The call of President Md. Abdul Hamid to revive the glory of student politics is not only timely but it also demands serious attention from all conscientious sections of society. Given what actually defines it now, blemish for the most part, student politics these days, to put it bluntly, has earned the wholesale disrepute of abhorrence. The nation's history tracing back to the fifties and onward is a clear demonstration of how students shaped its making through successive movements beginning with the fight for mother tongue and culminating in the independence of the country. Gone are the days and it seems as though one can only look back to what the students of this land were capable of, as a source of inspiration, with a tinge of fantasy.
The President, who is also the Chancellor of the country's universities, has reasons to be nostalgic when he spoke of the glory of student politics as he himself was a veteran in the movements all through the sixties. Speaking at the 50th Convocation ceremony of Dhaka University, he called upon the student community to come forward to restore student politics to its proper track.
Clearly, the President was trying to be optimistic, as he said "The tide of youth never stops and I do believe their tide will not stop in the future. You must attach the highest priority to the interest of the country and the nation than the individual and familial gains." The President mentioned the glorious role of the students in Bangladesh's political history as they played a leading role in the 71 Liberation War, the 1952 Language Movement, Six-point Movement and other democratic movements of the country.
Criticising the ongoing trend of student politics, he said in the past brilliant students used to feel encouraged to get involved with politics, which unfortunately is not the case these days. Now, he lamented, even people as old as 40-something are seen as student leaders, who are not even regular students. Recalling Dhaka University's contributions to the country's politics, he said, it produced many veteran politicians since its inception in 1921 and they played a significant role in shaping the nation.
However, what the President didn't mention is that much of the filth that stains student politics these days is the creation of the political parties which look up to them to deliver muscle power. This being the case, one can't hope to see a meritorious student aspiring to get involved in hooliganism or become a party to benefit-sharing of all conceivable varieties.
More than anything, the spirit of student politics has gone down the drains because of what may be termed lack of progressive thinking, something that essentially defined student politics in the past. One can barely recall mentionable incidents of student activism in the past decades meant for welfare of the students or that of society at large. One may also find it curious to see that followers of the ruling party form the most of those engaged in campus politics. As beneficiary of the power that be, student politics has itself snuffed its own defying and dissenting instinct. In fact, it was this dissenting faculty that characterised the spirit of student politics in the fifties, sixties and even very early seventies.
Since the President of the country has raised the issue, it is important that there should be some soul searching to find out why things have gone so hopelessly rotten. Had the political parties, especially while in power, did not treat students for furthering their ulterior goals, things couldn't have been as awful.
However, one good suggestion the President has made is the need for holding elections. In case of Dhaka University, it is the DUCSU (Dhaka University Central Students Union). No election in any of the public universities has been held for decades. Stressing the urgency of the DUCSU election, the President said, "DUCSU election is a must. If DUCSU election is not held, a void in leadership will emerge in the country's politics in future. There is no alternative to political leadership for the nation's development."
This, no doubt, is an apt remark; and some one like our President who had experienced positive student activism throughout his early career is highly competent to say so. The core question thus: how can we help youth leadership to grow - to lead the nation in future?
We have already seen the consequences of the void in leadership. This, one need not contest, has invited moneyed people having little or no contact with the commoners and ground realities to emerge on the political stage, and political parties are also obliged to reward them with senior positions, clearing the way for them to eventually decide the destiny of the nation. Will lamenting help?