Student politics can get better

It turned into a ruthless power game. The use of arms became a part of it, and was patronized

We know that the students of Bangladesh have had a glorious role in freeing the country from colonial domination, and in establishing democracy in the country. Throughout history, students have led landmark movements towards freedom and democracy.

But the culture that has developed in educational institutes in the name of student politics has marred the historic achievements of our students. After the re-emergence of the despotic regimes in the country, student politics took a new form. It turned into a ruthless power game. The use of arms and drugs became a part of it, and was patronised.

Gradually, this turned these institutions into places for violent feuds and clashes among student organisations. Student politics have caused scores of murders. In most of the cases, the perpetrators went unpunished. Whenever the discussion on stopping the so-called student politics arises, many bring up the successes of previous student movements, using them as an excuse to continue this destructive culture.

Today, student politics poses a major obstacle to actual changes that students could cause, in order to contribute positively to society as well as the education scene. Student politics, with its existing apparatus, uses the students by exploiting their vulnerabilities, and makes them take part in political activities. Often students get involved against their will. The gangster culture and extreme stances form the basis of student politics, and these not only hamper the environment necessary for education, but also pose a high risk to women’s empowerment and the implementation of law.

The destructive game that exists in universities is enforced with muscle power, and leaves many traumatised. This particularly affects female students. It also hinders the meritocratic system that these institutions should be based on. The scenario could have been different if there were regular elections in universities by which students could choose their representatives.

With that process, the nation could also get the next generation of political leadership. Or, for example, if there were no party-affiliated organisations in the universities, the students could think and practice politics in their own way. Now, they are made to do whatever the party wants them to do.

There are matters here that are administrative as well as cultural. A culture of turning away is being seen in student politics now. Students are growing more averse to student politics. But it is difficult for students who have to stay in halls and are vulnerable to other economic realities, particularly considering that educational expenses are rising.

In the past, students had defied this kind of rotten politics and engaged in healthier movements. But in recent years, the students who made or formed a part of those same movements, like the movement that rose up against the attack on prolific linguist and literary exponent Humayun Azad, or the movement for demanding the trial of war criminals, or the movement against the incidents that took place in Shamsunnahar Hall, show not only a turning away from student politics, but also the courage and capability to bring change to the society.

There are some problems which make the students go into politics. Most parties’ student wings have professional student politicians who are much older than real students. Their old ideas, and history of involvement appears frightening to existing students in the universities.

In a democratic setting, this is quite absurd. We have seen that the Awami League has brought some changes to its student wing, which seems to be a reflection of its commitment to democratic development. It has imposed an age limit to be in the organisation, which might have a positive impact on the universities. Many students have regained their interest in doing politics.

Other parties were not so open to change. The AL has, at least, showed some willingness to improve the scenario through political and legal means. Whether student politics adds negative value to the overall investment in education or not, is a big question. Let the problem be solved. Let the students hold their own election, and choose their own leaders.

If a system was installed in universities to help students democratically elect representatives, it could curb the frequency of untoward incidents in academia. If democracy was healthy, maybe students would not need to take to the streets so often.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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