Protest erupts at DU; strike in Bangladesh

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - Opposition panels protest Ducsu election.

Protests erupted in Dhaka University yesterday immediately after most of the prominent panels boycotted the Ducsu election citing mass irregularities.

Agitating students staged a sit-in near the vice-chancellor's residence for around an hour and called a 24-hour strike on the campus today to press home their demand for re-election.

Voting began at 8:00 am. Around 1:00 pm, all major panels, except the ruling party-backed Bangladesh Chhatra League, announced their decision to boycott the election in two different press conferences.

At the press conference held at Madhur Canteen, panels of quota reformists' platform Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad, leftist Pragatishil Chhatra Oikya and Chhatra Federation, and two alliances of independent candidates Swadhikar Satantra Parishad and Santantra Jote announced their decision to boycott the election.

Then they brought out a procession on the campus, which was joined by over a hundred female students when it reached near Ruqayyah Hall.

At one stage of the demonstration, when the chief returning officer of the election Prof SM Mahfuzur Rahman came out of the hall, agitating students surrounded him.

Many of them chanted slogans against him and accused him for “ensuring all arrangements for vote rigging.”  They also chanted slogans against the VC demanding his resignation for “his failure to ensure a free and fair election.”

When Prof Mahfuzur wanted to walk away without saying anything, several students lay down on the street. Several protesters then guarded him and helped him leave the area.

The agitating students then paraded around the campus again. At 2:00 pm, they staged a sit-in in front of the VC's residence for around one hour.

Meanwhile, BNP-backed Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal around 1:20 pm announced their decision to boycott at Madhur Canteen and later they also brought out a procession on campus.

At the press conference, Liton Nandi, vice-president candidate of Pragatishil Chhatra Oikya, alleged that university authorities had made all the arrangements of vote rigging.

To do so, the authorities ignored their previous demands of using transparent ballot boxes, indelible ink for fingerprints, setting up polling centres at academic buildings instead of halls and allowing polling agents for the candidates.

“The university authorities asked us to trust them.  The result of their assurance is the recovery of a sack of ballots at Kuwait-Moitree hall half an hour before the election began; voting at Ruqayyah Hall started with a one hour delay and ballot boxes of the hall were kept hidden there. General students in almost all halls were prevented from casting their votes,” he alleged.

“We are rejecting the Ducsu election with hatred. This is a farcical and forged election,” said Liton, general secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra Union.

He also demanded that those involved in vote-rigging be brought to book.

At the sit-in, Aminul Islam Ovi, a member candidate said, “The teachers who tainted the university's image by facilitating vote rigging have no right to take our classes. We will not attend their classes.”

Quota reform leader Faruk Hassan, who contested for the assistant general secretary post in Ducsu, urged the VC to step down. “The VC said the election was conducted in a free and fair manner. Yes, election was held free and fair but not today [yesterday] but on the previous night.”

He vowed to continue the movement until the university authorities scrapped the election and announced a schedule for fresh polls.

PROTESTS OUTSIDE DU

Meanwhile, a group of former DU students held a demonstration in front of the National Museum and expressed solidarity with the agitating students.

They also demanded a re-election of Ducsu.

Progressive Students Alliance in Chattogram held a protest rally at Cheragi Pahar Intersection in the port city around 4:45 pm demanding re-election and the resignation of DU VC.

Meanwhile, social media was flooded with criticism of DU authorities. Many of them compared the activities of DUs authorities with the activities of Election Commission during the national elections in December.

“EC, VC, Chi Chi,” Rajshahi University teacher Salim Reza Newton wrote on a Facebook post around 5:00 pm.

“Once upon a time, election used to be held in day time in the country!” publisher Robin Ahsan posted on Facebook around noon.

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