Noted rights activists yesterday demanded the release of 51 people who were arrested between March 25 and April 28 in connection with the movement against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh.
They demanded that these 51 activists and leaders of Bangladesh Student, Youth and Labour Rights Council be released before Eid-ul-Fitr.
Under the banner of civil society representatives, a sit-in programme was held at the base of Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka.
Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder and trustee, presided over the programme.
Eminent photographer and activist Shahidul Alam; Gonosamhati Andolon Chief Coordinator Zonayed Saki; Nagorik Oikya Convener Mahmudur Rahman Manna; Dhaka University law department Professor Asif Nazrul and DU statistics department professor Md Lutfor Rahman were present at the demonstration alongside family members of those arrested.
"Students were arrested as they raised their voice for the people's rights. It's not an offence. In the past, students have taught us how to raise our voice against oppression. We demand immediate release of the 51 arrested and withdrawal of the false cases against them," said Dr Zafrullah.
Former VP of DU Central Students' Union Nurul Haque Nur said, "We have already taken the decision that we will celebrate Eid Ul Fitr in front of Gono Bhaban if our colleagues aren't released before Eid."
Most of the arrested are students. Three are students of Dhaka University.
The activists met with Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Professor M Akhtaruzzaman afterwards and requested him to ask for bail for the arrested students as a guardian.
"As teachers and guardians, the students always have our sympathy. I am requesting the authorities concerned to not harass students unnecessarily. I also ask them to not frame them in false cases. Cases were not filed against students by the university authority. They were arrested by law enforcement agencies. So the legal procedure will go on. I have only that one request, otherwise there is nothing else to do about it," the VC said.