Students seeking quota reforms in civil service have so far been at the receiving end of the wrath of Bangladesh Chhatra League. But yesterday, even teachers were not spared as they stood by their students.
Three teachers of Dhaka University were assaulted by some members of the pro-Awami League student organisation when they tried to save their students from attacks.
They are Prof Fahmidul Haq and Associate Professor Abdur Razzaque Khan of Mass Communication and Journalism and Associate Professor Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan of International Relations.
The three had joined demonstrations of students demanding a safe campus and immediate release of detained leaders of the quota reform movement.
The assaults sparked outrage on social media and condemnation from Ain o Salish Kendra, Gonoforum and Pahari Chhatra Parishad, among others.
The ASK demanded that the perpetrators be immediately brought to book and said, “The reckless behaviour of BCL, as revealed in the media, is highly unacceptable and condemnable.”
The incident occurred around 12:30pm in Shibbari area of the campus after teachers and students began a procession towards Raju Memorial Sculpture after forming a human chain at the Central Shaheed Minar.
The protesters on Saturday announced their plan to hold the human chain around 11:00am yesterday.
An hour before the programme, a group of BCL leaders and activists took position in the area.
They were led by Al Mamun, deputy liberation war affairs secretary of BCL central committee; Saif Babu, publication affairs secretary; Aminul Islam Bulbul, former organising secretary of Shaheed Sergeant Zahurul Huq Hall unit, and Mehedi Hasan Tapos, general secretary of Salimullah Muslim Hall unit, said witnesses including DU students.
Another group of BCL activists were seen holding a human chain in front of the DU law faculty, a few yards off the Shaheed Minar, protesting what they claimed was “attempts to create instability” on the campus, around 11:00am.
Among the BCL men, there were some students of Eden Mohila College and Badrunnesa College, said the witnesses. According to a second-year student of Eden, around 100 students came from these two institutions.
The two groups of BCL men jointly took position just opposite to around 500 students who were preparing to form a human chain at the Shaheed Minar under the banner of "General Students of Dhaka University” demanding release of detained quota reformists.
As soon as the human chain was formed, some BCL men started making speeches using loudspeakers, hurling abuse at the quota protesters and labelling the teachers who joined the programme as “Jamaat-Shibir men” and “anti-liberation force”.
The teachers tried to protest the behaviour of the BCL men but the activists became more aggressive in their language and threatened the demonstrators.
At one stage, the demonstrating students declared they would stage a sit-in. The BCL men came closer and intimidated the teachers as well as the students.
Postponing the sit-in, the demonstrators brought out a procession from the place around 12:30pm but as they reached near Shibbari, the BCL men all of a sudden swopped on them.
Being divided into small groups of five or six each, the BCL men were encircling the protesters one by one and started slapping, punching, dragging and stomping them before chasing them away.
The female students took shelter in the Bangabandhu Tower and nearby residential areas.
As the teachers tried to save the students, the BCL men assaulted three of them. They were assaulted again when journalists went there seeking their comments.
The journalists then managed to pacify the attackers.
A group of BCL leaders including Vice President of Salimullah Hall unit Mohammad Milon; DU unit Vice President Rumman Hossain; Tanbir Hasan Shaikat, member of central committee; Mehedi Hasan Taposh, general secretary of Salimullah unit; Rana Hamid, deputy planning affairs secretary of central committee, and Jahangir Alam, vice president of central unit, led the attack on the procession.
These BCL leaders were among those who launched attacks on the quota reformists on the DU campus between June 30 and July 2. Witnesses said they were “deployed” at different spots on and around the campus to stop the demonstrators yesterday.
The teachers then went back to the Shaheed Minar and Prof Fahmidul then contacted the DU proctor asking for help. But the proctor apparently blamed teachers for "creating instability", a video clip obtained by The Daily Star suggests.
After that, the two groups left the place.
"Here are two conflicting groups. You have sided with one group [protesters]. You went there but did not inform us. You only informed us when a trouble occurred. You will be responsible if the situation deteriorates. There will be no protest on the campus," reads Fahmidul Haq's Facebook post that quoted DU Proctor Prof AKM Golam Rabbani as saying in the phone conversation.
Asked about the incident, the proctor told journalists that a proctorial team on information rushed to the spot but no one came up to assist the team.
"Those who were involved in the chaos, even if he or she was a teacher, would be punished as per the university rules," the proctor said.
Later, five BCL activists allegedly followed Tanzimuddin to his house, threatened him, hurled abuse and took his photos.
"I was returning to my residence around 1:20pm after finishing the Shaheed Minar programme. Suddenly, I noticed that five people -- three on a motorcycle and two on foot -- were following me. I know they are involved in Chhatra League's politics. They also hurled abuse. But they refused to give their identity when I asked for,” the DU teacher told The Daily Star.
He held the university authorities responsible for such an incident.
Meanwhile, Awami League General Obaidul Quader said he does not know whether the activists of BCL carried out attacks on quota reformists.
"There is no Chhatra League committee now,” Quader said during a press conference at AL chief Sheikh Hasina's Dhanmondi office later in the day. “I will have to know who carried out the attacks in the name of Chhatra League.”
Regarding the recent arrests of quota reformists, Quader said police only arrested those who attacked the residence of Dhaka University vice chancellor.
Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, called upon the quota reformists to be patient and keep faith in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Contacted, BCL General Secretary SM Jakir Hossain denied his organisation's involvement in the attack. "If anyone had gone there, it's his or her personal decision. But I can assure you that no BCL leaders were present there.”