Pol­i­tics of Hooli­gan­ism

In­tel­lec­tual pur­suits have given way to vi­o­lence, ri­ot­ing, bul­ly­ing and van­dal­ism at most ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions in Bangladesh.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Khur­ram Ali

Stu­dent po­lit­i­cal bod­ies are go­ing out of hand.

Stu­dent ac­tivists who were once con­sid­ered the torch­bear­ers of in­de­pen­dence in Bangladesh, have now be­come a sym­bol of vi­o­lence and hooli­gan­ism. Even more tragic is the fact that the his­toric Bangladesh Ch­ha­tra League (BCL), the stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion which played a de­ci­sive role in every move­ment of this coun­try – from the Lan­guage Move­ment in 1952 to the In­de­pen­dence Move­ment in 1971 – has be­come a vi­o­lent and cor­rupt stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion af­ter 2009.

Although the phe­nom­e­non of cam­pus vi­o­lence is not new in Bangladesh but its na­ture has changed. In its early days, idols of re­sis­tance, so­cial­ism and na­tional lib­er­a­tion were deeply rooted in stu­dent ac­tivism and they chal­lenged au­thor­i­tar­ian rule from the Bri­tish Raj to the hege­monic rule of West Pak­istan. This van­guard role made them sub­ject to grue­some state vi­o­lence.

Sha­heed Mi­nar is a mon­u­ment built to pay homage to the brave stu­dents who came un­der fire of the Pak­istani po­lice forces dur­ing the lan­guage move­ment. The state vi­o­lence per­pe­trated by the West Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties never stopped and reached its height dur­ing the move­ment; in 1962 for education rights, the 1966 move­ment of self-rule, the up­surge against mil­i­tary rule in 1969 and the Lib­er­a­tion War in 1971.

Although cam­puses faced vi­o­lence but this was sel­dom due to the stu­dents, ex­cept ac­tions of the Na­tional Stu­dents Fed­er­a­tion ( NSF) which was crafted by the Pak­istani state au­thor­i­ties to vi­o­lently counter the strong op­po­si­tion from the stu­dents. In West Pak­istan, the NSF was hi­jacked by the com­rades of DSF (Demo­cratic Stu­dents Fed­er­a­tion), which was ear­lier banned by the au­thor­i­ties due to its af­fil­i­a­tion with the Com­mu­nist Party of Pak­istan.

Iron­i­cally, at the same time when the West Pak­istani NSF emerged as the most vocal stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion against the mil­i­tary rule of Ayub Khan, the East Pak­istani NSF played the role of a mil­i­tant or­ga­ni­za­tion for the regime which reg­u­larly at­tacked the op­po­si­tion forces. De­spite such tac­tics, the strong ide­o­log­i­cal un­der­stand­ing and crit­i­cal think­ing en­trenched in the stu­dents or­ga­ni­za­tions of that time, helped BCL (Bangladesh Ch­ha­tra League) and both fac­tions of the East Pak­istan Stu­dents Union ( EPSU) to re­sist vi­o­lence and elim­i­nated the NSF in 1969 af­ter an up­surge.

Af­ter in­de­pen­dence, a few more left­wing stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions emerged like the So­cial­ist Stu­dent Front and Bi­plobi Cha­tra Moitry (Revo­lu­tion­ary Stu­dent Unity), etc. How­ever, since the lib­er­a­tion of Bangladesh went through many struc­tural changes which af­fected the char­ac­ter of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties and of the stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions. Un­til 1971 all the stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions had an in­de­pen­dent char­ac­ter and even the ones af­fil­i­ated with po­lit­i­cal par­ties were not sub­servient to po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

Af­ter 1971 they lost the char­ac­ter of a front and were turned into stu­dent wings of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Their re­de­fined pri­mary role then was to sup­port the par­ent po­lit­i­cal party. As a re­sult, they grad­u­ally lost the at­tributes of crit­i­cal think­ing and de­vel­op­ing new ideas. On the other hand, this also alien­ated them from the stu­dents and this grad­u­ally de­creased their strength. The weak­en­ing of stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions and other demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions, along with other fac­tors, also paved the way for the mil­i­tary.

Dur­ing mil­i­tary rule in Bangladesh, stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions were pushed out of the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and were forced to shift their units from schools, col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties to dis­tricts and wards. Although this shift was nec­es­sary for their sur­vival and for con­tin­u­a­tion of their strug­gle against dic­ta­tor­ship but it dras­ti­cally changed the struc­ture of the stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions. In­stead of real stu­dents, non-stu­dent youth took up lead­er­ship and their strug­gle was lim­ited to restora­tion of democ­racy. On the other hand, mil­i­tary-backed stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions based on vi­o­lence and hooli­gan­ism oc­cu­pied the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

En­joy­ing com­plete power, these pro-mil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tions set a new gang-style cul­ture of cam­pus pol­i­tics through vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion. Af­ter the vic­tory of demo­cratic forces, when stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions re­turned to the cam­puses they were dis­jointed with the rich stu­dent ac­tivism of the ear­lier times. Non-stu­dent lead­er­ships and an in­tol­er­ant cul­ture set by the promil­i­tary stu­dent groups was adopted by the stu­dent wings of BNP and Awami League. Po­lit­i­cal par­ties, through which every stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion en­joyed power at the cen­ter, used vi­o­lence to elim­i­nate other ri­val stu­dent groups from the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

Af­ter de­nounc­ing the egal­i­tar­ian prin­ci­ples of the 1972 con­sti­tu­tion, the grad­ual rise of neo-lib­er­al­ism in Bangladesh fur­ther de­te­ri­o­rated the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions. Ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions which were once re­spected for their in­tel­lec­tual growth turned into money-mak­ing busi­nesses. Man­age­ment con­trol was taken from the hands of the aca­demics and teach­ers while pri­va­ti­za­tion was on the rise. This has come to a point that now even value added tax (VAT) has been im­posed on the tu­ition fee.

The Pro­gres­sive Stu­dents Al­liance, com­pris­ing left-wing stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tions, is bravely fight­ing this men­ace since 2010 but is fac­ing hur­dles of struc­tural de­politi­ciza­tion of the stu­dents due to pri­va­ti­za­tion and com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of education; sys­tem­atic elim­i­na­tion of cour­ses that nur­ture crit­i­cal think­ing and so­cio-po­lit­i­cal un­der­stand­ing; lack of elected stu­dent bod­ies and cam­pus democ­racy; state re­pres­sion and vi­o­lence; and hooli­gan­ism of the BCL and JCD stu­dent wings of the Awami League and BNP, re­spec­tively.

It was thought that there was some light at the end of the tun­nel when Sheikh Hasina was forced to an­nounce the end of the quota sys­tem in the wake of the protests by more than 50,000 stu­dents across Bangladesh. But BCL’s bru­tal at­tacks and grue­some vi­o­lence against the protesters de­mand­ing gazette no­ti­fi­ca­tion of the an­nounce­ment was a re­minder that the de­mon of the East Pak­istani NSF is still alive.

The writer is a re­searcher, po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist and for­mer cen­tral or­gan­iser of the Na­tional Stu­dents Fed­er­a­tion (NSF) in Karachi.

Sha­heed Mi­nar, Dhaka

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.