The rumour-fuelled violent ending of a student movement in early August led police to launch a crackdown
Several people, who have been arrested for spreading rumours on social media and instigating violence during a weeklong student movement for safer road earlier this month, have confessed that they were instructed to do so by some of their seniors, aka “Boro Bhais,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has claimed.
Till August 11, DMP and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested 97 people, mostly students of public and private universities, over the aforementioned charges, source said.
DMP Deputy Commissioner (DC) (Media) Masudur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that they were charged with vandalism, spreading rumours and provoking violence during the road safety movement, which had started on July 29 after a speeding bus killed two college students on the city’s Airport Road and later went nationwide.
“But none of them are minors – as in students of schools, colleges or similar educational institutions. They are either university students or professionals,” he said.
Of the 97, 81 were arrested in connection with 43 cases filed under the Panel Code and the Special Powers Act, said Masudur, adding that the 16 others were arrested in eight cases filed under the ICT Act.
All of these cases were filled at different police stations under various divisions, including Ramna, Lalbagh, Wari, Motijheel, Tejgaon, Mirpur, Gulshan and Uttara, across the capital, according to dmpnews.org, the news portal of DMP.
CID’s (Organised Crime unit) Special Superintendent Mollah Nazrul Islam said that a case was filed with Paltan police under the ICT Act on Wednesday against two students, arrested from East Rajabazar and Kamrangirchar on Tuesday night, for spreading rumours. They were also being interrogated.
Sources in police said it was becoming clear that many of the arrestees were instructed by others to spread rumours in order to provoke the agitating students.
DMP cybercrime unit’s Assistant DC Nazmul Islam earlier told reporters that they had identified more than 1,000 profiles and pages on different social networking sites, mostly on Facebook, that had spread rumours during the student movement.
They also arrested three men named Touhidul Islam Tushar, Md Waliullah, and Md Ihsan Uddin on August 7, in a case filed under the ICT Act with Ramna police.
Following interrogation, one of the arrestees confessed both to police and the court last week that he was told by a “Boro Bhai” to make such posts on social media and fuel the rumour train.
Several others, arrested in cases under the ICT Act, have also made similar confessions.
DC Alimuzzaman of the cybercrime unit also told the Dhaka Tribune that it might take more time to identify all of the instigators. “We even have information that one of those pages that spread rumours was being run from Saudi Arabia.”
“All of the culprits will brought to book,” he added.
After the deaths of the two college students on July 29, students of different schools and colleges had taken to the streets in protest and demanding punishment of those responsible for the deaths, kicking off a movement that spread across the country over the next week.
Apart from blockading roads and enforcing traffic laws on their own mostly peacefully, the demonstrating student had placed a nine-point demand to the government, which later accepted them.
But the students continued their movement on the streets calling for immediate measures from the authorities.
However, violence marred the demonstrations on August 4 and 5 in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi when police and alleged activists of ruling party affiliate organizations got involved and clashed with students, while swirling rumours, claims, and counter-claims on social media added fuel.