Eminent citizens yesterday called upon the government to make clear its position over the quota system in civil service, in the wake of repeated assault and arrest of quota reformists in the past few days.
They also demanded immediate legal actions against the policemen and BCL activists involved.
“If the government really had the goodwill, it would not have been possible for the administration, police and cadres of a certain student organisation to take on such a repressive role,” they said in a statement released at a discussion in the capital's Cirdap.
They also referred to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's April 11 announcement of scrapping of the quota system amid widespread demonstrations by the reformists.
“On the same day, she [the PM] spoke about forming a committee headed by the cabinet secretary to examine the issue and make recommendations…. But no gazette regarding this has been issued in three months.”
The demonstrators have taken to the streets again, but they are being attacked repeatedly, they said.
The discussants urged the authorities to stop detaining the demonstrators, accusing them in cases, and “torturing them on remand”.
Authorities of public universities should not to bring false allegations against their students, they added.
According to the statement, 13 quota reformists were picked up by police in the past few days. At least seven of them were sent to jail in four different cases while four others have been placed on remand.
Meanwhile, 62 Bangladeshi youths, studying overseas, released a statement calling for a rational solution to the stalemate and urged the government to ensure proper treatment of the injured quota reformists.
The students, mostly studying in the US, said the repression on quota reformists was creating a negative impression of Bangladesh and its universities abroad.
At yesterday's discussion, the participants said the quota reformists were arrested in different cases, including for vandalising the residence of Dhaka University vice-chancellor, setting fire to woods and bamboos of Mangal Shobhajatra ahead of Pahela Baishakh celebrations and blocking public transport.
They were also accused under the section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act.
The cases were filed at different times, accusing hundreds of unnamed persons, said lawyer Rafique Ahmed Siraji.
Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist Jyotirmoy Barua said that in a clear violation of the law, some quota reform activists were arrested in different cases although there was no specific complaint against them.
There are attempts to label the reformists as “enemy of the state” and the movement as anti-government, he said. “It is not understandable why.”
SC lawyer Sara Hossain said there could be debate and disagreement over the extent to which the quota system should be reformed, but there was no doubt that what was done to the reformists was unacceptable.
“The law has not been enforced equally during the movement,” she said.
Prof Amena Mohsin of Dhaka University said the state should feel proud of the demonstrators because so many of them are accepting torture because they want a job in the civil service.
Hafiz Uddin Khan, former adviser to a caretaker government, said there was no definitive answer from the government as to why it was opposing the quota reform movement.
“As a nation, we have forgotten to protest,” he said.
Reform to the quota system is now a popular demand, he added.
Saleha Begum, mother of reformist Rashed, who is now behind bars, urged the prime minister to release him.
Rights activist Khushi Kabir, SC lawyer Subrata Chowdhury and women rights activist Maleka Banu also spoke.