Hiren Pandit: The history of Dhaka University is not only the history of an educational institution but also the history of overcoming all the adversities of the people of a city and gradually straightening out, socio-economic, cultural history and political evolution and the rise of this backward city. Dhaka University has made the greatest contribution to the development of national art, literature, and culture. The glorious role of the students and teachers of this university in the rise of Bangladesh from the language movement of this university was incomparable.
We have a deep and close relationship with Dhaka University. The history of the development of the Bengali nation and the birth of the state of Bangladesh is closely associated with Dhaka University, the heart of the country’s freethinking. The teachers and students of this university have led the struggle for the dignity of the mother tongue and drenched streets with blood from their hearts; they jumped into struggles for freedom and liberation with infinite courage; they have always been active in all intellectual and democratic movements for the politico-economic and cultural liberation of the beloved motherland. Therefore, Dhaka University is shining in its glory as of the main institution that nurtures all the cultural, social, and political traditions of the country. This is the uniqueness of Dhaka University.
The journey of Dhaka University started on July 1, 1921 with a limited number of teachers and students. The first Chancellor of Dhaka University was the then Provincial Governor Alexander George Robert Buer. The first vice-chancellor was P. J. Hartog. He was the Registrar of the University of London for seventeen years. The establishment of DU was essential to maintain the progress made in the higher education of the people of East Bengal. It was because of this university that the students of East Bengal later got the opportunity of modern education and with the help of this modern education they also got the opportunity to enter the government service. It not only helped to improve the economy but also created an educated middle class.
After the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was admitted to the Law Department of Dhaka University in 1947. He lived in Mughaltuli. However, he was an attached student of Sir Salimullah Muslim (SM) Hall of the University. Bangabandhu wrote in his unfinished autobiography, ‘I came to Dhaka, admitted to the university, to study law and I bought some books. ‘
Bangabandhu was the soul of this university. Bangabandhu was equal not only for the students but also for the staff of this university. His role in the movement of the fourth-class employees of Dhaka University in March 1948 for fair demands was also unique. When the employees went on strike demanding an increase in salaries and allowances, the BCL stood by them in solidarity. Bangabandhu was then the lifeblood of the Chhatra League. In this incident, 27 student leaders became the victims of the anger of the university authorities. Bangabandhu was also one of those 27 people. The university demanded each of them would have to pay a fine of Tk 15. Bangabandhu is not a person to pay fines for supporting a just movement. As per the request of the authorities, if apology was sought, the punishment would be commuted. Bangabandhu did not do that either.
Dr. Moazzem Hossain was the Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University at that time. Bangabandhu took everyone to the VC’s residence. He was continuing the movement. However, the police arrested all the protesters and sent them to Dhaka Central Jail. This time there is an opportunity to be released by signing a bond. All the convicts were released by signing bonds one by one. The only man who did not take this opportunity was Bangabandhu. As a result, on 26 March 1949, the university authorities expelled him as per the decision of the meeting of the Executive Council.
This expulsion was still in force almost forty years after the country became independent. It took four decades after the independence of the country to revoke the expulsion order issued against the architect of the state of Bangladesh. Finally, in 2010, it was decided to withdraw Bangabandhu’s expulsion order from Dhaka University. The decision to expel him was considered undemocratic and contrary to justice by the university authorities at a syndicate meeting on August 14 that year.
Dhaka University has taken the first institutional initiative for research on Bangabandhu. An independent research institute named ‘Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Research Institute for Peace and Liberty’ has been established in DU under the Dhaka University Order, 1973 with the addition of the 18th section of the Constitution. The first proposal to establish it was presented by Mr. Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Member of the Senate and Journalist Leader. Higher research and practice on Bangabandhu’s life, philosophy, and his unique contribution and leadership, Bangladesh’s great Liberation War, democracy, democratic movement and struggle and history, culture, language, literature, philosophy, archaeology, economics, politics, sociology, geography, music. The institute has plans to set up and maintain academic museums, laboratories, workshops for the development of education and research as well as conducting higher research in arts, law and other relevant subjects.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had innumerable thoughts about Dhaka University. In 1973, Dhaka University gained the status of an autonomous institution through Presidential Order No.11. Not only Bangabandhu; many other members of his family were associated with Dhaka University. Bangabandhu’s eldest son Sheikh Kamal was a student of the Department of Sociology at Dhaka University. His daughter-in-law Sultana Kamal was also a student of this university. The present Prime Minister Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina was also a student of the Bangla Department of this university.
Undoubtedly, Dhaka University has done a lot of good research, innovation, and creative and thoughtful work in the last one hundred years. In the birth centenary of the university, we have to carry the tradition of knowledge, research, political and cultural heritage to the new generation. In line with the progress of science and technology and the needs of the age, we have started thinking anew about our subjects, curriculum, teaching, research, and innovations. ‘Bangabandhu Overseas Scholarship’ has been introduced for the teachers of Dhaka University. Under this scholarship, our young teachers are getting opportunities for higher education and research in world-renowned universities. This is increasing the quality of research of Dhaka University and it will be useful for the development of the country. It is worth mentioning that to attract students to study and research at Dhaka University, an initiative has been taken to provide scholarships to ten foreign students under the ‘Bangabandhu Scholarship for Foreign Students from the year of Mujib (Mujib Birth Centenary). Hopefully, our Prime Minister, Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina, has a constant urge in this regard.
Dhaka University is now at the top in terms of many departments, students, and teachers. In that case, it is necessary to increase the dynamism of interest in studies. We hope that in this age of extreme excellence in the communication system, intelligent students and teachers will sharpen themselves with new knowledge and innovation, creative subjects. Inspire the new generation with the spirit of the Liberation War.
DU has been meeting the educational needs of middle and lower-middle-class students. This university has been serving the nation for a long time. DU admission tests are the most difficult in the country. DU has been able to gain the admiration of all since its inception. The quality of education in this university was world-class. Second, the students of this institution have played the most important role in the history of Bangladesh and no one can avoid it while talking about the glorious past of DU. Whenever we come across a discussion we always talk about the past. No one says how the university has to fight the demands of the twenty-first century. In the current context of globalization, how should DU students be prepared for nation-building? No one said how many graduates from this institution could successfully enter the corporate world or adapt to the new global context.
Some intellectuals criticized that Dhaka University has deviated from its educational goals. They claim that DU has been destroyed in the name of democracy. They claim that a lot has changed in the last 100 years. DU was supposed to be the source of a university and various research centers. They thought that there is no ‘academic discourse’ in Dhaka University now. However, they acknowledge that the university has played a historic role. This Dhaka University has played a very important role during the Pakistan period. Now it is time to find out why Dhaka University is not performing or is lagging behind other universities. The university is a place of learning and then a research centre. The authorities should pay more attention to the issue that their words cannot be blown away.
A large number of students are admitted to Dhaka University every year, as a result of which the students have to face problems like accommodation crisis. Apart from that, in the last decade, the students of the university have not had to face any kind of session jam which used to take 6-7 years for a 4–5-year course.
However, to retain the past heritage of Dhaka University and reach a stronger position by global standards, all teachers and students need to come forward from their respective positions, increase the participation of teachers and students in research and increase the budget in this sector. However, it can be emphasized from the natural features of Dhaka University that these problems will be overcome very soon and the university will be more consolidated.
In the digital age, modern computer lab with lift and internet has been connected in Dhaka University. The university is now at the forefront of the number of departments, students, and teachers. In that case, it is necessary to increase the dynamism of interest in studies. We hope that in this age of extreme excellence in the communication system, intelligent students and teachers will sharpen themselves with new knowledge and innovation, creative subjects. Inspire the new generation with the spirit of the liberation war.
In this age of globalization and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the University of Dhaka has been trying to move forward in anticipation of the challenges of the 21st century, considering the good and bad effects of science and technology, which makes us optimistic. It is our expectation from the University that it will develop meritorious students of the society as skilled human resources in the spirit of the Liberation War with a liberal, humane and scientific outlook.
Hiren Pandit is a Research Fellow, BNNRC