Impasse at Jahangirnagar and prime minister’s promise
IT IS indeed encouraging that the prime minister has finally decided to intervene in the impasse at Jahangirnagar University, assuring on Thursday a delegation of Shikkhak Samaj — under which a section of teachers had been on strike to press home their demands for removal or resignation of the vice-chancellor — that she, in consultation with the president, who is the chancellor of the university, would try to resolve the ongoing crisis. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Friday, the Shikkhak Samaj convener quoted the prime minister as telling the delegation: ‘Keep faith in me, I will not disappoint you.’ Subsequently, the Shikkhak Samaj called off the strike, although students at the university decided to continue with their ‘hunger strike as long as the vice-chancellor does not step down.’ The prime minister also met the vice-chancellor and some teachers loyal to him Thursday evening during which, according to her press secretary, she asked him ‘to resolve the crisis without any delay and restore a congenial atmosphere to the campus.’
While the prime minister’s assurance is praiseworthy, it needs to be pointed out that the vice-chancellor is himself the major reason for the impasse at Jahangirnagar University. Since his appointment in February 2009, within days of the Awami League-led alliance’s assumption of office, he has touched off one controversy after another. He is alleged to have filled up top administrative positions of the university with people loyal only to the ruling party. In recruitment of teachers, too, he has allegedly allowed partisan consideration to have the sway over merit, competence and performance. Moreover, he is accused of having been involved in financial irregularities. Besides, in complete disregard for the environment and ecology, he leased out a couple of water bodies, which used to attract migratory birds in winter, for fish farming.
To top them all, he has publicly hobnobbed with a particular faction of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, an associate organisation of the ruling party for students, in an apparent bid to have control over the affairs of the university. He has been infamously photographed either offering or being offered cake by leaders of the BCL faction, which has come to be known as the ‘VC League’. Worse still, this particular faction of the Chhatra League has reportedly run a reign of terror on the campus. In fact, some members of the BCL faction reportedly tortured Zubair Ahmed on January 8; the final year student died the next day, leading general students to begin their movement in the demand for the resignation of the vice-chancellor and the proctor.
The proctor has since resigned but the vice-chancellor has stayed on and brazenly used teachers and the BCL faction loyal to him, to disrupt or discredit the movement by Shikkhak Samaj and general students. On April 28, the same band of BCL leaders and activists attacked members of Sangskritik Jote and then members of Shikkhak Samaj. It is inconceivable then that the vice-chancellor is in any position to resolve the impasse at the university, as instructed by the prime minister.
The government is no less responsible for the situation at Jahangirnagar coming to such a pass; after all, it appointed the vice-chancellor in violation of the Jahangirnagar University Act 1973 in the first place. Hence, the government has the moral responsibility to right that wrong. Above all, the teachers have put their faith in the prime minister as she has asked them to. Also, the prime minister needs to act soon; the protesting students are still on hunger strike and some of them have already fallen seriously ill.
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