There is an absolute need today for the authorities to take action against the unruly elements of the Bangladesh Chhatra League. There is little question that in recent times, these elements have taken clear and full advantage of their parent organisation, the Awami League, being in power and have created the perfect conditions for the ruling party to find itself in an embarrassing straitjacket. Reports which have lately come in from Dhaka University leave little doubt as to how far the BCL has strayed from the original principles upon which it was founded in the late 1940s and the noble and historic role many of its former leaders have played in the struggle for Bangladesh's freedom.
When it is Chhatra League elements who pounce on an innocent photographer and his two nieces on the campus, for no particular reason, and leave them badly mauled, it is a whole country which hangs its head low in shame. The shame takes on a deeper hue when we note the authorities, especially at Dhaka University, taking slow and ineffectual action against the perpetrators of the misdeed. What happened on 5 November near Shahidullah Hall is but a small hint of the many despicable acts the BCL cadres have been committing with impunity on the DU campus as also at other educational institutions. These acts have put this reputed students' organisation to shame. And, worse, they have caused huge embarrassment to the ruling Awami League, which must now find a way of dealing --- and dealing harshly --- with an organisation that today gives all the signs of an outfit engaged in anything and everything but the welfare of students. The frenzy with which the BCL has gone into the tender business, the outrageous way in which it has sought to establish its control over university halls and indeed over universities in general are a portent of the deeper darkness that may yet be in store for the country --- unless action is taken and a leash is put on the organisation.
There is hardly any point in arguing that students' organisations affiliated to other political parties are involved in similar questionable acts. That will be a bad defence of a bad situation. In the present circumstances, the most pressing task before the authorities is to take serious note of the damage the wayward elements of the BCL have been causing the government as well as the welfare of students in general and go for swift action under the law of the land. The disturbing perception grows that the ruling party is reluctant to act against its own. That is a feeling that can only undermine the government. And unless the government is willing to be accused of blatant partisanship here, it must rise to the occasion and convince the country and particularly the students' community all across Bangladesh that it means business and that it is capable of dealing with criminality no matter where the roots of such criminality lie. Only when the black sheep of the BCL are dealt with can the authorities stake a legitimate and proper claim to cracking down on other student bodies that are creating havoc on the nation's campuses. The concept of maintaining or restoring order always begins at home. Let that concept be placed into implementation mode, here and now.
The rich heritage of the Chhatra League remains a poignant part of national history. It was there through the 1950s, a shield against all manner of governmental repression in the Pakistan era. In 1962, it was a vocal presence in the protest movement against the Education Report underwritten by the Ayub Khan regime. During the Mass Upsurge of 1969, the Chhatra League demonstrated conclusively that it was in step with the movement for autonomy through bringing the Eleven Point movement of the students in line with the Six Points of the Awami League. It was Chhatra League leader Tofail Ahmed, today a veteran politician, who first bestowed the honorific of Bangabandhu on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in February 1969. The glorious role of the Chhatra League in the War of Liberation is a matter of record.
Must all that glory prove fleeting, or be forgotten, through the clear decline the Chhatra League in these present times is going through? The BCL did not come into existence on the back of military rule, as did some other student bodies in the times of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Ziaur Rahman and General Hussein Muhammad Ershad. Why must it then engage in acts that militate against democracy?