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'Need for student politics greater than ever'

  • Published at 07:16 pm March 5th, 2019
Liton Nandi
Liton Nandi Facebook

The Dhaka University Central Students' Union (Ducsu) polls will be held on March 11, after a gap of 29 years. A total of 229 candidates will contest for 25 central Ducsu posts. Liton Nandi, general secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra Union, and candidate for the post of Vice-President, in an interview with Dhaka Tribune's Ahmmed Sharjin Sharif, talked about his student forum's policies, the current political scenario and his chances of winning the polls

You have created a positive image by taking part in different activities on the university campus. But what are your chances at staying ahead of Chhatra League in the Ducsu polls?

Firstly, Ducsu stands for the democratic rights of students. And democratic rights mean nobody has the right to attack anyone who has different sets of ideas or values. But an organization with a reputation for muscle power and attacking students with rods and hammers, how can they have the right to ask for votes?

Secondly, Ducsu is a platform for standing against administrative authoritarianism. The university administration has been oppressing students with various authoritarian processes for a long time, and Chhatra League aids them. However, we have always protested against such oppression. The student organizations representing those in power have always been used to suppress the lawful rights of the students; we have always stood with the students, led them. If you consider these aspects, ethically, we are more popular with students than Chhatra League.

In that case, recently, there was a rise of another quarter that spearheaded the Quota Reform Protest. They have also been the victims of oppression at various times. What are your views on them?

We were also there during the Quota Reform Movement. When the girls were forced to leave from the halls at night, we—the progressive student organizations—supported them and protested against their harassment. Even before that, we led the protests against campus sexual harassment, the commercialization of education, the oppression faced in halls.

The Quota Reform leaders, on the other hand, only spearheaded a single movement. It is now for the students to decide whether they want to choose seasonal demonstrators, or those who have always stood beside them. 

However, in the greater context, both of our organizations want an end to terror and occupation of the campus. On that issue, our views are aligned.

If the demands for an equal presence in the polls are not met, is your organization still going to participate in the election?

The Ducsu election is only the first step in changing the overall quality of student politics. It is not like the election is going to fulfil all wants and needs. However, the polls act as a platform to make the student leaders accountable, which can make them representatives of a merit-based and quality political system. We are preparing to participate keeping these things in mind. 

But if we see the university administration is turning the polls into a mockery, then we will decide whether we will stay till the end or not. There is still enough time to come to a final decision. 

You have provided candidates for all 18 halls, making your organization the chief contender against Chhatra League. However, your activists do not have a strong presence in the campaigning scene. How can you improve that?

Look, a huge part of those supporting Chhatra League are actually forced to do so. When you are abusing your power to force students to participate in your activities with the promise of a hall seat, then you cannot claim they actually support your organization.

Since the halls do not have hall parliaments, they are controlled by ruling party student organizations, which has stopped a lot of eager students from participating in politics. But now, with the Ducsu polls, I believe the students will choose to elect the right contestant. 

What are the main problems with the university?

The main crisis the university faces is the "crisis of ideals." A university's main characteristic is to harbour all kinds of ideals; this university has not been able to do that. This is the main reason why guestroom torture exists, or why anyone with different political ideals is attacked.

The autocratic authoritative regime is another problem. The administration forces decisions on the students against their wishes: unreasonably increasing fees from time-to-time; recruiting teachers without being properly evaluated by the students; forcing students to attend classes. It is almost as if the "administration is the master, and students the slaves."

Besides, the university has become a hotbed for creating discrimination. Different canteens within the campus sell food at different prices, while girls and boys have different hall curfews. But, a university should work to create a society without disparity, from where the whole country will learn of equality. 

These three points, in my consideration, are the main crises of the university. Other than these three, there are other generic problems such as the demands for better libraries, transportation, and others. 

If those three problems are not eradicated, we will not be able to resolve any of the others. But Ducsu will not solve everything. The student leaders can only uphold the problems to the senate through Ducsu. 

The quota reform protesters wanted to ally themselves with Chhatra Union. But rumours are that their request was denied due to the protesters' alleged ties with Chhatra Shibir. How valid is this claim?

The matter is actually not that straightforward. We made a declaration form with 11-point demands. At that time, we called for everyone who agreed with the 11-point demands, to come together and form a grand alliance. Excluding Chhatra League, Chhatra Dal, and other reactive groups, we held meetings with all kinds of political, social, and indigenous student organizations. Concurrently, we also invited the Quota Reform Movement leaders to be with us.

But they could not agree with our 11-point demands. Our demands included eradicating: discrimination, reactive politics, commercialization of education, campus terrorism, and others. Maybe the reform leaders did not like our demands, that is why did not join us. Our doors were always open.

Then is your organization not accusing the quota reform leaders of Shibir affiliation?

Our 11-point demands included a stand against reactive politics. If someone disagreed with the demands, one can assume they followed a similar ideal.

Aside from Chhatra Union, none of the other leftist organizations have a strong presence. Do you think forming a coalition is going to help you?

We think even the smallest of activities require greater unity. If an organization cannot go beyond its party prejudices to aim for greater unity, then it will never achieve long-term success. That is why the responsibility to bring the leftist student organizations together, lies upon Chhatra Union, the biggest leftist student organization. That sense of responsibility will keep us working towards uniting the leftist groups; at all times, not only during the Ducsu polls.

I believe our union will bring success in the greater context, not only during a particular election.

Once the Ducsu polls are over, do you think there is a further need for political student organizations to exist?

According to Aristotle, every man is a political being. This means, whether you like it or not, politics will control your life. That is why it is every student's responsibility to form the correct political ideal. I think, the day students will not have to raise their voices to demand their rights, is the day we will not need student politics anymore. 

Additionally, every occasion has a political purpose. In current times, the need for political student organizations is greater than ever, as students have grown averse to politics. This aversion, too, serves a political purpose. We now need an idealistic political organization to integrate the students into a stream of a merit-based, ideal, and truthful politics.

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