The demonstrators, under the banner of “Jahangirnagar against Corruption”platform, brought out processions and held a rally on campus since on Wednesday morning, defying the restrictions JU authorities put in place a day before
Hundreds of students, alongside many of their teachers, demonstrated at the Jahangirnagar University (JU) on Wednesday — rejecting the authorities’ decisions to close the institution indefinitely, ban rallies and processions on campus and have the dormitories vacated.
They said the protests will continue until their demands — chief among which is resignation of Vice-Chancellor Prof Farzana Islam for her alleged involvement in corruption — are met.
The demonstrators, under the banner of “Jahangirnagar against Corruption”platform, brought out processions and held a rally on campus since on Wednesday morning, defying the restrictions JU authorities put in place a day before.
They had started staging sit-in protest in front of the VC’s residence on campus on Monday. But the situation worsened on Tuesday after the protesters were attacked allegedly by leaders and activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League’s JU unit.
After daylong protests around the campus on Wednesday, the protesting teachers and students around 5pm took position on the road leading to the VC’s home, which was surrounded by several layers of police barricade.
Facing off the law enforcement officials, the protesters were there until 9pm, when they called off the protest for the day and announced to resume from this morning.
Addressing a press briefing near the VC’s house, Mahathir Muhammad, one of the organizers of ‘Jahangirnagar against Corruption’, said: “We’ll gather in front of the old administration building at 12pm on Thursday.”
“From there, we’ll bring out a procession, and hold a concert in front of the VC’s house later in the evening,” said Mahathir, a 44th batch student of geography and environment department.
Their announcement came an hour after the JU authorities in an official notice banned all types of mass gathering, including rallies and processions, of the students everywhere inside the campus.
The notice, signed by Public Relations Office’s acting director Salam Saqlain, also said that the university Syndicate decided to suspend all classes and examinations scheduled from on Wednesday until further notice.
It said all dormitories were vacated and even the shops inside the campus were closed. “The university authority thinks no student should remain on campus under the circumstances.”
Reacting to the latest Syndicate decisions, Samajtantrik Chhatra Front’s (Marxist) JU unit President Mahathir said: “We reject these decisions. This VC is illegal and all decisions of her administration are illegal too.
“They want to create a safe haven for corruption by vacating the halls and forcing the students out from the university campus.”
Police to help clear out halls
Talking to reporters, earlier, JU acting proctor ASM Firoz-Ul Hasan urged the students to leave the campus and go home. “The halls will be locked up soon. The university will not take responsibility if anyone stays back in the dormitories, defying the Syndicate decision, and that leads to further unrest.”
“We don’t want anything bad to happen. We want the university’s harmonious environment to return,” he continued. “The university won’t remain closed forever. They [students] can return to campus after the situation is normal again.”
However, Firoz added, police will take action if anyone further violates the university Syndicate’s order.
His remarks had followed the JU Provost Committee’s decision to conduct raids, along with police, in the dormitories on Wednesday night to ensure all students leave the campus as directed.
The decision was taken at a meeting around 2pm on Wednesday, several hours after the committee had asked the students again to vacate the halls by 3:30pm, said its President Bashir Ahmed.
“All other activities of the university and halls will remain normal,” he added.
Bashir also told Dhaka Tribune: “We do not have any problem with the ongoing protest on the campus premises. But, the halls need to be excluded from any kind of violence.”
The halls were locked up later in the evening by their respective authorities.
The students, who have been protesting since August, had stopped the administrative activities on Wednesday morning after they locked up the new administration building and forced out the officials and staffs around 8:30am.
Later, the agitating teachers and students brought out a procession on campus and held a solidarity rally near the old administration building around 11:30am.
Afterwards, they tried to lay a siege to VCFarzana’s residence, but were obstructed by the police. The protesters then took position on the road leading to the residence.
The protesters condemned Tuesday’s attack on them, which had left over 20 injured, and demanded punishment of those who carried out the assault.
A larger number of policemen were deployed on campus on Wednesday to thwart any such untoward incident.
Tazrin Islam Tonni, one of the protesters and third-year student of Chemistry Department, said: "We will not leave the campus until the VC resigns."
Addressing the rally, Economics Department teacher Prof Sharminda Nirmali Talia said: "We must meet with the university’s chancellor, President Md Abdul Hamid, with the plea to remove VC Farzana Islam."
Prof Sharminda also said: "Prof Farzana had persuaded the Chhatra League to attack the students on Wednesday[Tuesday]. Yesterday's attack was an act of crime; therefore, the perpetrators must be brought to book under criminal law."
Environmental Sciences Department teacher Prof Md Jamal Uddin added: "The Syndicate made the decision to close down the university to save Chhatra League from the wrath of the protesters."
Nowfel pledges action if grafts proved
Addressing a press conference in Dhaka later in the day, Deputy Education Minister MohibulHasan Chowdhury Nowfel said that the JU administration would face action, if the corruption allegations levelled against them were found to be true.
He said: "We will investigate all the complaints against the administration with available specific information we have so far. Necessary action will be taken if the allegations are proven to be true.”
Talking about the JU VC's removal, Nowfel said the Education Ministry will not take any step willingly, until they receive accurate and written allegations from the protesters.
"A written complaint would help us see where the corruption and irregularities took place," he added.
The deputy minister also asked the students to comply with the university's decision to vacate the halls for their and the institution's benefit.
Earlier on Sunday, during a meeting, Education Minister DipuMoni had also asked a group of protesting teachers to submit written allegations against the VC, saying steps would be taken if they were proven.
Case over assault on asst proctor
Meanwhile, the JU authorities have filed a case against 50 to 60 unidentified people over a reported murder attempt on Assistant Proctor Mohibur Rouf Shaibal.
Shaibal had sustained injuries on his genitalia on October 30 when he was trying to settle an altercation in front of the old arts building between a group of protesters and some students who wanted to sit for an exam.
JU’sChief Security Official Sudipto Shahin filed the case with the Ashulia police station on November 1.
Additional reporting by Mamun Abdullah