Protest on subsidy, or how contradictions crumble

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The Government is hell bent on keeping the campus under its extreme control. It began as an anti-quota movement led by students several months back. But it has now turned into a confrontation between a section of students, several teachers standing up against authority, the Left and majority of media and the ruling party.  But there is little doubt who the winner will be in this battle.

The chances that Chatra League activists who were given license to beat up students and recently rough up teachers are going to face charges are almost nil. The Government has clearly indicated that this isn’t going to be the and even denied that they were from the students wings of the ruling party.

Several teachers have stood up and despite odds, harassment and even mayhem against the awesome might of the ruling Government. As an example of courage and willingness, this is rare in this academic fraternity where teachers are more famous for being ruling party loyalists.

But even as the confrontation has a light shade of public interest, the fact remains that there can be no comparison between the two forces. And now that the official world has decided to tilt towards the Chatra league bashers, it’s almost a settled question as to who rules the roost. No matter what happens, the chances of anything fundamental changing is less than remote.

No legal tradition

What has not been achieved since 1971 is a tradition of rule of law.  Historians of the war year know that many cases where the Pakistanis carried out genocide, the acts were instigated by the locals or Bangladeshis. So most genocides, rape and arson were in some sense collaborative activities. Since such crimes were perpetrated by one’s own people, the shock we project when discussing crimes by our own people against their own kind is absurd and meaningless.

In the post 1971 era, there were many crimes and of all kinds but for whatever reason impunity has been part of the ruling system just as it was in 1971.  One may argue that it was not possible to try the killers of 1971 due to lack of infrastructure and many other reasons but the tradition established was that of impunity. The ICT was held in 2016 but it tried almost entirely those with specific political identities.

The main reason why one can’t try most of the local killers, looters and rapists of the local variety of 1971 is because they were so many and no judicial system is large enough to deliver justice for crimes committed earlier. That tradition of impunity has been established and not that of justice. Its therefore foolish to expect otherwise for crimes committed now. If they are committed by any members of the ruling class, safety is assured.

Quota and paymaster

But the quota system and the anti-movement participants –students or teachers- all also come from different levels and layers of the large privileged class. The teachers are less privileged than the BCS amlas but the students who mounted the quota movement were aspirant upper class.

The PM’s words about subsidized education and dining hall charges may hurt many but a simple calculation between the rental subsidy enjoyed by a University teacher and student and the rental given by a slum dweller would make the matter clear.

The academics are not members of the upper class rulers cluster but they are an attached grade like media. They do enjoy many benefits including housing facilities, access to resources and exposure to influence. Which is why the University teachers and media workers are so active politically.

Slaving under subsidy

So why are they angry when they do enjoy fairly non-accountable life long employment with many perks and complain if its pointed out the GOB foots the bill.

If a public University student’s expense was compared to a private university student’s economics, one could see that these students are being groomed as the privileged ones of the future. These students want Government jobs and are also demanding that the public support them to be become their masters, who basically run the administration as per their own will.

There is a strange kind of humour in this demand because the most privileged are the amlas among the civilian jobbers in Bangladesh.  Their current problems are due to shortage of jobs, a planning inefficiency of the very amlacracy they want to join. Why is this being portrayed as a people’s cause

But everyone is saying that its not the Government but the people who pays for all this but do amlas care about the people or most of the leading University teachers care about public education? If anything the current University and its various wings are more busy in doing politics and fighting each other, funded by with taxpayer’s money. So why should the public care about which student is beating up which teacher when they are basically riding the same boat?

It’s obvious that the Government knows exactly what is going on and knows that the whole lot barring a noble few are part of the same crowd. In this great game of privilege transfer, moral positioning doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because if you are directly or indirectly taking Government subsidy you are not free and if you are not free, you can’t negotiate. Only who pays the piper call the tune. And in this case it is the Government of Bangladesh and its ruling cluster.

  • Issue 2
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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