Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) students ended their hunger strike on Wednesday on the request of the renowned writer and former SUST teacher Professor Dr Muhammed Zafar Iqbal.
They began the strike on the university campus in Sylhet on January 19, demanding resignation of SUST Vice-Chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed for a police crackdown against the demonstrators.
Earlier, twenty students who had been admitted to hospital after becoming critically ill during the strike returned to campus, and the entire group of twenty-eight broke their fast.
However, the students announced that they will continue the movement even after breaking the hunger strike.
Yasir Sarkar, a spokesman for the agitating students, said, “We will continue the agitation for the resignation of the vice-chancellor even if we withdraw from the hunger strike. The movement will continue till this vice chancellor resigns.”
Zafar Iqbal and Yasmeen Haque arrived on the SUST campus
around 4:00am on Wednesday.
The eminent educationist said, “We have met a high-level delegation at our residence over the issue and they assured us of meeting your demands. Your demands will be met. That's why we have come without delay and will not leave without you breaking your fast.”
“Life is so precious. Why do you want to sacrifice your life for one person? It’s just not acceptable,” he told the students.
He said, “You have no idea what you have done. Because of you, the country’s university, VC system will be fine. In your movement, 34 vice chancellors of Bangladesh have been deprived of sleep.”
Prof Zafar Iqbal told reporters “I am sorry to say that the measures taken to stop the movement of these children are inhuman, cruel, and barbaric. I assumed, there would be a medical team here. They will continue look after these children.”
“I feel very sad when I see that there is no medical health facility here. When children tried to bring medical health, they could not” he added.
The authorities also shut down the dining halls, cafeteria and food shops around the campus. The cooks of the residential halls were asked to stop preparing meals, resulting in food shortage, Prof Zafar Iqbal said.
He said “I have been assured by the top government officials that the students' demands will be met. I hope they'll keep their word. There is no difference between me and the students.”
Prof Zafar Iqbal condemned the arrest of five alumni of SUST for allegedly sending money to the protesters. He also demanded that the cases filed against students be withdrawn immediately.
“My students have been detained for helping the movement with money. They have been kept in custody at the moment. Already you have assaulted the students and done great damage. Please do not do it again and refrain from harassing them too.”
“Police have filed a case against them and they will be produced in a court. I have got an assurance that they will be out after getting bail,” he added.
Yasmeen said, “There had been incidents of barbaric police attacks. I was hurt in this incident. I don’t know when I will be able to get over it.”
He told the students: “Don't be like that, many of you will be teachers.”
After that, the university campus started to be empty from 1:00pm. No programme of the agitating students was seen at 3:00pm.
A few volunteers were seen arranging the bed sheets of the hunger strikers in front of the vice-chancellor’s residence. There are only a handful of journalists on the campus, and no one but a few scattered. There is no way to understand the silence was turbulent a few hours ago.
Later, hunger strikers went to hospital for treatment and some went to their home. They will receive treatment from home.
A protestor said the movement will continue even the hunger strike is broken. Everyone will gather at the university’s Gol Chattar at around 6:00pm.
Earlier, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Tuesday arrested the five former students for sending money to the protesting students.
The former students are Habibur Rahman Swapan, Reza Noor Moin Deep, Nazmus Shakib Dwip, AKM Maruf Hossain and Faisal Ahmed.
The detainees later were handed over to the Sylhet Metropolitan Police (SMP).
A case was filed against them on Tuesday night at the Jalalabad police station, said Nazmul Huda Khan, the officer-in-charge (OC).
SMP Commissioner Md Nisharul Arif said they were being interrogated about funding the student movement.
Asked whether financing a movement is a crime, Nisharul Arif said, “We will look into it if there is an inside story. If the financing is meant for destabilising the situation, then it certainly is a crime.”
A Sylhet court on Wednesday granted bail to the five former students of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST).
Court sources said the accused were brought to the court at 6.20pm. Later, their bail hearing was held in the judge’s private room.
Meanwhile, police will launch an investigation and take necessary action if it finds the liability of the agency over the unrest on the SUST campus.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) (Media) of Police Headquarters Haider Ali Khan made the remarks in response to a query from reporters after the fourth day session of Police Week-2022 at Rajarbagh Police Lines on Wednesday.
SUST students had been protesting since January 13 to realise their three-point demands, including resignation of Begum Sirajunnesa Chowdhury Hall provost Zafrin Ahmed after the provost allegedly misbehaved with a resident.
Three days after their three-point, including the resignation of a hall provost, were not met, the demonstrators confined the vice-chancellor to the MA Wazed Miah IICT building on Sunday.
To free the VC, police charged batons, fired sound grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the students on Sunday. Students reacted by throwing brick chips at the law enforcers.
Following this, the authorities declared the university closed on the night and asked the students to vacate the residential halls. But the students defied the order and launched their one-point movement, demanding the VC’s resignation.
Later, the hunger strike was launched on January 19 by 24 students and later one of them had to leave due to family obligations. On January 22, five more students joined their fellows in the hunger strike.