Bangladesh to militarize education
September 17, 2007
Source: UPI Asia Online
One more senior teacher at Dhaka University has been detained on charges of breaking the county's emergency rules. Professor Sadrul Amin, president of the Dhaka University Teachers Association, was locked up in the Dhaka Central Jail on Sunday. He is one of four teachers at the university charged over "provocative" speeches that allegedly caused a breech of the emergency rules on August 21 and 22. Fourteen students have been charged for the same offence.
Amin surrendered himself Sunday, three days after Dhaka court magistrate Ferdous Ahmed issued a warrant for his arrest and that of another teacher, Dr. Nimchandra Bhoumik. This follows the arrests of two other teachers of the same university as well as four teachers of Rajshahi University. All together seven teachers from the two recognized public universities have been detained. Bhoumik, who is considered a fugitive by the police, will be arrested shortly.
The teachers are being blamed for violence that erupted between students and military personnel during a sports event on campus. But has the government really tried to asses why such violence occurred? It is part of a larger picture of socio-economic chaos throughout the country.
For example, ready-made garment manufacturers have announced a 35 percent reduction in orders in the seven months of emergency rule compared to the same period last year, resulting in employment for thousands of already poorly-paid workers. Inflation is at its highest in ten years, with the prices of many daily commodities beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.
The government has done nothing to develop the economy or alleviate unemployment, which affects millions of laborers. How can people survive in a workless, worthless and militarized land? The people are being suffocated at the hands of the military-backed government.
This situation easily leads to unrest on the streets, and is a factor in what happened at Dhaka University last month. The police are investigating, but the people also have a right to ask a few questions. Wherein lies the legitimacy of such a prolonged state of emergency in the country? Why should the people remain mum despite their tremendous sufferings caused by the military-backed government?
The government does not have the courage to answer such questions. The leaders have turned the county's institutions, including Dhaka University, into sacrificial lambs in order to implement their own policies and strategies. Now they are in the process of establishing a Military University.
According to news reports, the armed forces received approval from the president in June to set up this new type of educational institution. It is to combine general education with courses in military science, technology and weaponry, so the armed forces will not have to recruit from other academic institutions. Also, the armed forces can better shape the mindsets of the students as well as the nation as a whole.
Under the new hierarchy the armed forces are the dominant class in society. So the students at the Military University will be boosted to a higher status, like their masters, and help them dominate other segments of society.
The country's budget for education this year is at its highest since 1992. Yet a great proportion of that budget has been diverted to military academies. This is in addition to the undisclosed amount of money allocated to the armed forces, which is believed to be the highest item on the government's annual budget. Setting up a Military University will automatically ensure that this institution receives the maximum proportion of the country's educational resources.
Dhaka University is one of the country's few institutions that have enjoyed true autonomy until now. Perhaps the military authorities see it as obstructing their intentions. Military officials do not like the fact that the university enjoys high status in society, as well as full-fledged autonomy. It also has a history of defying tyranny under the British colonial regime and under rule by Pakistan.
Realizing this, the government tried to control Dhaka University and others by drafting an act that placed them under one authority and limited their autonomy. Professor Anwar Hossain -- who is in detention now -- protested strongly against this "umbrella act." Ultimately, the government failed to impose its "chain of command" over the universities.
When a number of political leaders including former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were arrested earlier this year, Dhaka University Teachers Association leaders criticized the approach and attitude of the government and its ill-treatment of the detainees. Now the government is taking revenge upon the university, the professors and students in general.
By arresting simple-hearted persons like Sadrul Amin, the military-backed government is laying the foundation for the Military University in Bangladesh. Now the government can show the world that all professors are culprits except those appointed by the armed forces.
Bangladesh is headed toward becoming a "utopia" in which there is no voice but that of the military, and no institution without the involvement of the armed forces. In the eyes of its citizens, it is becoming a land of brutality imposed by barbarians.
(Rater Zonaki is the pseudonym of a human rights defender of Bangladesh who has been working on human rights issues in the country for more than a decade. He was a journalist in Bangladesh in the 1990s.)