Amit Saha arrested No wholesale ban on student politics: PM None should be killed for free speech, observes UN Interoperability key to competition Major illegal structures left out of BIWTA eviction drive RAB battalion for Cox's Bazar, CHT on cards Breaking taboo key to detecting disease Arrest warrant issued against Dr Yunus

The death of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) student Abrar Fahad in torture by Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) leaders and activists has uncovered the lid to a myriad of organised abuse and torture incidents in the dormitories of the university. Many former and current BUET students and victims, who had kept mum out of fear, have spoken out in the past few days about their horrid experience in various torture rooms set up by BCL men at BUET dormitories. Students said those disobedient to BCL leaders or having different political opinions were often tortured by labeling them as Islami Chhatra Shibir activists, along with routine violent ragging of new students in the BUET residential halls. Each of the dormitories had 2-3 rooms where BCL men allegedly summoned and tortured common students over trifling matters.

Teachers of the university have admitted that they were aware of such abuses and tortures going on in dormitories. But they could not take any step due to non-cooperation from the higher authorities including Director of Students' Welfare, who is tasked with looking after the welfare of the students, they said.

The grim picture portrayed by the victims' accounts demonstrates the sheer lack of administrative control in running of the university and the dormitories. Complete lack of support from the BUET authorities, and fear of further torture forced the victims to bear the brunt and remain silent.

'uReporter', an open public reporting system developed by BUET CSE department, also contains about 150 accounts of horrific torture by BCL leaders and

activists, posted since 2016. While the authorities were fully aware of these written accounts of abuse and torture, including indiscriminate beating and maiming of students, no steps were taken to stop these from happenning.

In the name of ragging and disciplining the students, BCL leaders would harass and torture ordinary students for expressing dissenting views, speech or post, or even giving unfavourable reaction to any facebook posts by BCL leaders. And these intensified if anyone failed to attend any BCL programme, the victims said.

Calling students to torture rooms and giving them 'treatment' - beating up with sticks and cricket stumps, often resulting in broken bones and serious physical harm to the victim, has become a common practice for BUET BCL leaders, alleged all the victims.

In fact, these tortures have become such regular practices that when the body of Abrar Fahad, a second-year student of the university's electrical and electronic engineering department, was found lying on the floor, BUET BCL Assistant-Secretary Ashikul Islam Bitu termed it a 'normal incident'. Bitu said he saw Abrar's body lying on the floor at room 2011 on early Tuesday and did not give much importance to it (a student lying unconscious on the floor) as it was considered a 'normal incident' in the hall. It was a business as usual for him.

Describing own experience, a 13 batch student of BUET told this correspondent, "In my first year days, I was once summoned to room 146 at Ahsanullah Hall along with my roommates over a trivial matter. The current BUET unit BCL President Khondoker Jamius Sani and Ahsanullah Hall BCL General Secretary Lincoln Sarkar beat me mercilessly with a stump at the room. After this incident, I was devastated. I returned to my house and spent the next six months in panic. I only attended the classes and went home - I did nothing else."

"I was terrified by the seniors. Every Wednesday night, I went to a relative's house and lived there (torture on new students are carried out by BCL men on Wednesday and Thursday night so that the students can recover on the holidays). I passed the first year in trauma. I could not talk to anyone normally. Today, even after five years, I am horrified by the memory of that torture," he said.

Another student said, "Amit Saha (a BUET BCL leader detained in Abrar muder case) beat me up at the torture room and broke my arm 8 months ago only because I did not greet him when he came. After 21 days of the incident, I had a surgery and a plate had to be fitted. I had to bear almost all the cost, and it was difficult as we are a lower middle-class family. I was threatened to not tell anyone about this incident."

Another student of Sher-e-Bangla Hall said on October 3 in 2018, BCL activists Ifti Mosharraf (BME 16), Ashikul Islam Bittu (Chemical 16), Mujtaba Rafid (Chemical 16) beat him up badly.

One of the victims, Ehtesham (EEE 15), was severely beaten and BCL leaders took away his PC. When Assistant Provost Shahin was informed about the incident, he said that he was not the provost and cannot offer any help, claimed students.

A student of 18 batch of Titumir Hall said that after taking residence in hall, regular slaps from seniors, being ordered to hit another classmate, or other physical torture was a common practice, all carried out by BCL leaders. "The physical punishment and torture were so hard that we could not walk properly for a few days. Some even left the dormitory, unable to bear the torture," he said.

President of BUET Teachers' Association AKM Masud told journalists that this has been going on for a long time and it did not happen overnight. He admitted failure on their part and said, "Undoubtedly, this is a failure of the university authority and also the teachers."

He said, they (the teachers) were aware of the abuses but could not act properly as they did not get the necessary support from their higher authorities.

Masud said, "Why do meritorious students become unruly after getting admission here? It is a matter of concern. Another issue of concern is that the authorities go into denial mode because of political pressure."

Masud mentioned the director of students' welfare (DSW) as one of the higher authorities tasked with looking after the students.

A number of teachers said the dorm authorities had reported the matter to the higher authorities but was asked to "manage the situation".

Most of the teachers said students were scared of making formal complaints because of backlash. Even after formal complaints, perpetrators have hardly ever been punished or the punishments meted out.

When contacted, Khondoker Jamius Sani, president of BUET BCL, outright denied all the allegation. "These allegations are false and no one has been politically harassed on the campus," he claimed.

Asked about the ragging of junior students, Sani said Chhatra League should not be blamed for it because it has been in practice for long. "Even I had faced it when I was a freshman," he added.

Continue Reading

on The Independent (Bangladesh)