we ready to Speak out?
the history of Bengal for the last century, students have
always played a very significant role in major political
turning points. Whether it is the movement against the British
imperialists, or the movement for our language, or for independence
and later, the fight against dictatorship, it has always
been the students who have been working at the forefront.
It is therefore quite disappointing to find that the average
students' opinions about politics is becoming increasingly
pessimistic as they are going through a process of alienation
with the principle political forces.
Our experience from the last two decades of students' politics
is so bitter that the question has even been raised whether
or not students' politics should be banned altogether. Yet
that can hardly be a healthy situation in a country that
needs its young population to be politically conscious for
any significant progress.
In the last twenty years of our fragile democracy, students
politics has only been used in order to strengthen and secure
the position of the ruling political parties. No matter
which party we are talking of they are all equally responsible
for using and abusing the retentive power of the student
population in order to serve their self-interest. In spite
of their so-called differences, all the major political
parties in Bangladesh have introduced the practice of corruption
and indecent competition of arms and violence among student
groups. The promising young politicians who were once our
main strength in the struggle against oppression have now
become mere puppets dancing to the tune of political parties,
not driven by the ideals which they proclaim as their political
The fact that there is an ever increasing distrust about
politics and political parties among the common people and
the students is a result of this evil power-game. Ordinary
people either fear, or hate or at the best, avoid politics
Long lost are the days when the most brilliant, brightest
students used to be the ones who were the most enthusiastic
about politics. Today, without a few exceptions, the bright
and brilliant students usually tend to avoid politics, like
the plague. Nor does the average student indulge in student
politics for the sake of his/her ideals. A political career
guarantees financial solvency, power, or at least, a seat
in the University's Halls!
Yet there are many bright, sincere individuals in the student
community who are sincere in their ideology, in their love
for their country and interest in national issues. They
want to speak out, they want to raise questions. They just
don't know where or how to voice them.
Political parties are growing farther apart from the potential
student community as they have been from the ordinary people.
Even the radical leftist political parties are not much
different than the major parties. Although the centre of
their political ideas are the ordinary people, they are
even farther from them than their major counterparts.
A member of the Bangladesh Chhatra Union, who wished to
remain anonymous, says “Unlike the major parties, we don't
have the power of money or media to influence the common
people, all we have is the convincing power of our activists.
The truth is we are not being able to organise ourselves
so that we can reach the masses. The goal of our movement
is to work for the common people and ironically, we have
miserably failed to reach them. If you look at it, most
of the people in the grassroots level don't even know who
we are and what we are doing here. It is completely our
Another active worker and member of Bangladesh Chhatra Union.
Partha Pratim Sadhu agrees with him, but adds, “We should
not forget that the failure is of the political parties,
not of our ideals. We have made the mistake of isolating
ourselves from the common people and we have to do something
about it. I think that a natural third platform can be very
helpful, where we, the political activists can openly interact
with the general students and the common people. We both
need to listen to each after. So far the opposition parties
have been questioning and criticising the government's actions.
It is now absolutely necessary to question and criticise
the other parties. Only constructive criticism and interaction
with the common people can help us get out of this alienated
An activist of a leading opposition party (who also wishes
to remain anonymous) shares an experience. They were planning
to organise a movement with the rickshaw-pullers after the
government's decision to gradually abolish rickshaws from
the streets of the city. When they went to them with their
proposal to help on behalf of the party, the rickshaw-pullers
refused to work with them. When asked the reason, one of
the rickshaw-pullers replied. 'Because we have been betrayed
so many times that we don't trust politicians anymore. 'Finally,
the same party sent some students without revealing their
political identity and the rickshaw-pullers agreed to work
Such lack of trust and skepticism about politics and political
parties is the norm these days. Adding to this distrust
is the major political parties' tendency to take over non-political
movements organised by ordinary students and then take the
credit for it. Says a third year Economics student of DU
who was one of the organisers during the general students'
movement concerning the Shamsunnahar Hall incident, “It
is always the same story. The general students and the leftist
parties organise the movements and at the end it is either
BNP or AL who get all the credit. The same thing happened
during the movement to protect the trees on the campus”.
Many students have valuable insight on national issues,
but no one would listen to them because they refuse to go
with the trend of the bi-polar campus politics. Many students
have expressed their interest to actively participate in
national issues. But almost everyone is reluctant to join
any political parties. Some of them have proposed a campaign
group or pressure group that will be able to work without
the influence of any particular party. While at the same
time, political activists like Partha Pratim and his colleagues
are thinking about a third platform outside the party where
they can come closer to the ordinary students.
The reality of our contemporary politics is leading both
of the groups to an idea of open interaction. A chance to
start all over again. The level of consciousness among general
students and the common people is far more remarkable than
the political parties and the leaders would like to admit.
A wave of awakening has come around. If the ones at the
helm of power do not intend to work for the greater interest
of the people they will be the ultimate losers. History
has proven that when the masses awake, they can change the
For many students at DU the idea of a neutral platform,
is becoming increasingly attractive. It is the only hope
that someday student politics will not be about who gets
the tender or which party captures a hall but about real
issues that concern the welfare of the students and the
ordinary citizens of this country.