Students demonstrating for the resignation of the vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University (BSMRSTU) in Gopalganj were attacked yesterday.
They alleged the attackers were goons hired by the VC, Prof Khondoker Md Nasiruddin, who wanted to quell the movement by intimidating them.
Wielding sticks, dozens of “outsiders” swooped on the students at four places when they were on their way to the campus from their homes in adjacent areas, the demonstrators alleged.
The attacks, between 10:30am and 1:00pm, left at least 20 students, including three university correspondents of different newspapers, injured. Many of them were being treated at Gopalganj Sadar Hospital, they said.
The incident triggered condemnation from teachers and journalists.
Assistant Proctor Humayun Kabir resigned in protest.
Since Thursday, several thousand students have been demonstrating for the VC’s removal, bringing allegations against him of sexual harassment, nepotism in recruiting teachers and other employees, and corruption in development projects, including the construction of the Shaheed Minar and Bangabandhu’s mural on the campus.
Some students are on an indefinite hunger strike to press home the same demand.
VC Nasiruddin had denied all the allegations while talking to The Daily Star earlier.
This newspaper tried to contact him several times yesterday for comments on the attacks, but there was no response.
Earlier in the day, the authorities suddenly declared a 10-day vacation ahead of Durga Puja and asked the students to vacate dormitories by 10:00am.
Durga Puja, the largest religious festival of the Hindus, would be celebrated in the first week of next month.
The demonstrators alleged that the authorities also severed power and water connections to the dormitories and shut the dining halls there, apparently to force the students to leave the campus.
They said the steps were aimed at “gagging the voice against corruption and irregularities that have plagued the university for long”.
The agitating students said the first attack was carried out around 10:30am yesterday near Gobra Madrasa when students, failing to get any transport, were walking to the campus.
More than 100 young men, many of whom were carrying sticks and sharp weapons, attacked the demonstrators, who included female students, they said.
To escape the attack, many students jumped into a waterbody in the area, said Sairul Islam, a third-year student of chemistry.
“A number of students were caught and beaten. Anyone found trying to capture the incident on their mobile phones were severely beaten up,” said an injured female student, wishing not to be named.
Protesters were also intercepted and beaten in Balurmath, Sobhan Road and Sonakur areas.
“I saw an attacker grabbing a female student by her hair and assaulting her. He was also scolding her for joining the protests,” said a student at the management department, who was attacked in Sobhan Road area.
The injured were rescued and taken to hospital by fellow students.
Defying the university order and despite the attacks, the students demonstrated in front of the VC’s office for the third straight day yesterday. They vowed not to leave until the VC steps down.
The movement was triggered by the university suspending Fatema Tuz Zinia, a student and also a campus reporter of English newspaper The Daily Sun, on September 10 over a Facebook post.
Talking to this daily, Humayun, a lecturer of the sociology department, said, “I resigned from the post of assistant proctor as I can’t be ethically holding the post anymore following attacks on my students.”
Yesterday, at least 10 teachers of the university went to the demonstrators and condemned the attacks. They expressed solidarity with their demand.
Gopalganj Chhatra League also condemned the attacks on general students and said it wanted the attackers punished.
In a press release, the BCL unit extended its support to the “logical” demand of the students.
Meanwhile, Rajshahi university correspondents of different dailies and television channels demonstrated on the campus, protesting yesterday’s attacks that left three journos at BSMRSTU injured.
In the capital, quota reform activists brought out a procession on the Dhaka University campus demanding that the VC Nasiruddin step down.
Speaking there, Nurul Haque Nur, quota reform leader and Vice-President of Dhaka University Central Students’ Union, said, “Students come under attack whenever they demonstrate for a logical demand. We demand the VC’s resignation.”