Nurturing a monster

Ahmed Shatil Alam discusses the various incidents where members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League have been involved in since the beginning of the Bangla new year

010Like every other year, Pahela Baishakh on April 14 was supposed to bring together the entire country in its’ largest celebration as a community with hopes for a brighter future.
But reality is bleaker as the new year began with Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) dominating the news headlines due to their involvement in several killings, not to mention their alleged public sexual assaults on female students during the Pahela Baishakh celebrations in Dhaka University.
Media reports quoted eye-witnesses and some CCtv footage identifying a number of BCL members who may have sexually assaulted several female in broad daylight at one of the biggest festival celebrations in the city at the Teachers Students Centre of the Dhaka University.
The victims, including a 10-year-old girl, were stripped of their clothes during these vicious attacks, as their cries were drowned out by the sound of vuvuzelas which the BCL members were carrying during these vicious attacks. Liton Nandi, Dhaka University Bangladesh Chhatra Union President was also severely injured while trying to save a number of victims during the assaults.
Media reports quote Liton as saying that around 30-35 people were involved in the attacks conducted on at least 20 females between 5:30pm and 7:00pm. He also alleged that the police and university authorities did nothing to stop the attacks.
The next day saw the BCL continue their reign of terror in academic institutions. Rangpur Medical College was closed for an indefinite period on April 15 following a clash there where BCL was involved.
The Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Teacher’s Association has also been observing work abstention for an indefinite period since April 15 in protest against Chhatra League attacks on a university teacher. A group of Chhatra League activists attacked Jahangir Alam, a Civil Engineering Associate Professor, for his comments on a Facebook page criticising the execution of war crimes convict Kamaruzzaman.
According to New Age reports, the residents of Dhaka University were barred from protesting the sexual assault by Bangladesh Chhatra League activists who claimed that an anti-government organisation may take advantage of the situation to create further anarchy in the campus under the ruse of a protest. Similar scenarios unfolded in Jagannath University as well as Jahangirnagar University.
A day later on April 16, two factions of BCL clashed at Haji Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University Campus in Dinajpur. The conflict left two dead and 50 injured. According to news reports, members of BCL, including those expelled, entered the campus on four micro buses and then proceeded to disconnect the electricity before opening fire during an event that was being held at the auditorium.
According to some news sources, this was merely a clash over campus dominance. However, others hint at a more disturbing and bizarre succession of events which apparently began at 8:30pm and continued till 10:00pm when the police arrived and then fired 30 rounds of bullets to seize control of the situation.
On the same day, a female student of Jagannath University filed a complaint with the university proctor’s office following yet another incident of public sexual assault during Pahela Baishakh celebrations. The accused were named as Nishat Imtiaz Bijoy, JU unit Chhatra League Assistant Press Secretary,  Nafiz Imtaiz Shaheed Salam Barkat Hall Unit Publication Secretary, Iftai, Nurul Kabir and Rakib who are also BCL members. The female student and her friend were stopped by the group at Chaurangy of the campus on the way to the hall at 7:30pm after the Pahela Baishakh celebrations.
‘The BCL leaders snatched  my bag and physically assaulted me and my friend. They hurled abusive language at us as they tried to tear my clothes off and they also beat up my friend who tried to come to my rescue,’ the victim stated. JU Chhatra League responded with the suspension of the accused students from the organisation.
On April 16, Jagannath University unit BCL also expelled another member named Nazmul after he had been identified as one of the perpetrators of public acts of violence against females in a bus. Nazmul and his associates also attacked a journalist who was taking his photograph.
The government continues to turn a blind eye towards the reckless activities of BCL, which include reports of infighting, extortion, tender manipulation, admission trade and other criminal activities. This negligence by the government since they assumed power in January 2009 has led to a loss of control over the student organisation and has allowed them to grow bolder as these events grow in frequency.
According to media reports, in the last 6 years, at least 31 members died as a result of violence within the Chhatra League in addition to 9 more who died in clashes with other student organisations.
History seems to be repeating itself as back in 2000, the new millenium began in much the same fashion as April 14, 2015, as the celebrations of English new year of 2000 was marred by sexual assaults conducted by members of the BCL in Dhaka University. A group consisting of 10-12 perpetrators sexually harassed, stripped and physically abused a girl named Shawon Akhter Badhon, on campus grounds where she had been celebrating the new year’s eve with friends.
Newspaper reports identified BCL members Fazlul Haque Rasel, Khan Mejbaul Alam Tutul and Chandan Kumar Ghosh. The blatant act of sexual assault shocked citizens, driving them to protest on the streets of the national parliament. Badhon filed a case at the Ramna Police Station. The case dragged on for 11 years and then in September of 2011, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate court in Dhaka acquitted all those accused.
Meanwhile, JU authority in 1998 expelled five students who were also prominent leading members of BCL JU unit following several accusations of rapes and violence towards women..
It has been noted at large that the blatant acts of violence against women and brutal killings have become common practice for the student organisation which are largely overlooked by the central leaders.
Despite pleas and threats made by the government, recent events only highlight that they have lost control over this organisation whose support and muscle power proved to be crucial for the ruling party to gain dominance, for which their lax treatment of BCL has truly led to them becoming monsters.

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