“I am suffering, of course. But the student protest is logical. Suppose, I'm standing by the road; now what if a bus runs over me?”
said Md Ainuddin, who came to Birdem hospital at Shahbagh from Rajbari for treatment.
Student protests spread like wildfire across the capital and elsewhere in the country yesterday, with the demonstrators vowing to remain on the streets until their demands for road safety are met.
Angered by police beating on the previous day, thousands of students in uniforms and schoolbags on their back poured onto the streets of Dhaka and blocked various streets, halting traffic.
On Tuesday, police beat up dozens of agitating students, injuring at least 20.
All educational institutions in the country will remain shut today for “students' safety,” Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid told The Daily Star.
A number of educational institutions in the capital were closed yesterday, the fourth day of the protest that began after two college students were killed in a road crash near the airport on Sunday.
Some 70 vehicles were vandalised during the protest at Shanir Akhra, Mirpur and Uttara, according to witnesses and our correspondents.
Venting their anger and frustration through fiery slogans and creative and thought-provoking placards, many students took matters into their own hands to restore order on the otherwise disorderly road.
For a day, they assumed the role of traffic police, checking documents of almost all modes of transports in presence of police. They took away the keys from those who failed to show their licence.
Despite their sufferings on the road, many commuters expressed solidarity with the protest because of their pent-up grievances for years over the anarchy in the public transport system.
“I am suffering, of course. But the student protest is logical. Suppose, I'm standing by the road; now what if a bus runs over me?” said Md Ainuddin, who came to Birdem hospital at Shahbagh from Rajbari for treatment.
At Shahbagh, students burned an effigy of Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan for his remarks about the accident that left two students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College dead and at least nine others wounded.
Dia Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib were killed on the spot when a Jabal-e-Noor bus ploughed through a crowd while competing with another bus of the same company. It was later revealed that a third bus was also involved in the race.
Bus owner Shahadat Hossain was arrested yesterday. Earlier, Rab arrested all the tree drivers and two of their assistants.
'ARREST ME…I WANT JUSTICE'
To press home their demands, students took to the streets at Farmgate, Bangla Motor, Karwan Bazar, Shahbagh, Panthapath, Science Laboratory intersection, Mirpur-1, Mirpur-10, Mirpur-13, Kakrail, Motijheel, Rampura, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Shyamoli and airport intersection in the morning amid huge presence of law enforcers.
Traffic returned to normalcy after the students left the streets around 4:00pm.
The students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College blocked the Airport Road from 11:45am till 4:00pm.
No public bus was seen plying the road during the time. The demonstrators allowed private cars, CNG-run three wheelers and motorbikes upon checking their licences. Vehicles carrying hajj pilgrims and ambulance were also allowed to pass through.
Shahbagh saw some of the fiercest protests around noon.
Earlier at about 11:00am, some 1,500 students from Dhaka College, Dhaka City College and Dhanmondi Ideal College blocked the Science Laboratory intersection.
Some of their placards read: “Hang the killers, the demon must stop laughing,” “Arrest me, beat me…I want justice, I want safe road”; “My brother is in grave, why the killers are outside?”
They stopped vehicles and demanded licence from the drivers. They seized two human hauliers and asked the police to take action.
An hour later, they started marching towards Shahbagh where they found a police barricade in front of Aziz Super market. But they broke through the cordon and gathered at Shahbagh intersection around 12:20pm.
A group of Dhaka University students joined the protest and asked the protesters to take position in the middle and said they would shield them if any attack comes. They sat on the street, chanting slogans.
"We believe police will not attack us, because we are like their children,” a DU student said on loudspeaker.
When the effigy of Shajahan Khan was brought at Shahbagh around 1:00pm, the agitating students started throwing bottles and pulling it down on the street, they started stomping. They later burnt it.
"We have paralysed Dhaka city. If our demands are not met, we will paralyse the whole country,” warned a protester from City College.
The demonstrators there said they would not leave the street until their nine-point demands were met and warned that they could not be fooled by the government's false assurances, like it did in case of the quota reform movement.
In Mirpur, more than a thousand students, including female ones, from different educational institutions took to the streets and blocked Mirpur-10 roundabout and Mirpur-14 from 11:00am.
No policemen were seen there.
Around 12:30pm, a group of students from the demonstration started marching towards Mirpur-1. On their way, they vandalised at lease 50 vehicles, mostly buses.
Several hundred students of different schools, including Mohammadpur Government High School and Sher-e-Bangla Nagar Government Boys High School, blocked the Mirpur Road near Shyamoli and Aarong for about three hours, creating tailbacks on the road as well as on the adjacent Manik Mia Avenue, Asad Avenue and nearby allies.
As police tried to remove them, they brought out a procession and marched towards Asad Gate. Later, they joined students of Mohammadpur Residential Model School and College and St Joseph Higher Secondary School, who had been demonstrating in front of Aarong since noon.
Outside the capital, several hundred students of two public universities -- Jahangirnagar University and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology -- formed human chains and brought out processions in a show of solidarity with the agitating students.
In Mymensingh, students of different institutions brought out a procession at the Town Hall area around noon.
They vandalised at least 15 vehicles, said Mahmudul Islam, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Police Station.
Protests also took place in Narayanganj and Gazipur.
Besides, students of different schools and colleges staged demonstrations in College Gate area on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway demanding safe road.
In Chittagong, students of BAF Shaheen College, Government Haji Mohammad Mohsin College, Government City College and Dewanhaat City Corporation College formed a human chain and brought out processions in front of Chittagong Press Club.