Faruk Hassan collapsed on the ground as punch after punch rained down on him. Now the attackers, led by Bangladesh Chhatra League men, were taking turn to stomp on him in front of the central Shaheed Minar.
A woman rushed to the scene to save Faruk, a master's student at Dhaka University. But the attackers showed no mercy, pushing and shoving the woman, as they continued stomping and kicking Faruk, also a leader of quota reform movement.
"How could they beat us in front of so many of you? Don't you have anything to say? Then what democracy we are living in where we don't have any freedom of expression? We have come here at a rightful demonstration.
“Did we commit any crime? How dare these hooligans get such impunity that they abduct people in broad day light?" asked Luthfunnahar Luma, a second-year student of Eden Mohila College.
She was crying, covering her face.
But it was only part of what happened at various universities for a third successive day yesterday. At least 13 people were injured in the BCL-led attack -- six at Dhaka University and seven at Rajshahi University -- in yesterday's attack.
Tarikul Islam Tarek, a RU student and a leader of the quota reform movement, had to be admitted to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital with serious injuries.
His cousin Jewel Mamun, himself a student of the university, told this newspaper quoting doctors that his right leg was fractured.
The attack and the inaction of police and the university administrations sparked heavy criticism.
In a statement, the Transparency International Bangladesh expressed grave concern and demanded exemplary punishment of the perpetrators.
TIB also urged the government to quickly implement Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's announcement regarding the quotas.
"Had necessary steps been taken after the PM's announcement regarding the quota reform, there would have been no need for a movement by the students," the statement reads.
It was around 10:45am. About 15 quota reformists gathered at the Shaheed Minar to form a human chain. Within moments, however, Chhatra League men pounced on them.
First, they snatched the banner and tore it down. Then they grabbed some of the protestors by their collars and started slapping, punching, dragging and stomping them before driving them out. They did not even spare female protestors. While one woman was pushed and shoved, another woman said she was kicked by the attackers.
Quota reformists blamed Chhatra League men for the attack and alleged police and the university authorities were playing a dubious role.
BCL men also allegedly picked up two quota reformists at Dhaka University and Jahangirnagar University, as if they are now an auxiliary force of law enforcement agencies.
At the Shaheed Minar, police were seen leaving the spot just before the attack.
Around 15 reformists led by Hasan Al Mamun, convener of Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad, and its Joint Convener Faruk Hassan went to the Shaheed Minar to form a prescheduled human chain.
But BCL men swooped on them, hitting indiscriminately anyone they could catch.
At least six protestors, including two women, were injured in the attack.
Some of the protestors managed to run away while two female protestors were seen crying helplessly.
“I was trying to run. Then I stopped. I didn't think they would assault any woman. But I was wrong. One of them kicked on my stomach,” said a DU student.
Witnesses said BI Badhon, president of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Hall unit of BCL, and Al Amin, general secretary of the unit, picked up Faruk from the spot.
General Secretary of Haji Muhammad Mohsin Hall BCL unit Mehedi Hasan Sunny, central BCL Secretary of School and Students' Affair Joynal Abedin, Human Resource Affairs Secretary Jahir Ahmed Khan, Publicity Secretary of central BCL Saif Babu, Al Amin and BI Badhon were among the attackers, witnesses said.
Of them, Sunny, Al Amin, Jahir were seen taking part in the attack on quota reformists on Saturday.
Talking to The Daily Star in the evening, Al Amin said, “We dropped him [Faruk] at Shahbagh Police Station.”
Abul Hasan, officer-in-charge of Shahbagh Police Station, declined to comment.
Hasan Al Mamun, a leader of the quota reform platform, said he did not know where Faruk was.
Contacted, BCL leader Mehedi Hasan said they dispersed the quota reformists as they were “hampering the peaceful environment” of the campus in the name of protest.
Luthfunnahar Luma of Eden College said they were being threatened via Facebook messenger for quite a while. “But now we are being threatened in public.”
She alleged that the attackers threatened that the male protestors will be abducted and the females will be raped.
BCL leaders and activists were seen staging showdown at different points of the campus, including central library premises, Madhur Canteen, Teachers-Student Centre and in front of the National Museum.
They took position at the places since morning to bar the protestors from staging any further protest.
Around 2:00pm, some 40 BCL leaders riding bikes went to the emergency unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital. They searched inside the hospital for a protestor, who was admitted there. They left the hospital as they could not find him.
Meanwhile, the students and teachers of English department of DU formed a human chain at the base of Aparajeyo Bangla protesting the attack on Nurul Haque Nur, a quota reform leader and a master's student of the department.
They alleged that some BCL men threatened them not to hold the programme.
“We want safe environment for all students regardless of their political and religious identity,” said Tasnim Mahbub, an associate professor.
POLICE LEFT AS BCL CAME
Three on-duty police members were seen leaving the Shaheed Minar after seeing the BCL men.
Asked why they were leaving, the cops said they would explain the matter later.
Sub-inspector Shahed, one of the trio, later told The Daily Star by phone, "Whenever any trouble occurs on the university campus, we normally inform the university authorities and our top officials.
"There are many restrictions for us inside the university campus…. I informed the university administration and high police officials about the incident."
Contacted, DU Proctor AKM Golam Rabbani told reporters after the incident that the proctorial body was not aware of the attack.
Asked in the evening again, he said, “I have heard about the incident but none of the protestors informed us. We would take action as per the university law if anyone files written complaints with the proctor's office.”
At least seven students were injured when 40-50 BCL men with bamboo sticks, iron rods and machetes attacked them near the main gate of the university yesterday afternoon.
Tarikul Islam Tarek, a leader of the quota reform movement, was admitted to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital with serious injuries after he was attacked.
Part of the assault was filmed by The Daily Star correspondent of the university and several other bystanders.
The clips, showing Tarek being chased, mercilessly beaten with bamboo sticks and kicked on his head, went viral on social media with people demanding justice and expressing shock.
Masud Monnaf, convener of the platform leading the quota reform movement at RU, said the attack was led, among others, by Faisal Ahmed Runu, general secretary of RU BCL.
He added that the quota reform activists had just started a procession near the main gate of the campus around 4:00pm when BCL men swooped on Tarek, also a master's student of the university.
BCL leader Faisal, however, said it was BCL that protested violence on campus. “In the name of quota reform, Chhatra Shibir and BNP men are leading this demonstration, creating violence on the campus. So we protested."
In a similar note, RU Proctor Lutfor Rahman said, "Some people, allegedly the activists of Chhatra Shibir, led a demonstration in the name of quota reform movement to create panic and violence on the campus. They chased and attacked Chhatra League men with bamboo sticks, leaving several injured.”
Quota reform movement leader Masud Monnaf told The Daily Star, "Our demonstration was peaceful. But they attacked us with weapons in the presence of Police. We are totally helpless."
Quota reform activists first attempted to stage a demonstration around 10:00am yesterday, but failed as BCL men took position on campus.
Most of the classes were suspended yesterday amid a tense situation on the campus.
BCL men snatched the national flag from quota reform activists and drove them away from the central library premises where the activists attempted to demonstrate in the morning, witnesses said, adding that the BCL men assaulted an organiser.
BCL activists also picked up Shakil Uzzaman, convener of the quota reformist platform in JU, from the central library and released him later.
Contacted, JU BCL leader Mamunur Rashid refuted the allegation, saying, “Some people were trying to create unrest on campus in the name of quota movement ahead of the national election. The BCL resisted the attempt.”
Assistant Proctor Ikhtiar Uddin said, “The BCL men told us they would talk with Shakil about the ongoing movement.”
Over 100 BCL leaders and activists gathered in front of the library and rode motorcycles on the campus in what appeared to be an attempt to keep quota reform activists from demonstrating.
In the evening, Jahangirnagar Sangskritik Jote and Progotisheed Chhatra Jote marched on the campus protesting the attacks.
Activists of quota reform movement failed to demonstrate on the campus yesterday.
At least 20 activists told The Daily Star that they were threatened by BCL leaders against demonstrating on campus.