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M. Tawsif Salam

It was a party at Bury Saint Edmunds (Suffolk, England) attended by some Bangladeshi professionals with their families. Though it was only a week passed after the election, politics was not popular among the words circulated. But at one moment someone raised the point of student politics and almost certainly most of the guests consented that there should be a ban over the student politics in Bangladesh.

Like these Bangladeshi professionals living abroad and having conscious eyes over the politics back in homeland, most of the educated people of Bangladesh are seen to be very keen about a ban on the national student politics.

Ban over the student politics will be a solution like ejecting eyes in order to cure an optical disease.

This sort of procedure I believe the previous regime felt most comfortable to apply; something like suspending democracy as politics have gone wrong, jailing politicians arbitrarily as some of them have gone violent, in order to save the nation you know. But a cordial ‘thank you’ to the almighty and may be to the previous regime kingpins that they haven’t thought of anything like banning student politics by state legislation or something. But the sense, or the thought which have helped them best to create their initial moral ground, I feel is most enthusiastic to look forward for a law that’ll ban student politics. The issue which I have discussed here, is, the craze of power of our politicians, completely imprudent ‘getting to power’ policies of the parties and exploitation of the situation of some apolitical individuals (from inside or abroad), gave birth of the 1/11 government. And the role of the politicians here has been most vital, which have gradually convinced Bangladeshi people that peace and progressiveness are to appear as elusive in Bangladeshi politics. From this of the attitudes of seeing the politics as a nun looks at a whore, many of our educated countrymen think that banning student politics must be a prerequisite of peace.

The history of Bangladesh shows us patterns of politics to evolve where many of the most loved politicians have had their ‘entity of politician’ to be born in universities and colleges, places those are considered as conscience of the whole nation. No other part of the society thinks and acts in the way that the students of a country do. There are many problems identified and many questions asked only by the student society of a nation. Today in Bangladesh we can talk about sidelining the culture of student politics, because we have become so reticent to recall our past and history where we have many of our political crisis pursued, dealt and replied progressively by the society of students. It’s the society of students which is able to react and to send tremendously effective shockwaves to all and all sectors of the system immediately after discovering stressful glimpse of commons. Now some apolitical individuals, whose courage of ignoring the national interest is the result of our indefinite reticence and our imprudent politics, took over the government ousting democracy which got prominence in name of 1/11. The birth of the 1/11 government has already been a political disaster for Bangladesh. Closing down the door of politics for students will be a closure for many youths with devotion, patriotism and brilliance. It will appear as nothing but self-contradiction if we look for better politicians by banning student politics; will appear as invitation for 1/11 kind of disaster to once again suspend democracy.

However there is no argument over the fact that events often take place in Bangladesh for people to get sore on student politics. The present government which is outcome of however an election have taken office accompanied by hope and expectations of better politics and better practice of democracy. Keeping the debate aside whether any physical cause of such hope ever existed, expectations have been deeply buried by activities of respective wings of ruling party. Behavior of the government, the Election Commission as well as the ruling party at Upazila polls have been in such way that the unpleasant fact is about to come out; there was nothing in the idea and deeds of the 1/11 regime that could buy us a culture of better democratic practices. In fact it can be stated about the 1/11 regime that a government which itself appears amid an evil expulsion of democracy can never be a subject to deliver better practices of democracy. The takeover of the newly elected government has been visibly followed by incidents of political violence and culture of muscling which most unfortunately had major roles for student wing of the ruling party.

I consider the newly elected and formed government to not be fully prepared to take and work on the control they have got. The house is still to get its pace and the cabinet too does not look or seem structurally compact. There was a major task to work on at the very initial stage that is the Upazila polls where the present government has seen overwhelming failure and hopefully they will admit it. Considering failures as part of everything and considering statements of Tanjim Ahmed Sohel as attempt to cover-up as a governmental spokesperson often does, the complete stability in the national politics is yet to come; eventually still the focus is not over the issue of student politics. But the issue is too important and requires effective attention of our statespersons.

A group of people who like us to call them as the “progressive civil society” or “shushil shomaj” and who outlines longer and scholarly foreseeing plans for better Bangladesh judging things only those they see in or around Dhaka, has very different views about the student politics. Some of them have missed some appointments or seminars because some Dhaka University or Titumir College students have gone rowdy and created a mess on the streets. So they want student politics banned forever. This is just an example and I am not going to generalize the whole thing just based on it. The point which plays here is, the only proposition that “shushil shomaj” could deliver about student politics is campuses should be kept clear of politics. In this kind of demand, there is disrespect for politics; disrespect for our history thereby there remains disrespect for us. We can easily imagine what the scenario could be if student politics is banned indiscreetly in all campuses. A generation of students will be under construction which will concern nothing other than their self interests, which will have a dilapidated view on politics of Bangladesh and will contain no respect for our statespersons. Keeping the debate of respect worthiness of our politicians aside, the closure of student politics will trigger an unhealthy process of depoliticizing of our youths. The process will give birth of a large apolitical population who will just learn to take part in criticism rather than delivering constructive ideas. There will be a lot of people which we already have a handful of, to put more than perfect slangs behind failures and misappropriation by people in politics. But there will be none to have enthusiasm to get into what they call “dirty” and to cleanse it. We already have plenty of critics. But we need people to get to work more than we need people to do criticism. And for meeting such need or at least to help such people come forward, there should be a very effective reformation over our national student politics.

Bangladesh has seen number of political crisis and there were politicians and experts with brilliance to help us overcome the deadlocks. Student politics should be taken as a concern by them and should be pushed through reformations. As an overview of Bangladeshi student politics does not tell us it is in good shape, strategists of all political parties are to be unleashed to explore rooms to reform it. The major challenge for such reformations will be campus violence those often erupts based on illegitimate interests inside campuses those shouldn’t concern the students ethically. There take place hasty and violent political moves by student wings those come up as annoyance for general students. Reformers of student politics will get in touch with many of these problems those obstruct it to move onwards progressively. There will be seen problems and these will have to be resolved. But no room should be given to the proposition that a ban will work over the student politics. We have a certain sector of politics having troubles. Now if banning that certain sector is one of options rather than thinking about fixing it up, then there is no point of having politicians to deal with tricky situations, in fact there remains no point in our expectation of better democratic practices to move onward progressively in politics.

So “no” to ban, “yes” to reorganization and reformation.

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This post has also been published here in Weekly Economic Times.


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February 2009
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