BCL in its element
For five long hours since 1:30pm, Dhanmondi Road-3 became a battlefield yesterday.
On one side of it were thousands of school and college students. On the other end, a small group of people, allegedly belonging to Chhatra League and other front organisations of the ruling Awami League. Both groups were armed with stones and sticks, chasing each other intermittently.
Rumours of deaths and sexual harassment of some protesters were rife, which further angered the students who dislodged the bamboo sticks fringing the road divider, gathered stones and shouted slogans.
Then came the attack.
-- 'BCL men', law enforcers clash with students
-- Several including students, journos hurt
A group of alleged BCL men with sticks came running down the long road, throwing stones. From the middle of the alleged BCL men, a red-shirted young man was brandishing a pistol. He had white helmet was on his head. Moments later, gunshots rang out loud. One, two, three… many more.
The students ran wildly. Stones started raining on them and a tall boy stumbled on the road. He was covering his eyes. A few students rushed to him and carried him to a rickshaw. The injured boy was crying, but also smiling at the same time.
“Don't worry about me. I will be okay. You people carry on or the Chhatra League men will overrun us,” the boy said. The students clapped hard and moments later, somebody shouted: “Let's charge. Come, come, come.”
The scene changed immediately. The students charged at their attackers, throwing stones. The helmeted attackers turned around and took off.
This is how the scene played out on Dhanmondi Road-3 yesterday since the alleged AL men attacked the students who were checking documents of vehicles at Jhigatola as part of their efforts to bring order in the city's chaotic streets. It was the seventh day of their protest demanding improved road safety.
The attackers also beat up anybody and everybody who were taking videos on their mobile phones. Eight or nine of them surrounded a lady doctor who was taking video and hit her in the head and leg. A university teacher shielded her and the doctor ran for life.
At least 150 people -- students, pedestrians, journalists and ruling party activists -- were wounded. About 20, mostly students and suspected “infiltrators” sustained serious injuries, including in their heads, according to witnesses and our correspondents.
At least six of the injured took treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, hospital sources said.
The alleged ruling party men beat up at least five students who were passing the area in school uniforms, demonstrators or not. They also beat up several others simply on suspicion that they were Shibir and Chhatra Dal activists.
The clash began around 1:30pm when a group of alleged BCL men attacked some students who were checking papers and licences of vehicles, leaving some students injured.
The students took their injured peers to nearby hospitals while some others informed their fellow students who were staging protest at Science Lab intersection.
Several hundred students, equipped with stones that they picked from an under-construction building, marched towards Jhigatola. The BCL men then chased the students who retaliated by throwing stones.
More students joined and, together, they chased the ruling party men up to their party chief Sheikh Hasina's political office at Dhanmondi-3. They threw stones at the party office, shattering glass of the building.
No law enforcers were seen for around an hour when chase and counter-chase were going on constantly. The “ruling party men” beat up several students finding them out from the alleys where they took cover.
Around 40 policemen with an Armoured Personnel Carrier rushed to the spot around 2:30pm. Together with the alleged ruling party men, the cops took part in chasing the students. As the media men thronged the spot within half an hour, police turned silent. The law enforcers were even more silent spectators when the “BCL men” were beating students and pedestrians and assaulting journalists.
Around 3:00pm, some BGB men came out of the Pilkhana gate and took position in the middle of the two fighting groups. They, however, left the place around 15 minutes later as stones continued raining down from both sides.
When the students regrouped and marched up to Jhigatola intersection around 2:30pm, seven to eight blank gunshots were fired while the alleged BCL men chased the students, two of our photographers heard.
Around 4:00pm, the students chased their attackers to Jhigatola intersection, but again they were chased back.
The chase and counter-chase continued, with the alleged ruling party men kept beating up people on suspicion till 6:00pm.
Then the ruling party men took five to six students inside the party office to show them that no one was confined there. Around 30 minutes later, they came out and briefed the students and the media near Shimanto Square (detailed story on page 3).
At the briefing, when a student demanded action against the BCL men for the attack, BCL's newly-picked General Secretary Golam Rabbani said they would push for a fair investigation into the incident.
Later in the evening, Dhanmondi-3 became a deserted place with marks of destruction as broken tree branches, brickbats and sticks lay on the street.
Anxious family members, relatives and friends were rushing to hospitals in search of their loved ones. Some injured protesters were going back home.
Around 8:30pm, the ruling party men brought out a rally, chanting slogans while some others were seen patrolling on bikes.
Onlookers were standing near the Awami League office. But anyone who took photos or videos were either threatened or beaten up.
Maruf Hossain Sarder, deputy commissioner of DMP (Ramna division), said they tried to control the situation with patience.
Students also came under attack by police and alleged ruling party men or faced obstructions in several other districts, including Chittagong, Feni and Manikganj.
PROTEST RAGES ON
Since morning, the students took position at various important points of the capital for the seventh consecutive day, demanding safe roads and justice for their two peers killed in a road crash in the capital on July 29.
After the weekend, the students poured onto the streets in their thousands. The demonstrators, mostly students in their mid-teens, chanted "We Want Justice" as they defied rain to take to the streets, bringing city traffic to a standstill.
They also controlled traffic, checked licences and fitness certificates as they have been doing for the past six days.
Ministers and top police officials have made repeated calls for the students to call off their protests that have near-paralysed the capital and have now spread outside the capital.
Like the previous days, no buses except a few government-run BRTC buses were seen on the streets.
More than a thousand students started gathering at Science Laboratory intersection around 10:00am. As the day wore on, more and more students from different educational institutions gathered.
Initially, they allowed vehicles to move, but as their number rose they stopped vehicular movement around 11:00am. Only ambulance and vehicles carrying women, children and students were allowed to pass.
An hour later, the students observed a minute's silence in memory of Dia Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib, whose death sparked the unprecedented movement. Then they sang national anthem. Many guardians also joined the protest.
"We shall not fail, as we came here with a legitimate demand," said one protestor.
A female student said, "We believe there will be change. And it seems we will make it happen."
Around 12:30pm, the students became furious seeing a security forces' vehicle. Some students were seen climbing up the vehicle and kept jumping on it. Smokes billowed out of the vehicle. Later, the driver showed his licence and other documents and left.
Earlier, the students stopped the vehicle of the Chief of Bangladesh Police Bureau of Investigation Banaj Kumar Majumdar at the intersection and found the licence of his driver expired.
They let the vehicle go after 20 minutes after a traffic police there lodged a case against the driver for violating traffic rules, Inspector Sher Ali said.
Around 1,000 students took position at the Aarong intersection on Manik Mia Avenue. They formed a human chain as they chanted slogans. Some of them were seen controlling traffic.
Several hundred students of different schools and colleges gathered at Farmgate intersection around 10:00am and made four lanes designated for four kinds of vehicles -- emergency, light vehicles, heavy vehicles and three wheelers -- in order to control the traffic.
The students were also seen checking driving licences of the vehicles plying Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue when the report was filed around 10:50am.
At Shahbagh intersection, around 1,000 students of different schools and colleges demonstrated for five hours, demanding resignation of Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan and capital punishment for the killers under the Speedy Trial Tribunal Act.
Later around 3:30pm, the students held a press conference at the intersection and announced that their protest would continue.
"We do not believe in assurances. We will not leave the streets until our demands are met. The government has only accepted our demands, but they are yet to implement those. We want implementation of our demands,” said Jobair Hossain Sajal, a student of Dhaka Udyan Government College.
In Mirpur, some 2,000 students took position at various points at Mirpur-1, Mirpur-2, Mirpur-10, Mirpur-13 and Shewrapara.
Around 11:30am, some 50 people, many of them wearing helmets, started chasing the students from Mirpur-2 and drove them towards Mirpur-1.
But those people took off as several hundred students from Mirpur-10 marched towards Mirpur-2 hearing the news.
Students also protested in Savar, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Narayanganj, Moulvibazar and Natore.