Quota System Reform: Demo called off
12:00 AM, April 13, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:26 AM, April 13, 2018

Demo called off

Quota protesters hail PM's speech, demand gazette notification; DU VC's house attackers are professionals, police say

Hundreds of students brought out a joyous rally and paraded through the Dhaka university campus area after hearing the announcement of scrapping of quota privileges. The students had been demonstrating for a reform in the quota system in public service recruitments for the past four days

The demonstrations were called-off yesterday following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's announcement of scrapping of the quota.

Though that was not what they had demanded, they welcomed the PM's decision and placed several fresh demands including swift issue of a gazette on the PM's speech.

"The honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has accepted the sincere demands of the younger generation. We are postponing our protests until the notification is issued," said Hasan Al Mamun, convener of Bangladesh Shadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad.

At a press briefing at Raju Memorial sculpture near TSC at Dhaka University, he put forward the platform's other demands including unconditional release of all protesters imprisoned over the past few days, withdrawal of the cases filed against them and stopping harassment of the general students who took part in the movement.

"Any future harassment would be met with future protests," said Nurul Haque, joint convener of the parishad, at the briefing.

They also demanded payment of medical bills of protesters injured in violence.

"On behalf of all the students, we would like to present our Prime Minister with the title 'Mother of Education'," Nurul said.

On Wednesday night, the PM in parliament announced scrapping of the quota system, and asked students to end demonstrations over the demand for quota reforms and return to classes.

Following her announcement, the students said they took Wednesday night to discuss various aspects of the PM's speech before coming up with a decision yesterday.

Meanwhile, Senior Secretary of Public Administration Ministry Mozammel Haque Khan yesterday said that a gazette on the matter will be issued after receiving the Prime Minister's instruction.

"There is no hurry. No recruitment process will begin immediately," said the senior secretary while talking to reporters at the secretariat, reports UNB.

Responding to a question on whether the quota system would be reformed or repealed, the secretary said that it would be known after getting the order of the prime minister.

"People are coming up with different opinions and speculation which are creating confusion. This is not an easy task; rather [it is] complicated to some extent. However, everything will be clear after getting the PM's directive."

Cabinet Secretary Md Shafiul Alam said a committee would be formed to scrutinise the quota system. The next step would be taken according to the committee's recommendations.

Students of public universities and then the private universities across the country -- centrally led by Dhaka University -- took to the streets demanding reforms of the quota system in one of the most widespread protests in recent times.

The protesters blocked key points in the capital and also roads and highways elsewhere for the last four days, crippling the transport system.

However, the demos turned violent on Sunday night after police fired tear gas 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, leaving around 100 people injured.

Early Tuesday, the movement took an ugly turn after news that two students of Kabi Sufia Kamal Hall of Dhaka University were tortured by hall unit Chhatra League president Iffat Jahan Isha. Isha was also later assaulted for her actions on the same night.

The DU authority immediately suspended Iffat from the university. BCL also expelled her from their organisation.

The BCL yesterday also formed a four-member probe committee to investigate the "unwanted incident" at Kabi Sufia Kamal Hall. The committee was asked to submit its report within 24 hours.

However, in a statement, around a hundred former Chhatra League leaders protested and condemned the attack on Iffat Jahan Isha. They also demanded withdrawal of the expulsion order against Isha and immediate action against the attackers of VC's residence.

During the demonstrations, four cases were filed against a huge number of unidentified people on charges of vandalism and arson. The charges stemmed from the attack on the residence of DU Vice Chancellor Md Akhtaruzzaman. Other charges were related to obstruction of justice during the quota-reform demonstration in Dhaka.

Under the banner of the parishad, the students launched the movement on February 17 over their five-point demand, including reducing the quota privilege to 10 percent from 56. In the last two months, they held several protest programmes at Shahbagh and on the campus to press home their demands.

ATTACKERS ARE PROFESSIONALS

Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Akhtaruzzmaan yesterday said that the cases filed over vandalising his residence had no connection with the protest.

“The cases were filed against those who launched the attack with the intention of killing. We think that a university student cannot be involved in such [an] attack,” he said at his office.

He said the whole incident is now under supervision of law enforcing agencies and a university syndicate also formed a probe body to investigate the incident.

Replying to a question, he said he asked the law enforcers not to harass any protestor in this regard. 

Asaduzzaman Mia, commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, yesterday said those who vandalised and ransacked the DU VC's residence were professionals.

"The way the attack was carried out and how the attackers took away the CCTV box and hard disk, it seems to be the work of professionals. We have already appointed our senior officers to investigate the case,” he told reporters.

A group of youths had stormed the residence in the wee hours of Monday and smashed almost everything to bits. They torched two cars and vandalised two others.

"No one is above the law. The vandalism on DU campus and the attack on VC residence are unexpected and we are extremely saddened," he said, adding those involved in the incident will be tried.

Talking to The Daily Star, a number of top officials of DMP said they were actually depending on traditional investigation to track the accused as they could not gather any footage from the scene.

"We've already activated our source based intelligence to trace the offenders with top most priority as prime minister directed to ensure full-proof investigation,” an official said.

Although police have no CCTV footage from around the spot they are collecting the footage from the camera installed at Dhaka University campus and also from different media, said the officials.

They issued instructions to field-level investigators to not arrest or detain any suspects valid suspicion, they added.

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