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Protests go nationwide, Dhaka sees violence

  • Published at 01:55 am August 3rd, 2018
File Photo: Protesting school students stage demonstrations near Science Lab intersection in Dhaka on Thursday Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina handed over saving certificates, worth Tk20 lakh each, to the bereaved families of Diya Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib, the Class XII students who were killed in a road accident in Dhaka on Sunday

The student demonstration for road safety and strict traffic law implementation went nationwide on Thursday, with school and college students in other districts taking to the streets, joining their fellow protesters in Dhaka on the movement’s fifth consecutive day. 

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Thursday told reporters that government had already put several initiatives in motion to implement the demands that the student protesters had put forth during their demonstrations.

“The prime minister has given direct orders in this regard,” he added. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina handed over saving certificates, worth Tk20 lakh each, to the bereaved families of Diya Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib, the Class XII students who were killed in a road accident in Dhaka on Sunday.

The protests, which have been peaceful so far, was marred by violence on Thursday afternoon; protesters in Mirpur alleged policemen as well as members of ruling party affiliates Bangladesh Chhatra League and Awami Jubo League attacked and assaulted them, chasing them away from their positions on the roads between Mirpur 10, 13 and 14 areas. 

Dhaka Tribune reporter Kamrul Hasan was baton-charged and verbally abused by several policemen in Mirpur 14 when he was covering the protest in the area.

Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) issued a statement on Thursday evening condemning the attacks on students by police and applied to the National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh to make a coalition to address the physical and mental abuse against children.

The Dhaka University Teachers Association (DUTA), the DU unit of Chhatra League, and the BNP-Jamaat-backed white panel teachers of the university expressed solidarity with the student protesters, saying their demands regarding road safety were logical and must be accepted. 

Students have been out on the streets since Sunday demanding road safety and punishment for the bus driver who ploughed into a group of students on the Airport Road in Dhaka, killing Mim and Rajib, and injuring several others.

Protests intensify in Dhaka

The government had ordered all schools and colleges in the country to remain closed on Thursday, but students in their uniforms, carrying their ID cards, came out in the streets. 

Parents and guardians of the students as well as general people were seen joining the student protesters on Thursday, standing with them in the rain. 

Like the previous days, the protesters regulated traffic on the streets and stopped vehicles to check if the drivers were carrying valid driving licences. 

No activities of the traffic police were seen on the streets where the students took over control.

The protesters the cars of ministers, high-ranking police officials and government officials, many of which were found to have drivers with no valid licences. 

At some places, protesters handed the drivers without licences over to traffic police officials for legal procedure. 

Water Resources Minister Anwar Hossain Manju’s car was stopped in Dhanmondi, where students found that his driver had no licence. The minister later got out of his car and left his area in another car. 

Reports of vandalism in several areas came in; a number of buses, motorcycles and private cars were vandalized when the drivers did not follow the protesters’ instructions.

A group of students assaulted a traffic sergeant and set his motorcycle on fire in Dhanmondi when he refused to show his licence and shouted at and shoved one of them, witnesses said. 

Commuters faced a severe transportation crisis after owners removed buses from the streets, while many tried to hire rickshaws that charged two to three times the normal fare. 

Many opted to walk, while others went back home.

Students in other districts join in, vandalism reported

Demonstrations demanding justice for Mim and Rajib gained momentum in the rest of Bangladesh as well.

Students in the surrounding areas of Dhaka and in many districts across the country took to the streets and demonstrated demanding road safety. 

Protesters blocked off the Ashikpur bypass on the Dhaka-Tangail highway in the Tangail Sadar upazila in the morning. 

“We are holding this demonstration in protest of the accident in Dhaka that left two college students dead. We are highlighting our 9-point demand,” an 11th-grader told the Dhaka Tribune. 

Elenga Highway police checkpoint In-Charge Azizur Rahim Talukder said: “The students are engaged in a peaceful demonstration. They are allowing ambulances and vehicles carrying patients to pass through.”

Students were seen forcing the traffic police to file cases against drivers and owners of vehicles that lacked legal documents. The protesters were also checking the legal documents of the drivers and cars themselves. 

In Chandpur, some students reportedly vandalized a few buses and trucks on the road, but did not damage smaller vehicles.

Chapainawabganj saw students bringing out a procession and staging a human chain around 11am. Students were seen participating in demonstrations holding banners, festoons, and chanting slogans. 

Students chanted “We want justice” while circling the Kushtia city thoroughfares. People of every social stratum expressed solidarity with the movement. 

In Bogra, although police and local Chhatra League and Jubo League leaders asked the protesters to put an end to the protests they continued till 1pm.