Quota reform leaders reeling under lawsuits
It is becoming increasingly difficult for quota reform leaders to attend court hearings every month as police are “dillydallying” the submission of probe reports in five cases filed against them over a year ago.
The cases have become a burden on the leaders, now on bail, as many of them need to travel to Dhaka from other districts to appear before courts.
Besides, exam dates of some leaders, students of Dhaka University, coincided with the dates of hearings, making it difficult for them to appear in the exams.
There is also that fear of being arrested again, anytime, if their bail gets scrapped at court.
Under such a situation, the leaders demand that police carry out proper investigations into the cases and submit the final reports to the courts.
Four cases were filed against some unnamed people during the quota reform movement in April last year. One of those was filed under article 57 of the ICT Act and the others over vandalising the residence of Dhaka University’s vice chancellor, obstructing public duty, damaging police vehicles and torching the motorbike of an officer of the Special Branch of police.
Rashed Khan, joint convener of Sadharan Chhatra Odhikar Songrokkhon Parishad, platform of quota reform activists, was accused in the case filed under the ICT Act in the same month.
Police arrested 11 quota reform leaders in phases in July after they announced fresh agitation programmes on June 30.
Most of the leaders were allegedly picked up by Chhatra League men before being handed over to the police. Later, they were shown arrested and remanded in the five cases.
All the cases, now under investigation by the Detective Branch of police, were filed with Shahbagh Police Station.
Over the last one year, police have sought many extensions of time for submitting the probe reports in the cases.
Take for example the case over the attack on the VC’s residence. Till date, a Dhaka court has granted police 11 extensions to submit the report. The next hearing in the case is slated for June 13.
Detective Branch’s Assistant Commissioner Fazlur Rahman, also the investigation officer of the case, said they needed more time to submit the probe report in the case.
“It is not an easy case. All the accused were unnamed. We have arrested seven people and the investigation is going on. Filing of the probe report will take time.”
Asked if they found any leader’s involvement in the incident, Fazlur said there were “links between the movement and the attack”.
He, however, did not elaborate on the links.
Rashed said four of the accused travel to Dhaka from Cox’s Bazar, Chattogram, Munshiganj and Gazipur spending Tk 2,000 to Tk 3,000 to attend court hearings which is a burden on them.
‘PLOY TO PUT PRESSURE’
The quota reform leaders said the authorities framed them in the cases just to put them under pressure.
“If police investigate the cases properly, they will not find our involvement in those incidents. We all were falsely implicated,” said Rashed.
Police in the remand prayer said Rashed was also involved in the attack on the VC’s residence, which was carried out with the help of a “quarter”.
The accused told The Daily Star that three police teams quizzed him in two phases during 15-day remand.
Rashed said investigators also asked him about the BNP’s alleged funding of Tk 125 crore in the movement. He told them that it was only a rumour.
About the attack on the VC’s residence, the quota reform movement leader said he took shelter inside the business faculty building on the night of April 8 after he was hit by rubber bullets.
But police in the remand prayer claimed that the attack was carried out according to his directives.
Another DU student Mashiur Rahman was sued for torching the motorbike of a policeman.
Mashiur said some BCL men picked him up from room no-238 of Surya Sen Hall on June 30 last year after he came back from his village home. They beat him up and handed him over to Shahbagh police.
Police later named him as an accused in the case, he added.
The quota movement leader said he was facing problems in appearing before the court as some exam dates coincided with the dates of hearings in courts.
“If I skip two consecutive hearings, I may be sent to jail again. I am under mental pressure,” he said.
In April last year, students of public and private universities took to the streets across the country demanding reforms in the quota system in government jobs.
The government later abolished the quota system for class-I and class-II jobs in the civil service.