Sylhet, Jan 22: As some among them completed day three of a hunger strike, the protesting students of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) on Friday remained resolute around their sole demand: nothing except the resignation, or otherwise removal of Vice Chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed can lead to a resolution of the crisis.
It was a day when students got to speak with Education Minister Dipu Moni herself, as she reached out to the agitating students over phone at around 3 pm to try and end the impasse.
During the conversation, Dipu Moni said she wants a peaceful solution to the issue as soon as possible, and was willing to talk to the students ‘directly’ – i.e. in-person – over the matter, if they so wish.
The protesting students were indeed receptive to the idea of a meeting with the education minister, and were even willing to travel to Dhaka to meet her.
But in the evening they came away from that position, and said that if the minister wants to solve the problem, she had to visit the SUST premises, or hold the meeting virtually.
“We will not go to Dhaka – the discussion will be held in Sylhet, not in Dhaka,” said Shahriar Abedin, a spokesperson for the protesters.
Earlier, a group of Bangladesh Awami League leaders led by its central organizing secretary Shafiul Alam Chowdhury Nadel spoke separately with the students and then Vice-Chancellor Prof Farid Uddin regarding the issue.
So far, 13 of the 24 SUST students who commenced a hunger strike since Wednesday ohave been hospitalized.
The protesting students have vowed not to break their fast until the VC steps down.
In the small hours of Friday, the protesting students also brought out a torch rally and burnt the effigy pf the VC on the campus.
Hours before, a delegation of teachers met the students and requested them to break their fast. But the students didn’t respond to their request.
On Monday, the protesting students wrote an open letter to President Abdul Hamid, demanding the immediate removal of VC Farid Uddin Ahmed. The president is the chancellor of the university.
The students also rejected the notice of shutting down the university for an indefinite period that came with a directive to leave the halls.
That came following a clash on the campus between police and protesting students on Sunday (Jan 16). In the wake of the police action on its premises, students were asked to leave their halls of residence by 12pm the next day.
By then however, the situation had gone well beyond the control of the authorities. Students rejected the closure notice and not only stayed back on the campus – the next day they organised under a new demand that differentiates the movement since Monday from what happened previously.
This renewed movement was organised under one sole demand, that is the resignation of the VC, and nothing has yet worked to convince them to come off it.