The Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), student wing of ruling Awami League, has recently created a "reign of terror" on and outside the Dhaka University campus, by involving in a series of crimes including snatching, extortion and torturing victims, police and DU sources said.
Members of various student bodies - patronised and often funded by their parent political organisations - routinely involve in crimes in all universities of the country - but the DU BCL students led past all others in non-academic and illegal pursuits, law enforcing agencies said.
"We keep a regular eye on them, often chase and arrest them. But with a magic touch (of their political gurus) they come out of jail soon and then re-involve in crimes," one police officer told the Daily Observer, requesting anonymity. "This is a vicious circle we (law enforcers) probably cannot break," he said.
The students are also involved in other kinds of corruption such as grabbing tender bussiness, forcibly occupying public land in the name of party and collecting toll from shopkeepers and owners in different city areas, law enforcers said. Asked if they had a share in the illegal booty, police could not come out with a clean answer.
Besides BCL, Jatiayabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), student body of Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP), Islami Chhatra Shibir, student wing of Jamaat-e-Isalami and others also indulge in corruption and illegal business - but these boys from the ruling party lead the race.
They also become a dominant force in universities as per strength of their members in that campus - such as BCL in DU, Islami Chhatra Shibir in Rajshahi University and so on.
The recent activities of various student organisations have largely diminished the students' glorious role in the country's 1971 War of Independence and in other political issues of common concern, university authorities say.
However, it is also alleged that "professional criminals" often enlist themselves in BCL, JCD and other campus units disguising as students and using party manes while committing crime. Even they often identify as members of law enforcing agencies, it is further alleged.
DU sources said some student leaders of BCL have taken control of under-ground drug dealings in Bangladesh while many non-students were also active in terrorism posing as BCL activist.
Several campus sources said crimes like managing tender, intra BCL clashes, and corruptions by BCL has become a dangerous phenomenon in educational institutions in the country. They also control management and distribution of seats to students in the dormitories, sometimes in exchange of money or a pledge to work for them.
In a recent incident, a group of BCL activists of Dhaka University beat up visitors at Suhrawardy Udyan and snatched away mobile phones, money and jewellery from them. The DU BCL leaders reportedly control dozens of tea stalls at in DU surroundings, at Shahbagh and Suhrawardy Udyan, colleting Tk 200 per day from each stall.
A senior police official, preferring anonymity, told The Daily Observer on Monday that members of law enforcing agencies always feel hesitant to take any action against those 'powerful quarters' for obvious reasons. Since January this year, more than 50 incidents of campus violence occurred in different universities with direct and indirect involvement of BCL.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resigned from her life membership of the BCL on April 4, 2009 in the wake of a spate of campus violence by the BCL.
The government had ordered a crackdown on campus violence, extortion, tender rigging "by student leaders, members or activists, or anyone indulging in such acts in the guise of students." The student wings are still seen as inextricably linked with their political parties, giving the ruling party more than a few headaches over BCL violence.
"The PM's directive to law enforcement agencies to take stern action against so-called student leaders and activists involved in criminal activities should be carried out to the hilt, we suggest, under the watch of the PMO," one official said on Monday. He also criticised police for "playing the role of a bystander in case of crimes committed under their nose."
Photojournalist Imtiaz Alam Beg, also Director and trainer of Begart Institute of Photography, and two of his nieces were attacked and assaulted near the DU's Sahidullah Hall on November 5, police said. The Dhaka University authorities on Sunday suspended four students on charge of attack and assault on Beg and his nieces.
Acting DU Proctor Amzad Ali told The Daily Observer that the university authorities suspended the four first year honours students -Faruk Hossain of botany, Masum Billah of physics, Jinat Alam of statistics and Jahirul Islam of mathematics - as they were primarily found guilty of the attack. The suspended students are activists of the BCL.
Academic activities at Chittagong University (CU) were suspended on Monday following a factional feud of BCL campus unit. Agitated activists stopped the shuttle train service, the prime mode of transport for non-resident students, and locked the main entrance of the university, reports our Chittagong correspondent.
Rajshahi University (RU) authorities have filed a case against BCL leader Towhid Al Hossain Tuhin and two others for assaulting three individuals, including the university's chief engineer on August 30.
RU Registrar Entajul Haque lodged the case accusing the postgraduates of extortion and assault on Saturday afternoon, Motihar Police Station OC Md Alamgir Hossain told The Daily Observer.