The Violence of Bangladeshi Student Activism

A recent killing has highlighted how Bangladesh's campuses, once a site for revolution and independence, have taken a turn toward the sinister.

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(Tahia Farhin)

Jennifer Chowdhury


November 13, 2019

The entrance to Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), one of the nation’s oldest and most competitive public universities, is laden with fresh graffiti art, murals, and posters inscribed: #justiceforAbrar. The university looks almost clinical with its minimal, functional design. On October 6 earlier this year, 21-year old BUET student Abrar Fahad was found dead in his dormitory hallway. A police investigation and a post-mortem report revealed that approximately 19 young men — most of whom are affiliated with Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the country’s ruling political party, the Awami League — physically assaulted Fahad for five to six hours. In response to Fahad’s death, Bangladesh erupted in protest, demanding an end to the impunity of government-aligned student leaders. 

The incident with Fahad is not unexpected in Bangladesh, said Mubashar Hasan, a political expert on South Asia and researcher at the University of Oslo. “To understand how something this horrific could happen, it’s important to understand the roots of Bangladesh’s political movements, which started from student activism,” he told The Juggernaut.

Bangladesh’s history has been significantly influenced by student political leaders. After the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, Pakistan was comprised of West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan) and East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh). Separated geographically and culturally from West Pakistan, East Pakistan suffered from famine and cultural repression and was underrepresented in civil and military services. 

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