The University of Dhaka authority has announced that the Dhaka University Central Students Union (Ducsu) and hall union polls – which have not been held in 29 years – will be held on March 11 this year. In a recent interview with the Dhaka Tribune’s Ahmmed Sharjin Sharif, Bangladesh Chhatra League Central President Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury Shovon – who is a vice-president candidate in the polls – discussed the panel, candidacy and other issues related to the upcoming Ducsu polls. This is part four in a series of interviews on the Ducsu polls by the Dhaka Tribune
Chhatra League has nominated general students (political newcomers) for its Ducsu polls panel. The decision has been praised by many. Is there a particular reason behind the decision?
We sincerely believe the people we have nominated will be able to proficiently perform their duties. Even though they are general students, they have the potential to represent the University of Dhaka, and Bangladesh, on the world stage. For instance, our sports secretary candidate Shakil Ahmed Tanvir is the captain of the university’s football, hockey, and volleyball team. Our panel comprises people who are highly skilled in their respective fields.
You mentioned the candidates were nominated based on intelligence reports. Why did you rely on a government intelligence agency instead of your own networks? How do you feel about benefitting from the government like this?
Yes, I did mention an intelligence report, but the ultimate decision was made based on our own judgement. It is not as if the report directed who should be nominated. The intelligence agency simply assessed the information freely provided by the aspiring candidates. We did not receive any government facilities.
After Chhatra League announced their panel, a rebel panel was also announced. But later it withdrew. Is there a disagreement within the organization?
Bangladesh Chhatra League is family; sometimes misunderstandings happen in families. When the misunderstanding was cleared up, they started working as coordinating members in the polls management committee.
Even though it has been nine months since the formation of the central committee, the full committee as well as the hall committee are yet to be formed. When do you think Chhatra League will be able to announce the full committee?
We were appointed at a time of crisis. Shortly after we assumed leadership, major national political events took place. We delayed announcing the committee for the sake of the organization. When the national polls-time rolled in, we used manpower and resources for that, the committee announcement was delayed. Then the Ducsu polls schedule was announced. When the polls are wrapped up, we will think about the full committee. We have a database ready, we will select and announce the committee based on that.
What sort of response are you getting after the panel declaration?
The student body approves of the nominations. Each and every person we nominated is popular among the students. We have an aim to establish Chhatra League as the representatives of the country’s youth.
What changes do you want to bring to the campus if your panel is elected?
Once, Dhaka University had only 15,000-20,000 students; now, we have over 43,000 students. We have a massive housing crisis on campus. We want to focus on three aspects in particular when it comes to campus development. First, improving the living conditions in the campus halls. Second, the betterment of the hall canteen foods. Third, increasing the amount of seats in the library and reading rooms; and keeping the spaces open for studying 24 hours a day.
The fact that your panel of 25 has seven female candidates has been praised by many. Is there a specific reason behind the selection of female candidates?
We, as a nation, talk about equality frequently, the organization felt it was important for our actions to reflect that. Around half of the country’s population is female. We have emphasized the importance of giving female candidates an equal opportunity.
Chhatra League has seen an improvement of their image in recent years, whereas they were notorious before. Who is behind the change?
Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina has entrusted us with a great responsibility. We have a duty to live up to her expectations. If we undertake any negative action, it is akin to insulting her. So we are especially careful about how we conduct ourselves. We want to work towards achieving Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s ideal.
Several political and non-political organizations have accused Chhatra League of inciting violence and threatening people. What is your statement on this matter?
We are all students of this university. This institution holds a familial place in my heart. However, sometimes students get mixed up in unpleasant situations due to personal issues. If someone gets into a fight with a person who is affiliated with our organization, that person may try to defame his rival as well Chhatra League. Cases like this are truly unfortunate.
If elected, what steps will you take to better the lives of all students, regardless of their political affiliation?
I have been involved in campus politics with Chhatra League for over ten years. And, I have already spoken of my feelings about this university. I feel like we are all part of the same family, in Chhatra League as well as with the general student population. I will work towards and represent everyone, regardless of their political orientation.If regular student parliamentary elections take place, do you think there is a need for party-based political student organizations?
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman established this organization. His leadership brought out great things from this organization during the Language Movement and the Liberation War. His ideal still lives on through us. Even after Ducsu, there will always be a need for political organizations on campus.
Bangladesh Chhatra League is ahead in terms of campaigning. But we have seen posters being put up long before the officially assigned time for campaigning. Does this not break the rules?
Some over-enthusiastic people wanted to support me, but ended up harming my campaign instead by doing that. After the matter came to my attention, I immediately ordered the posters to be taken down.