Thursday, August 18, 2011

BCL Finds new targets

ATTACK on, and assault of, teachers at public universities and colleges seems to have become the favourite pastime for the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the ruling Awami League’s associate body of students, in recent days. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Wednesday, activists of the Chhatra League confined the proctor and a hall provost at Rajshahi University, assaulted a hall provost at Chittagong University and locked up the academic building at the Noakhali University of Science and Technology on Tuesday. Just over a week back, on August 8, Chhatra League activists swooped on teachers at the Bangladesh Agricultural University, leaving at least 20 of them injured. Little wonder then that, according to another report also front-paged in New Age on Wednesday, teachers of some public universities and university colleges feel insecure as some BCL leaders and activists have become increasingly ‘violent’ in recent times. With the admission season just round the corner, these teachers have all the more reasons to feel vulnerable; after all, BCL leaders and activists have shown since the AL-Jatiya Party government assumed office in January 2009 that they are not used to being told ‘no’ when it comes to admission and recruitment of candidates of their choice to public educational institutions and government offices respectively.

The public universities and the University Grants Commission are ‘concerned’ about an increased number of attacks by Chhatra League leaders and activists on teachers, so was the UGC chair, AK Azad Chowdhury, quoted in the New Age report as saying. The current president of the Dhaka University Teachers’ Association and a former general secretary of the association also condemned the assault of teachers, not in one voice though. The DUTA president questioned the role of some teachers during the skirmishes at the agricultural university. On the other hand, the pro-vice-chancellor of the National University went to the extent of defending the BCL elements, saying ‘there is no reason to think that teachers are always innocent.’ So, a united front among teachers, at least in the articulation of concern over, and protest against, BCL atrocities against their colleagues across the country looks improbable.

Even if the teachers’ community protested against the attack on and assault of some of their colleagues, it was unlikely to have any effect whatsoever. When tough talks against BCL violence and vandalism by key functionaries of the government, including the prime minister herself, have thus far failed to make the BCL troublemakers behave, there is hardly any guarantee that mere protests by teachers, no matter how united they are, which they do not appear to be, would make any difference. Ultimately, it is the government, and also the ruling party, that needs to act decisively and demonstratively. Regrettably, however, neither the government nor the ruling party has thus far displayed hardly any sincerity to follow up the warnings by their top leaders with commensurate actions. There have been some expulsions from the Chhatra League on disciplinary grounds and even a couple of arrests but these actions proved neither sustained nor deterrent enough.

As we have commented in these columns again and again, unbridled atrocities by BCL troublemakers across the country ultimately undermine the credibility and authority of the government and the ruling party, which may already be in a precarious position. Hence, they need to act now, and act decisively and demonstratively.