Protests rage on
In a dramatic turn of events, two factions of demonstrators, who had been demanding reforms in the civil service quota system, reunited yesterday and called for nationwide road blockade and strike at universities and colleges from today.
The blockade and strike will continue until their demands are met.
“We won't step aside from the movement until Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina comes up with a specific announcement to put an end to this," said Nurul Haque, joint convener of the Bangladesh Shadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad, while briefing the media at Dhaka University Library yesterday evening.
The parishad resumed its agitation yesterday after what it said were derogatory comments made by Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury and the government's reluctance to solve the matter before the budget.
The parishad had postponed its protest programmes on Monday. Even yesterday morning it asked all to refrain from protesting until May 7 or join the faction that continued to demonstrate. It, however, changed its mind in the afternoon.
The platform demanded Matia apologise in parliament for her comment made Monday night.
She had said, “Will the children and successors of those who risked their lives to fight for independence not get an opportunity? Will the children of Razakars get the chance? Will the quota for the freedom fighters be shrunk for them?”
The parishad also burnt her effigy yesterday on DU campus.
Nurul Haque announced that classes and exams in all universities and colleges would be boycotted until their five-point demand was met. Their demands include release of all protestors detained by police and free treatment for the students injured in Sunday night's clash.
A DMP high official however said all the detainees had been released on Monday.
In the latest development, President of Kabi Sufia Kamal Hall Chhatra League Iffat Jahan and a few of her associates beat up two students of the hall around 12:30am today for taking part in the quota-reform demonstrations.
The two are Morsheda Akhtar, a fourth-year student of botany department, and Mili, a second-year student of linguistics department, a witness told our DU correspondent.
There was blood in front of Iffat's room, the witness said, adding that Iffat beat them for joining the quota-reform movement.
Hearing about the incident, students of the hall involved in the agitation broke into Iffat's room and beat her up.
The students also confined 15 to 20 Chhatra League leaders and activists to a room of the hall and demanded the authorities expel them from the dormitory, said a house tutor seeking anonymity.
Around 2:00am, Bangladesh Chhatra League issued a press release stating that it expelled Iffat from the student body.
Earlier, around 5,000 students gathered near Raju Memorial Sculpture yesterday to demonstrate. They stayed there until 8:30pm.
Demonstration would continue nationwide from 10:00am today.
Rashed Khan, joint convener of the protestor's forum, said Matia's remarks were unacceptable.
“We are the children of Bangabandhu, not Razakars,” said Syed Zobayer Uddin, a representative of the protesters and a master's student at Dhaka University. “We have no faith in a government that takes a month's time [until May 7] and then labels us Razakars,” he added.
Jahangirnagar University and Chittagong University students have threatened to declare Matia persona non-grata on their campuses if she did not apologise.
The movement that saw the convergence of thousands of students was put on hold Monday after a meeting with the authorities. A faction of the demonstrators continued their protest.
After yesterday's declaration by the parishad, there were protest rallies and processions at different universities and colleges across the country condemning Matia.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith yesterday said the government would re-examine the quota system in civil service recruitments after the budget, in June.
Responding to Muhith's comment, the demonstrators questioned the willingness of the government to reform the system before May 7.
The faction that stayed on the streets continued the demonstration yesterday. Several hundred took position at the base of Raju Sculpture, next to the TSC and chanted slogans demanding government commitment to immediately reform the quota system.
They also demanded punishment of those who attacked the demonstrators on Sunday and withdrawal of additional police from DU campus.
Students of private universities in Dhaka also demonstrated for immediate reforms yesterday. Their protests clogged several streets causing city dwellers and commuters to suffer.
In Shukrabad, about 400 students of Daffodil University blocked Mirpur Road for hours.
Several hundred students of North South University and Independent University of Bangladesh blocked Pragati Sarani near the entrance to the Bashundhara Residential Area from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.
East West University students staged a sit-in at the Rampura Bridge in the morning, disrupting traffic for hours.
In Jahangirnagar University, around 300 students brought out a procession from the central library. All the academic activities were postponed as the protesters boycotted classes and tests.
Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal's JU unit expressed solidarity with the student's movement and condemned the police attack on JU students, said a press release.
In Rajshahi University, about 300 students led by several left-leaning student bodies demonstrated on campus for a few hours, reports our correspondent there. However, after the announcement by the parishad in Dhaka, 400 more joined them in the afternoon.
They alleged that Bangladesh Chhatra League activists were trying to intimidate them.
A few classes were held on campus yesterday.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan yesterday said footage of the attack and vandalism of the DU vice-chancellor's house have been scrutinised and a case would be filed against the attackers, reports UNB.
The detective branch along with other law enforcers are trying to identify the attackers. They are also trying to find out whether any political leaders are involved in the attack.
"We are trying to identify the perpetrators who were instigating the demonstrators by spreading fake news of a protester's death in police firing on Facebook," he said.
A case under the “Digital Security Act” would be filed against them, he added.
Terming the attack barbaric, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader while visiting the VC's ravaged home yesterday said the attackers would not be spared.
Bangladesh Chhatra League held a programme at Aporajeyo Bangla yesterday protesting the vandalism of the VC's residence.
The DU authorities yesterday formed a five-member committee to probe the attack on the VC's residence. The committee was given two weeks' time.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu urged the protestors to be patient and have faith in the prime minister. In a statement he asked them not to be swayed by rumours and misinformation.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) yesterday demanded the formation of a judicial committee, led by a Supreme Court judge, to investigate the attack on demonstrators on Sunday.
“We strongly condemned and protested the incident of attack and repression,” SCBA President Zainul Abedin said at a press conference at its auditorium.
“We feel that the ongoing movement of the students and job seekers for quota reforms in public service recruitment is reasonable. There is no alternative to talent for building the country in the true sense,” he said.
The movement turned violent on Sunday as police fired several hundred teargas shells and rubber bullets, used water cannons and charged truncheons to disperse the demonstrators who blocked the Shahbagh intersection for over five hours.
The clashes went on throughout the night.
Around 100 people were injured and many were detained by police.
DU VC Prof Akhtaruzzaman visited the injured protesters at Dhaka Medical College Hospital last night.