Protestors call off strike, give 24 hour ultimatum to meet demands
The Dhaka University (DU) authorities on Thursday finally met with the protesting students of Ruqayyah Hall who went on hunger strike from 9pm on Wednesday.
Almost 24 hours after the strike began, DU Proctor AKM Golam Rabbani, Hall Provost Zeenat Huda, newly elected Ducsu VP Nurul Haque Nur, General Secretary Golam Rabbani, and Assistant General Secretary Md Saddam Hussain arrived at the hall and offered the protesters water so they could end their hunger strike.
However, the protesters refused to drink the water without the resignation of the provost, and about 200 other students joined the demonstration.
When Provost Zeenat Huda and the proctor tried to leave the spot about 30 minutes later, the protesting students surrounded them and continued chanting slogans demanding the resignation of the provost.
Subsequently, news arrived that Rafia Sultana, one of the protesters, had fallen ill and been admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The newly elected Ducsu representatives then went to the hospital to check on the condition of the protester’s health.
At 10.10pm, the DU proctor and Provost Zeenat entered the Ruqayyah Hall Provost building, while female protesters continued chanting slogans outside.
Shortly afterwards, independent VP candidate for Ruqayyah hall union Mousumi met with journalists and called off the strike for 24 hours.
“We are giving the authorities 24 hours to fulfill our demands and postponing the strike. If our demands are not met, we will go for a harder line and will make announcements in that regard soon,” she said.
Earlier, Vice-President-elect of Ducsu Nurul Haque Nur expressed solidarity with the Ruqayyah Hall students who were on hunger strike.
Nur demanded resignation of the Ruqayyah Hall Provost Prof Dr Zeenat Huda over her failure to hold a fair election.
“I demand removal of hall provost as she has no moral right to retain her post,” said Nur.
Six students began fast unto death on Tuesday to fulfil their three point demands, which ended on Wednesday. Later at 9pm on Wednesday, five students went back to observing the hunger strike, demanding the resignation of Ruqayyah Hall Provost Prof Zeenat Huda, re-election of Ducsu, and withdrawal of cases filed against the independent candidates and their supporters including Ducsu VP-elect Nurul Haq Nur.
The protesters were: Rafia Sultana of the Islamic Studies department, Sheikh Sayida Afrin Shafi and Jayantee Raina of the Women and Gender Studies Department, Srobona Shafiq Dipti of the Disaster Management department and Promee Khisha of the Management Information Systems department.
Harassment of female demonstrators
There are allegations of harassment against girls who went on hunger strike.
It is alleged that some activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League led by its general secretary, also newly elected general secretary of Ducsu, Golam Rabbani, verbally abused the female strikers on Thursday.
“Around 200 activists of Chhatra League came to the hall gate riding motorbikes around 2am. They hurled comments and mocked at us,” said Srobona Shafiq Dipti, one of the strikers and a candidate for the central union (Ducsu).
However, the Hall Provost Zeenat Huda expressing her ignorance about harassment of her students told reporters “I am not aware of such incident and none of the house tutors informed me about it.”
This reporter could not contact Golam Rabbani even after several attempts.
Six students of DU continued their hunger strike for third day on Thursday at the base of Raju Sculpture near TSC. They were determined to continue the strike until their demands are met.
“We would rather die but won’t quit until our demands are met,” Al Mahmud Taha, one of the feeble-looking hunger strikers said.
The Monday’s Ducsu election, held after 28 years, ended in boycott by all major panels except for the Chhatra League over allegations of irregularities and vote rigging.
The university authorities found proof of vote rigging in the Bangladesh-Kuwait Maitree Hall. Several hundred ballot papers were found in a sack. All of those were marked in favor of Chhatra League candidates, said teachers and students. The hall provost was removed from duty following the discovery. Allegation was also raised in the Ruqayyah hall where students discovered three ballot boxes outside the booth during the election.