Sylhet’s Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) that saw serious student movement for the last 15 days, was calm on Thursday.
On Wednesday twenty seven students who had been on hunger strike for 162 hours demanding the resignation of Vice-Chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed over police crackdown on their fellows, ended fast following an assurance of meeting their demands.
At the request of Mohammed Zafar Iqbal, a former teacher at SUST, students called off the strike as he (Zafar Iqbal) assured them that their demands would be fulfilled with the help of the upper level of government.
Zafar Iqbal added that he went there on receipt of news from the upper level.
Therefore, since Wednesday evening a relative quiet has descended on the university campus.
But the protesting students vowed to continue their movement on the campus until VC Farid Uddin Ahmed steps down.
The protesting students on Wednesday night removed barricades from the university’s main gate and the Vice Chancellor’s residence.
Meanwhile, as part of this, an open discussion styled “What type of SUST the students want” was to be held Thursday evening on the university’s open stage.
As part of the one point movement demanding Vice Chancellor’s resignation, the students have started painting colorful designs locally known as alpona, on the ‘Ek Kilo’ road one of the popular places of the university and other important places.
Besides, the students and different cultural organisations are set to render defendant songs in order to expedite the Vice-Chancellor’s resignation.
They are also planning to draw up an elaborate programme including taking out processions, staging demonstrations and painting the walls till filing of this report on Thursday 6pm.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Dipu Moni said the problems of the SUST students would be solved soon.
However, the minister said the resignation or removal of the Vice-Chancellor is a different issue.
“If one Vice-Chancellor leaves, another one will come. The solution to students' problems does not depend on if a Vice-Chancellor stays or not. So the problems need to be solved," she said.
She also said the students' movement was logical as the police attack on the students was totally unacceptable as many students got injured
Asked about the resignation of VC Farid Uddin Ahmed, the main demand of the students, the minister said, “There are various processes for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor has been appointed by the president, who is the chancellor of the university. We will see what we can do about it after solving the students' problems.”
The cases filed against the protesting students during the movement will not affect their future.
“I will talk about the withdrawal of the cases,” she assured.
Meanwhile, the five former students of SUST were granted bail on Wednesday evening. The alumni were arrested from Dhaka, on the charge of sending money to the protesting students at the university.
They went on the strike unto death demanding resignation of the Vice-Chancellor following the police action on the protesting students as his behest on January 16.
Earlier the education minister, university teachers and local Awami League leaders continued trying their level best to solve the crisis.
But they completely failed to convince the students as they had made their stand clear that they would not break the hunger strike until the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor.
On the other hand, lawmakers, academic, civil society members and former teachers of the university expressed deep concern about the current crisis at SUST.
Besides, SUST Teachers Association, several teachers and Proctor Alamgir Kabir had tried to persuade the protesting students to end their fast-unto-death in the Vice-Chancellor’s resignation protest.
The students, however, refused to break the fast and instead locked into an argument with the teachers for not supporting their protest.
Later the teachers tried to get into the Vice-Chancellor’s residence with food, beverages and medicines but failed to go through the human chain surrounding the place.
And the students continued calling upon the President to remove the Vice-Chancellor for the sake of the university.
Earlier on January 17, the protesting students wrote an open letter to President Abdul Hamid, demanding the immediate removal of Vice-Chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed. The President is the Chancellor of the university.
Some 24 students began the ‘hunger strike until death’ in front of the Vice-Chancellor’s residence at 2:50pm on January 19 as the Vice-Chancellor refused to resign.
Later, four more joined the hunger strike.
But many students have not left the campus yet, staging demonstrations, taking out processions while 27 were on hunger strike demanding the Vice-Chancellor resignation.
It may be mentioned that on January 13, students of Begum Sirajunnesa Chowdhury Hall launched a protest after Provost Zafrin Ahmed Liza reportedly misbehaved with a student, who called her to report mismanagement at the dormitory.
Since then students started demanding the Vice-Chancellor’s resignation after over 50 students were injured, as police entered the campus and used truncheons, rubber bullets and sound grenades on January 16 evening to take the Vice-Chancellor, who was confined at the IICT Building in the campus, away.
And the authorities closed the SUST for an indefinite period following a clash between two students and cops on the campus, asking the students to leave their respective dormitories by January 17.