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Irregularities in Ducsu polls: Teacher found guilty, demoted

  • Published at 07:06 pm July 20th, 2020
File photo of Ducsu building Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The decision came during a meeting of Dhaka University syndicate on Monday

Dr Sabnam Jahan, a Dhaka University (DU) teacher, has been demoted from her post of associate professor to that of an assistant professor, after she was found guilty of being involved in the irregularities in the Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (Ducsu) polls, held last year.

The decision came during a meeting of the university’s syndicate – the highest policy-making body of the institution – in Dhaka on Monday, after the probe body formed to investigate the allegations submitted its report. 

The report says the probe body found the charges put against Shabnam and two others to be true.

Dr Mohammad Humayun Kabir, associate professor of the university’s Islamic history and culture department, who is also a syndicate member, confirmed the matter to Dhaka Tribune.

“The teacher has been punished due to her involvement in the irregularities that took place during the polls at the Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall. 

“She could have been sacked from her job as an academician, but she has been demoted instead, following the syndicate’s decision,” he said.

The road to this decision

Dr Sabnam, a teacher of management at Dhaka University, was removed from her position as the acting provost of Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall immediately after the allegations against her came to light. 

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune the day of the voting on March 11, 2019, chief returning officer of that election, Prof Mahfuzur Rahman, said: "Our students recovered ballot boxes with precast ballot papers. We have found evidence of vote-rigging."

Following the incident, a four-member probe body headed by DU pro-VC (administration) Prof Muhammad Samad was formed to investigate the whole matter.

On March 28, 2019, the syndicate suspended Sabnam from her role as a teacher at the university upon the recommendations of the probe committee.

Another five-member probe body, headed by Supernumerary Prof Khondoker Bazlul Hoque, was also formed over the incident.

“Now, this committee submitted its findings on Monday. They found that two other house tutors were also involved in vote-rigging,” another DU syndicate member told this correspondent on Monday, requesting anonymity. 

“Both the house tutors were warned for their actions in the meeting today [Monday], which was chaired by Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor (VC) Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman,” he added.

However, another probe body formed by the vice chancellor himself, a seven-member team led by Supernumerary Prof Sajeda Banu, did not find evidence of irregularities in the Ducsu and hall union elections.

What had happened at Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall

Voting at the female dormitory -- Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall -- was suspended after a stash of stamped ballots in favour of Bangladesh Chhatra League was found on March 11, 2019.

Female students found the stash of stamped ballots, in a sack, inside the reading room, leading to a protest. 

Pro-VC Prof Muhammad Samad announced the suspension of voting after he verified the rigging and discovery of stamped ballots.

Election at the hall later resumed under new hall provost, Prof Mahbuba Nasrin, and the independent candidates dominated the results while Chhatra League contenders faced a harsh defeat.

In three other female dormitories, independent candidates bagged land-slide victory as they claimed that they had guarded the polling booths and ballot boxes.

However, in all 13 male dormitories, Chhatra League won the ballot, where an alleged reign of domination was run by the student wing of the ruling party.

Fresh date for Ducsu polls yet to be set despite end of tenure

The tenure of the Ducsu expired with the end of the 90-day extension period on June 22 this year, but a date for the next Ducsu and hall union polls is yet to be set.

The last Ducsu and hall union elections were held on March 11 last year, after a 28-year hiatus. 

The previous Ducsu polls before that were held on June 6, 1990, when General HM Ershad was president, and the student body played a huge role in ousting the dictator.

Nurul Haque Nur, a quota reform leader, won the top post of Ducsu, vice-president.

All panels except Bangladesh Chhatra League boycotted last year’s polls and went to stage a movement, citing vote-rigging and irregularities. 

However, the Chhatra League ended up with 23 seats out of 25 in the central union.

A group of teachers, who independently observed the elections, said they noticed several irregularities outside the halls. 

First, they saw a large presence of Chhatra League activists outside the halls, checking IDs. They discouraged non-resident students from voting. 

The ruling party associates enjoyed free movement in and around the polling centres, but candidates and activists of other panels faced resistance, the teachers said in a press statement on March 12, 2019.

There was an “artificial” crowding outside the centres that might have slowed down the voting procedure and discouraged voters, it added.

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