The protesting students of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) on Sunday rejected Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni’s appeal to end hunger strike and they announced a mass hunger strike, expressing firm determination to continue until Vice-Chancellor Prof Farid Uddin Ahmed steps down.
However, Dipu Moni, who was scheduled to hold a virtual meeting with the protesting students for the third time by Sunday afternoon, did not contact them till filing of this report at 6pm.
On the other hand, on Sunday four more students joined the hunger strike. And the hunger strike entered the fifth day on Sunday.
At least eighteen students now on a fast-unto-death strike demanding resignation of the university’s Vice-Chancellor have been hospitalised so far after falling ill seriously.
The protesting students, especially those who are on hunger strike have already passed 96 hours under the open sky amid biting cold without having food and water.
The students are being given intravenous rehydration and nutrition supplements.
Mustafizur Rahman, an intern doctor of a team of physician of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital told reporters on the spot on Sunday that the health condition of the students now on hunger strike has deteriorated further.
“We are gravely concerned about their health condition, as their medical condition is deteriorating fast. Some eighteen students have already been hospitalised. And they can gradually go to the state of coma,” the intern physician said.
Meanwhile, a group of teachers under the banner of “Imbued with the spirit of the Liberation War Parishad” of the university in a statement on Sunday expressed grave concern over the ongoing crisis of campus.
The statement signed by Professor Dr Mohammed Mastabur Rahman asked the university authorities to explain the police action on students and current situation and make it public within 24 hours.
Besides, the persons responsible for difficult situation and incident as well must resign immediately, the statement read.
“Our dear students’ lives are in danger. We are trying to overcome the ongoing situation in many ways. But we are notifying that the responsible persons of the university have not explained the incident of police action on our students officially yet,” the statement read.
At one stage on Sunday, the agitated students cut the electricity connection of the SUST VC’s residence.
Earlier on Saturday night, Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni urged the students to call off the hunger strike and resolve the crisis through discussion.
But the students told that they don't want to talk, it is not acceptable as discussion can resolve all the problems.
As 24 students continued hunger strike demanding the Vice-Chancellor's resignation, the education minister started discussion to resolve the issue.
The meeting ended an hour later without a decision since the students refused to break their hunger strike in response to the minister's call, and no decision on the Vice Chancellor’s resignation.
After the meeting, a spokesperson for the protesters told the press that the education minister said the matter would take time to resolve and urged students to end their hunger strike.
However, the education minister did not comment on the resignation of Vice-Chancellor Prof Farid Uddin Ahmed, he said.
She urged all to make scope for teachers so that they could reach the students who are on hunger strike on the university campus and see their (students) conditions.
She said if the teachers can reach the students then they will be able to know what they want to say.
She said that the students had earlier agreed to have discussion with much enthusiasm but later they showed unwillingness.
They again on Saturday urged the President to remove the Vice-Chancellor for the sake of the university, the students and their rights, and only then will the hunger strike and the protest demonstrations end.
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 Wednesday as the Vice-Chancellor refused to resign.
But many students have not left the campus yet, staging demonstrations, taking out processions while 27 have been on hunger strike demanding the Vice-Chancellor resignation.
The education minister, university teachers and local Awami League leaders continued trying their level best to solve the crisis.
But they have failed to convince the students as they have 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 over the current crisis at SUST.
They also urged the government to take the issue seriously in order to put an end to the crisis.
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.