Arrests of alumni, suspension of mobile banking accounts, withdrawal of medical team and closure of on-campus eateries – these were the four major pressures the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) students faced on Tuesday, plus the hunger pangs.
More teachers, organisations and political leaders expressed solidarity with the pupils as their hunger strike seeking the removal of SUST Vice-Chancellor Prof Farid Uddin Ahmed continued for seven days.
SUST students on Tuesday night said their hunger strike will continue until the VC resigns.
They said they would observe a mass hunger strike if the VC does not step down immediately, threatening the movement in protest of police attacks to flare up further.
The protesters' spokesperson Mohaiminul Bashar Raj said, "We have been holding the hunger strike, which is the highest stage of any non-violent movement. All students of the university will join us to remove the VC if required."
Dozens of the protesting students have already been hospitalised, while Raj said, "Our lives are at stake now. Still the VC has not resigned. His chair [position] seems more valuable than our lives."
Detained SUST alumni handed over to Sylhet police
Five ex-SUST students, who were detained from Dhaka on Tuesday for donating to the protesters, were handed over to Sylhet Metropolitan Police in the afternoon.
They were being interrogated about funding the student movement, said Sylhet Metropolitan Police Commissioner Nisharul Arif.
The former students are Habibur Rahman Swapan, Reza Noor Moin Deep, Nazmus Shakib Dwip, AKM Maruf Hossain and Faisal Ahmed.
Habibur, Reza Noor and Nazmus Shakib graduated from the university in 2012.
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 case was filed against the alumni with Jalalabad Police Station on Tuesday night. Some 150 unidentified individuals have also been indicted in the case for destabilising law and order.
Medical team goes back
Medical volunteers of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College, who had been treating the students on hunger strike, returned to their college on Monday.
Ariful Islam, a spokesperson for the protesters, said on Tuesday afternoon, "They have not been providing any medical support to the students since Monday afternoon. The health of the protesters is failing and we are very concerned."
Nazmul Hasan, who had been leading the medical team, said they had stopped the service as some of the protesters and doctors had developed Covid symptoms.
"We will let you know our next course of action," he added.
Bank accounts suspended
The protesting students at an emergency press briefing on Monday night said a number of their mobile banking accounts have been blocked.
One of the protesters said, "The alumni used to send money to six mobile banking accounts. The accounts have not been working since Monday noon."
There were no official statements from the mobile banking service providers in this regard.
Students also said the on-campus eateries were shuttered on Monday, while the authorities had already ordered students to vacate the dorms weeks ago.
Teachers carry food to VC
Like Monday, a teachers' delegation came to meet the confined VC at his residence on the campus with food. But in the face of student protest, they had to return leaving the food at the gate.
Later, the students sent those to the VC by the police.
On 13 January, a group of SUST resident students began demonstrating, alleging that their provost, Zafrin Ahmed Liza, misbehaved with a student who called her to report bad food and other issues.
On 16 January, police charged batons, lobbed tear shell canisters, fired rubber bullets and threw stan grenades on the agitating students that left over 30 pupils injured. The police action turned the student protest into an-anti VC one as protesters went on a fast-unto-death programme.
Education Minister Dipu Moni spoke with a delegation of the protestors in a video call on Saturday night for almost an hour. The students said they would not break their fast until the VC resigns.
More voices added to anti-VC chorus
The Bangladesh Economic Association in a media release Tuesday expressed solidarity with SUST students and asked the VC to resign immediately to resolve the ongoing crisis.
Nine left-leaning organisations in a joint media statement Tuesday called for immediate removal of SUST VC Prof Farid.
Under the banner of Left Democratic Alliance, Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal, Communist League and Biplobi Communist Party held a programme in Dhaka Tuesday to express solidarity with SUST students. A number of political leaders there said the education ministry would be responsible if she fails to normalise the situation.
Gono Forum Presidium Member and Sylhet lawmaker Mokabbir Khan met the students on the campus Tuesday. In a separate development, Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain called for settling the SUST standoff through talks.