DU administration’s neutrality in question
Several student organisations have raised questions over the neutrality of Dhaka University authorities in the upcoming DUCSU (Dhaka University Central Students’ Union) and hall union polls slated for Monday. All the student organisations except the government-backed BCL (Bangladesh Chhatra League) have raised concerns over the elections being free and fair.
The leaders of the organisations said demands raised by them including setting up polling centres outside of the halls were not met whereas decisions taken by the adminstration actually benefitted the BCL.
The latest on the string of debates include restrictions being imposed on the media regarding reports on the election day.
According to the leaders of several organsitaitons, DUCSU constitution amendment committee, following the proposals made by several student organisation activists, subimtted a final recommendation to DUCSU president and the DU VC, Akhtaruzzaman, on 20 January.
The committee propsed that only the regular students, studying in graduate and postgraduate level, to be eligible as voters and candidates. Several organisations made proposals regarding the voter elegibility at a meeting held on 21 January at the university environment council. Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal and Progotishil Chhatra Jote allies demanded that students paying fees for student hall council and DUCSU should be eligible. Most of the organsiations, except the BCL, demanded the polling centres be set up inside the academic buildings instead of halls. They argued voting would not be free at the halls as the BCL control them.
BCL leaders argued the voter age limit should be 30 years, maximum age for government job entry. They also demanded the Mphil and PhD students should be counted as regular ones.
The university administration, holding a cyndicate meeting on 29 January, declared students not more than 30 years would be eligible for voting. Ignoring most of the organisations’ demand it also allowed the polling centres to remain at the halls.
After the 11 February announcement of the election schedule, all the organisations except BCL demanded increasing the duration of voting. They argued six hours was not enough for a voter to cast vote for 38 posts and sought the period to be of 10 hours, spanning till 6:00pm. An independent cadidate, M Asifur Rahman, submitted a memorandum to the VC to this end too on 2 March.
The university authorities issued a press release on Friday saying voting will run till 2:00pm and only those who would be present within this time can cast their vote. No more than four camera units from each electronic TV channel as well as maximum two reporters from each newspaper would be allowed to cover the polls, it added.
“The administration has been biased in its treatment to the BCL from the very beginning,” vice president candidate of Chatra Dal Mostafizur Rahman told Prothom Alo, adding, “We’re heading towards a controversial election.”
Another vice president candidate from Bangladesh General Students’ Rights Protection Council, Nurul Haq, sees the ‘obstruction’ created for media by the administration as part of a plan.
The BCL VP aspirant Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury, however, claimed the university administration is being neutral and the current ambience signals a free election.
VC Akhtaruzzaman, too, claimed everything was running according to rules.
Returning officer S M Mahfuzur Rahman, however, denied to comment on the issue.
The house tutors will conduct the whole voting procedure while several assistant returning officers under two returning officers will be present at the polling centres but there will be no polling agents of the contestants at the centres. The candidates or their representatives can be present during the vote counting, according to several hall provosts. Though as per the the 11 (b) article of DUCSU electoral code of conduct polling agents are allowed to enter polling centres.
The hall provosts are appointed in line with their political identity, said leftist alliance VP candidate, Litan Nandi. Over the ten years, as the Awami League has been in power, almost all the provosts and house tutors are from AL supporting teachers’ organisation. It is very unlikely that they would remain neutral during voting, he added.
There were no compulsion over appointing a polling agent at our time, said Mahfuza Khanam, former DUCSU VP, adding, despite that, agents were there. She also observed that agents were essential in the current situation.
Votes will be casted from Monday 8:00am through 2:00pm. A number of 229 candidates are running for 25 posts in DUCSU and there are 43,256 voters. The number of candidates is 509 at 18 halls. There are 13 posts at each hall.
Bangladesh Chhatra League, Bangladesh Jatiyabadi Chatra Dal, leftist organisations’ alliance, quota reformists’ organisation Bangladesh General Students’ Rights Protection Council, Swadhikar Satontro Parishad, Satontro Jote, JaSaD Chhatra League, Bangladesh Chhatra League, Chhatra Moitri, Islami Shashantantra Chhatra Andolan, Chhatra Muktijote, Jatiya Chhatrasamaj and Bangladesh Chhatra Andolan. There are individual candidates too.
Campaign for the polls ended Saturday. The canidates ran their canvass on the weekends across the residential halls and campus. Activists of the Islami Shashantantra Andolan and Jatiya Chhatrasamaj were obstructed Saturday while campaigning. Progotishil Chhatra Jote members chased the Chhatrasamaj activists while they tried to bring a rally, according to the members of the latter platform.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police imposed a 24-hour restriction on movement of outsiders and vehicles on the university campus from Sunday evening.