ample scope to stop student politics in the present rules of the country, where the election commission has got provision for withdrawing permission from the political parties with such factions. The government would have to enforce those rules only.

By doing the above, AL would lose the benefits that a student party usually gives during national elections. However, if election is held in a free and fair environment (as happened in 2008 under the caretaker government) then absence of student faction would in no way affect the result. What the student-cadres may do during elections are : (i) Forcing the voters not to go to the polling centre and (ii) Threaten them to vote in their favour. However, both the tricks prove ineffective if elections are held in free and fair environment. In such environment, no one can resist the voters and threatening them gives opposite result. In 2009 election the voters have learnt the “billion dollar knowledge” that once they are inside the booth, they are free to apply their own decisions and no force of this world can them from doing that.

EFFECTS OF BANNING STUDENT POLITICS :

The banning of student politics may result in many hazards and anomalies including the following :

(01) The student would not get the scope to culture politics, where as this culture is essential for the wellbeing of the country.

(02) The management of educational institutions may find it difficult to manage the students.

Since point no. 01 is easy to understand, we shall explain only the second point.

Student unrest is not a new thing in our country. Quite often some learned men are found to lament by accusing the attitudes of our students and praising their western counterparts. It is unfortunate that they fail to realize the gross variations in the contexts of the two. We mention hereunder some aspects of these contexts.

(a) In the western countries the students are kept pacified by allowing some additional privileges scopes like, intimate relation of male female students, bar, night-club, pornography etc. Needless to mention that the students enjoying such facilities and privileges feel the gratification, pleasure, satisfaction and stability of the married persons. Naturally such a student does not feel the urge or interest to indulge in the affair, which does not hamper his selfish interest. We know these cannot be allowed in our country for social reason. However, at present our government has created access of the students to the last item through western programs in internet. In the recent years other scopes also have been widened in some Asian countries due to changes in the attitudes of students.

(b) In the western countries the students find no reason to lengthen their studies because they know, immediately after passing they are going to get job or, in its absence, social supports for subsistence. On the other hand, what waits after passing for most of our students (specially those studying in subjects having little job opportunity) is uncertainty and humiliation. In Bangladesh the universities teaching subjects with high demand face less student unrest. If student-politics is banned here, then in the present circumstances (where the government cannot assure married men’s pleasure, job opportunity or social benefit etc.), it would be difficult for most of the institutions teaching general subjects to manage their students.

HOW TO SOLVE ?

In the above situation the best solution is to introduce “controlled student politics” having no relation with the national political parties in the educational institutions. Probably this type of politics would have been in practice in the country till today unless the “military personnel’s political parties” came into existence for the purpose of polluting our political environment.

By imposing a total ban on maintaining student factions by the political parties under the provisions of the Election Commission, the government may instruct the appropriate authorities to introduce ‘students own politics’ in the educational institutions. In the educational institutions there are provisions for election of students’ representatives for the formation of students’ union (Chhatra Sangsad). The authority should allow 3 student parties in every institution. These parties must be formed under a definite constitutional framework as endorsed by the institution and registered with the institutions. The minimal cost for bearing offices by these parties will be borne by the authorities from the money paid by the students in the name of Students’ Union.

The winning members (may be from different parties and as independent candidate) would form the Union. Excepting the chief post (President), there will be 3 candidates in each of the important posts, such that the responsibility can be shared and such students can continue their usual studies. In a cyclic order the three parties would be given the responsibility to arrange various national celebrations (like, Independence day, Victory day, Pahela Baishak etc.) and functions (like, Sports, indoor games, cultural functions etc.) such that the parties can get the scope to show and the general students can evaluate their efficiencies. New political parties can have temporary registration one month before election. After the election, however, only the top 3 parties measured in terms of number of votes would be allowed.

The students would be given identity cards where there will be large-size photograph covering one full page. For the purpose of casting vote, each student would have to surrender his identity card, which would be returned few days after the election. (The Election Commission may think of introducing this system n the national election also).

The parties would be secular in nature and bear have names, principles etc. none of which would be related with the political parties, their leaders or any specific regions. The authorities would encourage the parties to continue their various welfare activities on their own. The authorities would give money only in cases of celebrations and functions. The two seemingly opposite-natured issues, viz. (01) the valid arguments that the students of this country should be allowed to learn politics in view of their extremely glorious past records and (02) the evil activities of the student parties creating enormous sufferings for the people and loss for the country must be stopped, can be solved by accepting the above proposal.

CONCLUSION :

We want the present government to continue its term in a peaceful manner. The hazards created by Chhatra League, their student faction have by this time turned to a great headache for all. The AL government has already taken up some measures. But we are quite doubtful if these measures would be able to act as a sustainable solution. In such a context the above proposal is submitted for due consideration.

A peaceful country is the first expectations of all the citizens. However, its creation is the sole responsibility of the government. For this purpose the government should leave no stone unturned to find out the most appropriate solution. Let us hope that the government would soon find one. By following the proposal described above the present government can on one hand, continue student politics having extremely glorious past and at the same time, save the educational institutions, business houses and various government organizations from the unwanted evil activities of the hoodlums in the disguise of students.  



PROF. BIJON B. SARMA, HEAD, ARCHITECTURE DISCIPLINE, KHULNA UNIVERSITY, KHULNA, BANGLADESH. E-mail: rangada@gmail.com