Iffat Ara Eva does not fit the usual profile of demonstrators taking to the streets, and nor had she done that before. That, however, changed yesterday as the development worker joined hundreds of students from schools, colleges and universities of Rajshahi at Shaheb Bazar Zero Point.
Iffat was a psychology student of Rajshahi University in the mid-1980s when she got married. Soon after celebrating the first wedding anniversary, her husband who was a banker died in a road accident at Sonargaon, Narayanganj.
“My life changed with that news 30 years ago,” Iffat told The Daily Star as she was sitting on the street holding a placard that read “We want justice”.
“I was at home with our two-month-old daughter. He was on a family trip with his parents. The news came in the morning,” Iffat recalled.
Six people, including her husband, died on the spot in that accident. Passengers had warned the driver repeatedly, but he was recklessly driving a bus overloaded with people and goods -- inside the vehicle and on its roof, she said.
Eight years later, she remarried but her husband could not tolerate her daughter from her previous marriage. She had a son from that marriage but eventually it ended in divorce.
“I raised my children as a single mother while working at NGOs,” she said.
“Whenever I hear of any death caused by a road accident, I can feel the pain of those who have lost a loved one. I cannot make anyone understand how bitter that pain is. My daughter never saw her father; she was deprived of his love,” Iffat told this correspondent.
“Most of the accidents happen because of drivers' negligence and the authorities continue to turn a blind eye to these tragedies,” she said.
On Wednesday night, she heard that some students were going to demonstrate in Rajshahi.
“I decided to join them as soon as I heard. If our sons and daughters can stand on the streets, why can't I? I am a mother,” said Iffat.
Like Iffat, Musarrat Bhuiyan was among a few other seniors who joined the student movement in Rajshahi. She lost her son in a road accident.
The students asked her to speak at their rally yesterday.
Musarrat, who is a receptionist at a city hospital, said, “Six years ago, a bus took the life of my son.”
She had adopted her nephew as her biological son died during birth. When the son passed SCC and wanted to study at Dhaka College, she took him to the capital for coaching.
“I was walking on a footpath in Farmgate area, holding my son's hand. Out of nowhere, a bus came and hit my son. It ran him over. The accident happened right before my eyes and that scene has been haunting me ever since,” Musarrat said.
“Every accident I hear or read about since then drives me mad. I decided to join this student movement because their demand for safe roads is the same as mine,” she said.