It has long been debated whether it is true that Dhaka University is the “Oxford of the East”.
Former education minister Nurul Islam Nahid once said “this is just a saying”. A few others also endorsed Nahid’s remark.
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Some academicians think the term “Oxford of the East” is used to glorify the successes in the university’s early days.
The Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings 2022, released last week, placed Dhaka University (DU) in the 801-1,000 bracket while the University of Oxford in the UK was in the second position among 1,300 universities.
With such a gulf between the two and with DU’s moniker in mind, a comparative analysis between the Oxford of the East and the University of Oxford in the UK can be revealing.
We can begin by discussing what the universities have been doing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In Bangladesh, the first cases of Covid-19 were detected on March 8 last year. As the situation kept deteriorating, authorities of the Oxford of the East announced an indefinite shutdown of the institution on April 9 last year. The dormitories have been closed since.
The shutdown is largely still in force, although the university did hold some examinations. But all other academic activities remain suspended.
The university’s state of lockdown is easily visible to anyone visiting the campus.
There is a gigantic archway that constructed by the Dhaka University Alumni Association at the university’s entrance at Nilkhet.
When the country enforced the lockdown, the authorities put bamboo fences across the archway to restrict entries of vehicles.
Over time, the government withdrew the lockdown, but the university has not removed the fences blocking traffic to the historic campus.
Not surprisingly, over time, temporary kitchen markets have sprouted there.
The DU authority also set up fences on Fuller Road, where there are living quarters of the teachers and officers.
Many people jokingly said that the DU authority is trying to prevent coronavirus with bamboo fences.
A few months ago, when the DU authorities decided to hold examinations without resuming classes, the fences were removed.
But then, the daily new cases of coronavirus skyrocketed and the bamboo fences reappeared.
Besides the fences, the authorities also took another “important” initiative: They banned the general public from the Teacher-Student Centre (TSC) on campus.
The university’s proctorial team used to patrol the TSC area and repeatedly asked “outsiders” through loud speakers to steer clear. Tea stalls and other temporary shops were also removed.
At that point, DU Proctor AKM Golam Rabbani tested positive for Covid-19.
Thus far, much of the coronavirus prevention measures of the Oxford of the East seemed to involve shutting down the institution, setting up bamboo fences and ousting tea stalls and vendors.
Dhaka University authorities started conducting Covid-19 tests at its laboratories on May 5 last year. But a few days later, testing was stopped with authorities saying the laboratory facility would be used for academic and research purposes.
“It’s a university; not a hospital,” Prof Akhtaruzzaman, vice-chancellor of the university, told The Daily Star on June 1 last year. “The lab apparatus we brought from our three departments need to be returned for their research purposes. The apparatus needs to be disinfected and reinstalled in their previous places. That’s why coronavirus samples will no longer be tested.”
The kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) were supposed to be provided by the health ministry, and the university was supposed to bear the other costs of testing.
The university authorities had then said they needed at least Tk 15 to 20 lakh a month to do the testing, that bearing the expenses was difficult and an added pressure on the institution.
After authorities of the Oxford of the East stopped coronavirus testing for the masses citing unavailability of funds, they announced they would start testing only for its teachers and students, fixing the testing charge at Tk 1,500.
The teachers availed the facilities, but the students did not.
We now come to the University of Oxford in the UK.
Coronavirus was first detected in the UK in January last year, around three months before the first case was detected in Bangladesh.
The University of Oxford launched a mobile app for instant contact tracing on March 17, the day all educational institutions in Bangladesh were shut down.
A day later, a release claimed the scientists of the University of Oxford unveiled rapid testing technology. Two days later, they disclosed the roadmap for easily settable ventilators.
Later, in phases, the University of Oxford conducted multiple researches on different aspects of Covid-19. These included research into which types of people would be massively infected, the practicable actions that could be taken by parents of isolated children, how lockdowns would be implemented, how the virus would affect pregnant women, and the mental health of infected people.
Most significantly, the University of Oxford signed a contract with AstraZeneca to develop a vaccine that got approval on December 30 last year.
While the University of Oxford in the UK was conducting such researches, the Oxford of the East was busy fencing up its streets to restrict movement of outsiders.
During this time, the Oxford of the East issued nine press releases.
One was a condolence message from the VC, two were about leave extensions and one about the decision to take Zoom classes.
Two other press releases were issued about the donation to the Prime Minister’s coronavirus fund (Tk 1.37 crore). Three other messages were on raising awareness of using face masks, telemedicine programmes and mental health assistance services over phone.
Let us now discuss the general heritage and impact of each institution within their respective environments.
The University of Oxford has around 14,000 researchers. It is roughly estimated that some 91 percent of its graduates get jobs within six months of completion of their studies.
About the Oxford of the East, we can recall a remark of Vice-chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzaman.
In a programme in January 2019, he said, “Our university has another pride. You cannot find a cup of tea along with a piece of chaap, shingara and samosa for only Tk 10 anywhere in the world. But it is available in our university. If the international community come to know of this, it could be placed in the Guinness Book of Records.”
Considering the divergent paths of each institution since the Oxford of the East opened its doors just under 100 years ago, the gulf between the two is much more than the 8,000 kilometres that separate them physically.
To paraphrase a famous poem, it seems never the two shall meet.
Police arrested five people, including a real-estate businessman and presidium member of the Jatiya Party, yesterday after film actor Pori Moni filed a case with Savar Police Station over their attempt to rape and murder her.
A team of detectives conducted a raid at a house in Uttara Sector-1 and made the arrest after Savar police sought help from Dhaka Metropolitan Police in this regard, said Harun or Rashid, joint commissioner (North) of Detective Branch of DMP.
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Two of the arrestees — Nasir, 65, the businessman and also a former president of Uttara Club Limited, and Tuhin Siddique Omi, a businessman — are the named accused in the case.
Police said the flat belonged to Omi and Nasir was in hiding there.
Talking to The Daily Star over telephone, Jatiya Party Chairman and deputy leader of the opposition GM Quader said they would expel Nasir U Mahmud from the party if he was found guilty.
Three young women, who are said to be members of a DJ group, were arrested along with yaba tablets, foreign liquor and beer from the flat, the official said.
“We will interrogate them. If needed, we will seek remand for them,” he told reporters, adding that a fresh case under the narcotics control act will be filed as drugs and alcohol were recovered during the raid.
DB official Harun claimed the accused used to stage parties at the Uttara house — from where they were arrested — and at different clubs, often exploiting young women.
Detectives came to know that those arrested, including Nasir, are involved in alcohol trading, the official claimed, adding that they will investigate the allegations.
Meanwhile, Dhaka Boat Club authorities yesterday expelled Nasir as a member [entertainment and cultural affairs] of the executive committee (EC) of the club. The decision was taken during a meeting presided over by club President and Inspector General of Police Benazir Ahmed.
The meeting also suspended the memberships of Omi and one Shah S Alam, said a Dhaka Boat Club press release.
The meeting decided to form a three-member inquiry committee and has been asked to submit the findings within 72 hours.
The EC members observed that Nasir was in violation of club rules in allowing guests inside the club premises after club hours, which is a major violation and goes against the norms of the social club.
Pori Moni, who joined the movie industry in 2015, has played the lead female role in over 20 movies. Forbes magazine last year named her as among the 100 Digital Stars of Asia.
The incident came to light after Pori Moni posted a status on her verified Facebook page on Sunday at 7:53pm, alleging attempted rape and murder.
The popular actress, whose real name is Shamsun Nahar Smriti, addressed the post to the prime minister, stating that she is seeking justice as a loyal citizen of the country.
She mentioned that she tried to contact Banani Police Station and even IGP Benazir Ahmed for help, but her efforts were in vain.
Later on Sunday night, she held a press conference and alleged that Nasir and Omi wanted to rape and murder her on June 9 midnight when they went to the Dhaka Boat Club in Birulia, Savar.
At the press conference, a teary-eyed Pori Moni described exactly what happened to her, giving details of the incident.
Sitting beside noted director Chayanika Chowdhury, she said Nasir and others ganged up on her at the club and forced her to drink alcohol by putting the neck of a bottle into her mouth, physically assaulted her and tried to rape her.
During the assault, Nasir addressed himself as a “friend” of IGP Benazir Ahmed, the president of Dhaka Boat Club.
Talking to the media, Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general (media) of the police headquarters, said, “She [Pori Moni] did not contact the IGP. It’s unclear why she named the IGP.”
In the case statement, Pori Moni alleged that Omi took them to the club tactfully when she along with her younger sister Boni, costume designer Jimmy and some other companions was heading towards Uttara from her Banani residence around 11:30pm.
When they reached the club around 12:20am, it was found to be closed. However, Omi had a conversation with someone over phone and made arrangements to open the entrance to the club, according to the case statement.
They entered the club and Boni went to the toilet next to the club’s bar. As soon as they left the toilet, Nasir appeared there, requested them to sit inside the bar for a while and offered liquor and coffee. When they refused, Nasir turned violent and forced Pori Moni to drink liquor. He also groped her, the case statement.
At one stage, she tried repeatedly to call the national emergency service at 999, but Nasir snatched her phone.
WHAT NASIR SAID
Speaking to reporters in Uttara during his arrest, Nasir claimed he was being framed. He admitted that he was present at the club that day.
“I’m a victim… What’s being said is completely false… They entered the club when I was leaving. A man was with them and all were drunk. They tried to forcibly take expensive alcohol from the bar,” he said.
Nasir said he was targeted as he prevented them from taking the alcohol because they were not members of the club.
Talking to reporters at her Banani residence last night, Pori Moni said she has now found some relief and confidence after the arrests.
She said she was told not to open up to the media about the incident.
“His [Nasir’s] men were conveying apologies and trying to convince me for the last four days not to speak up… I didn’t go there to get alcohol. But they opened my mouth forcefully to put the neck of the liquor bottle,” Pori Moni said about Nasir’s claim.
Pori Moni said she will fight till she gets justice in this case.
Nasir U Mahmud’s profile on his company’s website shows that he has been in the construction business for the last 37 years. He is currently the chairman of Kunjo Developers.
He was the president of Uttara Club for three years, and is a former executive member of Bangladesh Association of Construction Industry (BACI), former district chairman of Lions Clubs International, a former footballer who played in the Dhaka first division and former elected general secretary of SM Hall of Dhaka University.
On December 26, 2020, he became a Jatiya Party presidium member.