Protesters issue an eight-point charter of demands
Protesting against the death of a Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP) student in a road accident, the institution’s students on Tuesday led a daylong demonstration on Dhaka’s Pragati Sarani demanding safer roads amid a Traffic Week being observed by Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
The demonstration ended for the day at 6pm, but it will resume at the same place at 8am on Wednesday, said the protesters.
Around 7:15am Tuesday, Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury — an honours first year student of BUP’s International Relations Department — was run over and killed on the spot by a Suprovat Paribahan bus while crossing the road using zebra crossing in front of Jamuna Future Park at Kuril.
His death then sparked a massive protest by the students of his university. They were later joined by students of other educational institutions.
Although police impounded the bus and arrested its driver, the students later blockaded the busy road and demonstrated throughout day, demanding justice for Abrar and capital punishment for those responsible for the death.
The agitated students also vandalized several vehicles at the time.
On behalf of the protesters, BUP student Maisha Nur in the evening told reporters that their demonstrations will continue until their eight-point charter of demands were met.
She added that their demonstration would continue last year's road safety movement that started and spread across the country after two college students died under the wheels of a Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan bus on the capital’s Airport Road on July 29.
The incident had triggered protests across Dhaka, which later turned into a weeklong nationwide movement, by students demanding safer roads and seeking justice for the deceased students. Students across the country had also taken to streets to enforce the traffic law and rules.
“We have already placed an eight-point charter of demands to the authorities. We want the demands to be met immediately,” Maisha said.
Earlier, around 12:35 pm, a Suprovat Paribahan bus was also torched by unknown persons near the area where the students were demonstrating. However, the flames were doused by BUP students about 10 minutes later.
No further incidents of violence took place till the evening.
Then, around 1pm, Shamim Al Hasan, a fourth year student of BUP’s Law Department, read out their eight demands to the authorities from a written statement first at the scene of the protest.
Abrar was buried at Banani Graveyard on Tuesday afternoon by his family following funeral prayers.
Mayor Atiqul rejected
Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam went to the area to speak to the protesters around 10am.
Despite his requests and assurances, the protesters refused to move from the streets.
The demands they, however, placed with the mayor included the death penalty for the bus driver within 10 days, revocation of Suprovat Paribahan’s licence to operate, establishment of a bus stand, a government order requiring drivers to display their photographs and licence copies inside the bus, the installation of a footbridge at the Bashundhara Residential Area main gate and CCTV cameras to monitor traffic officers.
Atiqul sought time to consider the demands and support from all students, while urging them to cooperate with him.
He promised to discuss the matter with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and assured that legal action would be taken against the bus driver. "We will also form a committee which will include representatives of the students. Give me some time."
The mayor added: "No buses of Suprovat Paribahan will be allowed to operate. We will make sure the owners of the buses are also brought to book.”
He also pledged to build a foot overbridge named after Abrar in front of Jamuna Future Park within two months.
Nur extends support
Meanwhile, quota reform movement leader and Dhaka University Central Students’ Union Vice-President-elect Nurul Haque Nur extended support to the students demonstrating in demand of safer roads.
He went to meet the students protesting on Pragati Sarani and expressed solidarity with them on Tuesday afternoon.
“Dhaka University students fully support this movement for safer roads. This movement will never be stifled,” Nur said.
“If you all need any kind of assistance, let us know. We will try our best to help,” he told the students.