Stereotyping spree

Shagufta Tasnim Nur writes how in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in the country, many have started generalising students, especially from North South University

The youth of our nation is in danger. It does not come as a real surprise; they were in danger of drugs, assault, rape and the lot, they still are. But now the situation grows more morbid- it has come to light that they are also in danger because they are deemed dangerous for their own society. The attack earlier this month, in the diplomatic zone of Gulshan, brought forth the incredulous possibility of our youth being derailed to a point where they get involved in heinous carnage. This recent massacring of lives of people from diverse backgrounds has resulted into the young populace being looked upon reproachfully, even accusingly. Moreover, some of them have been labelled in worse ways than most. Some are being labelled by their institutions just because its name came up into the limelight in recent times for bad news.
Some are also being labelled because they are from a certain medium of schooling, or by the area they live in. Suddenly, youngsters who happen to be just sharing these militant’s past academic association, but not their ideology by a mile, became tainted in the eyes of others. But it must be understood that not all these people are the harbinger nor the supporter of massacre in the face of anything, let alone religion. So, over-simplifying this situation and targeting one group of people will not help us make things better; rather contribute to make things far worse.
On July 1 many things changed; we no longer feel safe, we no longer seem to trust this city or its people, and our perceptions were flipped one-eighty degrees. The gruesome tragedy led us to mourn for the people who so unfairly lost their lives just for being in a place in the wrong time.
In the aftermath of the attack, every little detail of the militants involved in the attack is under scrutiny. We found out that the misguided youngsters have been missing from home for months and that authorities did not quite bat an eyelash till now. But most of all, the details of the militants’ past came forth. And in that it was ascertained that one of the attackers at Gulshan, and another attacker at the Sholakia Eidgah premises were students of one the most premium private universities of the country, North South University (NSU), and everyone did what they do best – they generalised.
It seems like every NSU student now needs to bear the stigma of being a part of that university; they are all being labelled as potential militants. They are all being painted by the same brush and being marked as potential threats when they themselves are utterly scarred by how normal kids supposedly like themselves could end up like those militants.
However, one must also note that a few students of the same university had been involved with the killing of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider Shovon in 2013, and one also cannot help but wonder what measures the university authorities had taken to analyse the risks, or such a phenomenon. Besides, after the Holey Artisan attack, a professor of the same university has been arrested as authorities investigate the case. However, that does not undermine the fact that the pool of militants is too diverse for singling out just one institute and its students for suspicion. The assailants came from vastly different backgrounds, including people from private universities and public alike, from English and Bengali medium backgrounds, from posh urban to rural areas; it seems that no stone has been left unturned while recruiting these attackers.
University Grants Commission (UGC) inquired trying to answer why students of NSU have been found to be involved in terrorism. Although it is the right course of action, investigation highlighting only this one organisation is unfair and insufficient. UGC’s chairman, Professor Abdul Mannan emphasised on this matter by stating how it is misleading to single out certain universities as the sole source of militants. If investigations are for the exact purpose of identifying and solving the puzzle of youth recruitment into terrorism, these should be a commonplace agenda for all the institutions responsible for rearing youngsters from various backgrounds.
When this catastrophe should alert us of how every youngster is impressionable and we should strive to prevent students from being misled, some of us are busy pointing out how one group is and has always been the rotten one in the bunch. Our society has become segmented into several niches, each defending its values and identities while reprimanding that of others. Thus, a wide range of young people with the aptitude and will to build the future of our society and nation are being confided within walls of vicarious guilt and prejudice that they did nothing to bring onto themselves. This creates an insecurity which will exacerbate the situation further.
Given the circumstances, it is obvious that we must be careful. We need to keep our eyes open for those who are troubled and susceptible to influence. We must help those that we think can be misguided. But we must not be prejudiced in deciding and identifying who those people might be. That will create more turmoil, which will divide us as a community in a time when we must all be a collective force, it is time that we do not turn against one another, egging each other on. This includes normal citizens generalising on rich/poor, stereotyping of private/public university students and also politicians from the ruling party blaming this calamity on that of the opposition’s and vice versa. All this needs to stop, because it is not helping us make our youth empowered and guided to the better path, which is what might be lacking in the first place.
– Shagufta Tasnim Nur is a business undergrad student at the Institute of Business Administration and enjoys writing short fiction.