Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blood on our Hands: Motivated or Manipulated?

By Osama Rahman

'Students block road, vandalise vehicle to protest against VAT…'

'Students and Police clash for over 7 hours…'
'Police charge batons and fire tear gas on agitated students….'

A brilliant masterstroke, an act of desperation or completely wishful thinking? What transpired to urge the powers-that-be to moot the idea of a ridiculous 4.5% VAT on education? With the already burgeoning tuition fees that private university students are forced to pay another addition to the expenditure by the government would surely never have been tolerated. What were they thinking? As students took the streets, violence ensued and the heart-breaking dawn of a new age came upon us. For an idea assumed so benign, the repercussions painted an entirely different picture.

The cause for concern isn't the vandalism or the violent protests. The idea of VAT on 'private' education, an act unheard of in all SAARC countries and most civil ones too, isn't all that worrisome. In fact, what troubles the mind is the sudden rise of a new breed of troubled and troublesome revolutionaries. The very idea of the VAT on Private Universities was discriminatory, to say the least. Exorbitant tuition fees, infrastructure and 'quality' had already divided lines between the 'well-off' and 'spoiled' Private University pupils from the 'more intelligent' and 'vengeful' public university students. However there was one more very crucial point of segregation, apart from the infuriating stereotypical views, between the two; 'Student Politics'. No Private University could have boasted the presence of a powerful student body and this came as a blessing rather than a curse. Never before had a body of students from private institutions emerged to take the streets and have their demands met, and thus the acts of the past weeks have indeed been the first of their type from this group. The VAT has been withdrawn but who will eventually benefit?

Assuming that one crazy day an insane idea of VAT on education may suddenly have emerged. Right before the electricity went and Parliament folded, this VAT was considered seriously all for the cause of Digital Bangladesh. If even MPs had to pay silly duties on their much-required highly expensive imported cars, then surely the students wouldn't mind chucking in a few thousand more bucks to go with the seven hundred thousand or so they already need to give. If this is how it happened, then the vandalised cars of innocent citizens, perhaps even a fellow student's own vehicle, dispelled all notions that the people were going to go along with this plan. The sudden decision to withdraw right after the violence, also set a dangerous precedent. The message sent is: Violence conquers all. Are we going to be so naïve as to believe that the higher powers were frightened off? Or do we bring about the argument of the almighty mortals 'only having our best interest at heart'? If so, then a million things cannot be explained, let alone the idea of imposition of the VAT.

Any leader's power is largely based on influence. Such influence is most easily used upon young and eager minds, i.e. the students. If one party of students is suddenly shown the door, then another must take their place. If all such parties are currently engaged then another party needs to be formed. But in order to form a party, its members need to be given a sense of their power, and this has been thoroughly achieved, intentionally or otherwise. The so-called civilised of our country took to the streets, showed courage before the stomping came and then ushered in a new era of student politics. 'We need to protest this move;' an unnamed student exclaimed. From the Boston Tea Party to the Salt Satyagraha, most successful revolutions haven't come about by hurting your own countrymen. The influx of politics in the minds free of such thoughts couldn't have come at a better time for a very concerned few. Time is now ripe for recruitments. The time is now right to blindly follow the hidden shepherd and continue to be led by sheep as we have so well learned to do. When we turn against our own motherland, destroy the security of our own people and behave like uncouth and uncivilised people, despite the facility of our education, then we can welcome ourselves into the dirty world we have so far distanced ourselves from.

Private or Public University, any pupil, anywhere in this country should first decry the obvious attempt at segregation and unfair treatment. Those that have yet stayed away from being brain-washed into willing puppets, it is time to take a peaceful stand. This is not the right time, place or situation to start another instance of Student Politics. It is best to take lessons from our surroundings, understand the meaning of session jams in Bangladesh's context and refuse to be zombies under command. Let the next time we take the streets, be the time when we are fed up of such dirty games, attempts at manipulative tactics and deception. We stand united as students, providing stiff resistance to the unfair and we do not need to form any league for that. If they attack our country, we will break all hell loose, but until then we will stand unified, in a civilised manner, exuding our intelligence and defending our rights without impeding on others'. Let not the future of tomorrow be tainted with the blood of yesterday, blood that we shall now forever carry on our hands.



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