From the eye of the storm
The Daily Star spoke to some witnesses who were present in or near some of the universities which saw intense violence yesterday. We could not independently verify each of the statements, but the majority of the accounts published here have been corroborated with multiple eye-witnesses. We chose to withhold their identities so that their safety is not compromised. Here is what they had to say:
Around 10:00am, a group of people aged 25 and above stopped East West University (EWU) students from entering Aftabnagar using the main gate. We tried to get in via Banasree. We went to police to ask why we could not get into the university as final exams were going on; they could not provide an answer.
At 11:10am, we started protesting, asking why students should face difficulty getting into the campus. At 12:30pm, police started firing tear shells on us and some 25-35 men started attacking the students. At that time the university authorities opened the gates and let the students in.
A little later, goons kept trying to get into the campus and started hitting the main gate to break it. Some students tried to get back at them by throwing bricks. Police fired tear shells from outside into the campus.
By around 1:15pm, four students were seriously injured. We tried to get an ambulance but failed. The university authorities did not provide any transport. Then we arranged three cars -- one belonging to a student and two faculty members. Some of us saw BCL men attack them at the Aftabnagar gate. Police were standing on the footpath, just looking. From the second car, the attackers dragged the students out along with the wounded and beat them up.
The students were first taken to Banasree Farazi Hospital and they did give first aid but would not admit them. They went to a few other hospitals but the authorities there would not admit them either. They finally managed to admit the wounded to a hospital.
At one point, students brought in an injured BCL man for medical attention. Although a couple of students shared their discomfort, most students agreed to help him.
Our backs were pushed against the wall. What can we do? Where can we go? It was a do or die situation for us.
After assurance from the VC, students left the campus to go home but we were harassed on the roads by both police and BCL thugs. Some of the goons sneered, “Ekhon bujhchhish Chhatra League ki?” [Do you understand now what Chhatra League is?]
Former NSU student who works nearby
When North South University (NSU) students heard about the attack at EWU, they were planning to march towards the university. At around 12:15pm, 60-70 policemen entered Bashundhara through the main gate. They took position in front of the Grameenphone office. Once the NSU students began their procession and peaceful protest, police began shooting rubber bullets and throwing tear shells. It was like something out of a movie! Police would not stop shooting and students would not back down! Students were moving forward and eventually drove the police away through the gate. Within 20-25 minutes, police entered the area again. They were firing rubber bullets on students, and the students attacked them with rocks in return. We tried sheltering as many students as we could.
We saw on Facebook what was happening at EWU. Around 1:30pm, we saw videos of police in riot gear taking position in Bashundhara. I ran up to the roof of the SAC building to get a better view; smell of tear gas was coming from IUB's direction.
Ran down to the 8th floor auditorium, where I had a better look at North South's Gate no. 8. Lots of students were gathered behind the gate. The security personnel at NSU urged them to push back inside the campus and away from the gate.
Students gathered in front of NSU Gate 1 with sticks to protect themselves, and brought out a procession towards the Bashundhara main gate. They were fired upon with rubber bullets by cops in riot gear and tear shells were thrown from around Jamuna Future Park entrance.
Many students were injured. One student was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet. This happened around 2:15pm. Once the cops started firing at them, students retreated back into the road in front of Baba Rafi restaurant, taking those who are injured to the NSU medical centre.
The shelling continued intermittently, and police began advancing further, closing in on NSU.
I visited the medical centre at NSU around 3:10pm, and saw a few students receiving treatment. Some of the wounded had been hit by shotgun pellets -- not fatal, but more serious than rubber bullets.
At about 3:30pm, cops advanced all the way up to NSU's Gate 1. A few tear shells were thrown inside the campus from Gate 1 on the students, who had gathered behind the gate. Students scrambled inside.
At 4:17pm, clashes were still on.
North South University gates were closed once the attacks started. However, lots of students were badly injured. Eventually, the gates were opened for all students -- not only from NSU but also other universities. NSU also made their medical services accessible to all students for first aid and medical care. They also announced a need for volunteers at the NSU medical centre with first aid knowledge. There were many injured students and the medical team was unable to tend to all.
Apollo Hospital personnel
At least 25 students were admitted to Apollo Hospital with minor injuries. However, serious cases were coming in. Many students were unconscious and bleeding badly. Students from NSU, IUB and AIUB were coming in university microbuses and other vehicles. The IUB VC announced that the university will take care of the medical expenses of its injured students.
MBA student, NSU
I was heading towards NSU from Bashundhara gate when I saw BCL thugs beating students. Police were stopping everyone from entering the area. I said I worked in Bashundhara, so they let me in. Inside, I saw several bikes on the streets, and a group of 80-90 BCL men leaving Bashundhara area. Jamuna Future Park main gate was crowded by police. They were not allowing anyone to record videos. People who were recording had their phones seized. I was asked to stop filming and threatened with arrest.
Some 20 students hid in the garage of an apartment near GP House. Police suspected students might be there so they threw tear shells in the garage. A few of us were injured. We escaped and ran towards a friend's house nearby. We are receiving food and first aid while stuck on the rooftop of that apartment building.
The university authorities asked us to leave around 5:00pm, saying they didn't want to take the risk and could not take responsibility of protecting us. We left and went towards Bishwa Road. My friend and I made sure that our female friends got on rickshaws. Right afterwards, we were stopped by some men. They asked for my phone and found photos. They checked what I had shared on social media.
They called others, around 20-25 men, who were standing nearby saying “Arekta paisi” (found another one). I don't know what the reply was, but I was told to leave. I just started walking.
Faculty member, BRACU
I started getting calls from the students at around 10:00am, and decided to go in. Some of my colleagues were also concerned about the students' safety, and went inside.
Police were in position in and around the BRAC University (BRACU) campus, and outsiders had encircled the main building. It was under siege till around 3:00pm. In the afternoon, police entered the main building. There was skirmish outside, but I did not hear any gun shots. Students who got out of the building were not allowed to come in. They were evacuated around 4:00pm.
We were planning to go towards EWU. Police noticed the gathering and entered the campus to give instructions not to create groups. Students still gathered and kept on preparing to head towards EWU. Around 1:00pm more policemen joined and formed a line in front of the campus.
The university authorities took all the students inside the campus and shut the main door. Few police officers came inside and talked to the faculty members.
We went there for the protests, but police and BCL men kept us inside the campus.The BCL men were carrying machetes, sticks and rods. They also entered the cafeteria to talk to the students and told them not to join protests.
Eventually around 2:00pm, students were let out in groups of two so that they could not form large groups. The BCL members warned students to not go to the streets and join EWU students. However, some students headed towards EWU.
Around 1:30pm, students tried to go to EWU after hearing of attacks on students there. Midway at Hatirjheel-Begunbari road, we were attacked by police and thugs. Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST) gates were locked. Police took over the canteen. We found at least 20 students who were injured.