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Will Nur be co-opted by the state?

  • Published at 12:01 am March 19th, 2019
A silenced voice? MEHEDI HASAN

Or will he remain critical of the ruling government?

A few days ago, we saw the interview of Gowher Rizvi with renowned journalist Mehdi Hasan on Aljazeera about Bangladesh.

While Rizvi was flummoxed with questions of abductions, enforced disappearances, and repression of dissenting voices, we had little to wonder about the sorry fate of Bangladeshi democracy.

Since the 2018 election (which was marred by complaints of irregularities and in which the ruling party virtually won all of the contested parliament seats according to the official tallies) we have slowly witnessed the dominant-party narrative become more credible -- essentially a system that allows democratic multi-party elections, but where the existing practices or balance of political power effectively prevent any opposition from winning the elections.

The allegations of repression, however, exceeded the bounds of the opposition party and included the two major social movements of 2018: The movement for quota reformation and the movement for safer roads.

Nurul Haque Nur came out of one of these movements.

He has been repeatedly attacked for his leading role in the quota reformation movement. However, he was steadfast in his demands and his criticism of the ruling party. This has contributed to his popularity and has led him to become the VP-elect of the Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU).

However, the DUCSU polls were also marred by complaints of irregularities, just like the national polls, and all of the panels, except for BCL, have been demanding fresh elections.

In the midst of all this, VP-elect Nurul Haque Nur decided to take the oath to office.

Many are of the opinion that Nurul Haque Nur was given the VP post -- where BCL won all of the seats other than the VP post -- to divide the protest movements from the general students in demand of fresh polls.

Indeed, Nur has gone with the DU administration to break the fast of the students who were staging a hunger strike in demand of fresh polls, and he was able to persuade the students to break their fast. Nur is a proven powerful ally when it comes to the street politics of general students and the Awami League seem to have brought him into the fold. 

Nur is a known critic of the ruling party. But the way the current state works is by turning critics into supporters and accomplices. That is exactly what the Awami League government is doing with Nur. Without knowing, Nur is losing his credibility among the general students who expect him to stay as a strong dissenting voice against the ruling government.

Whether Nur will be able to continue his legacy as a social leader of a reformist movement will depend on the steps he takes regarding the DUCSU poll protests, and other movements to emerge in the country.

But he is already showing signs of relenting.

After a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he has said that he sees his lost mother in her, and that she has taken Bangladesh to new heights of development under her leadership. BCL has also claimed Nur as one of their own, and Nur acquiesced.

However, this is the same Nur who was brutally beaten by the same ruling party cadres during the height of the quota reform movement.

This raises a question: Will Nur be able to continue as the powerful voice of dissenting general students, or will he become an arm of the ruling government, available at their beck and call when they need to quell the next student movement?

I guess only time can tell. 

Anupam Debashis Roy is a Sub-Editor of Dhaka Tribune.