The students and jobseekers demanding reforms to the quota system in public services have rejected assurances by the government of giving a decision after examining the existing system, withdrawing their decision to halt their movement for a month.
They say they will push further with their demonstrations until the government gives the decision or issues a new order reforming the quota system.
Leaders of the Bangladesh Shadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad, which is spearheading the movement nationwide, made the announcements from the base of Raju Memorial Sculpture at TSC intersection of Dhaka University (DU) Monday evening.
After daylong protests on the campus, protesters Bipasha Chowdhury and Ummey Habiba Benazir around 9:30pm told reporters that they were postponing the demonstrations for the night.
“But we will gather here at TSC at 11am Tuesday to carry on our movement,” she said.
Bipasha said if the government did not come up with a resolute decision by April 15, they would organize a massive rally, alongside tougher programs, in Dhaka on Aril 16.
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Bipasha Chowdhury, one of the quota reform demonstrators, briefs reporters at TSC on April 9, 2018 Rafikul Islam/Dhaka Tribune
She said demonstrators from across the country would gather in the capital for that rally.
The demonstrators, who started the movement in mid February, also said their indefinite strike at all education institutions around the country would continue as well.
Regarding postponing the protest for the night, she said: “We are not feeling safe. Outsiders attacked us and opened fire on us. That is why we have adjourned until 11am Tuesday.”
Before her, Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad Convener Hasan Al Mamun around 7:30pm had announced resuming their movement, only hours after deciding to halt it for a month.
After arriving at TSC from a meeting with Awami League leaders at the Secretariat, he told reporters: "Not all students agree with the decision to halt the movement and that is why we have decided to continue it."
"Our movement will continue until the government makes an immediate decision or issues a circular on reforming the quota system," Hasan said.
Even after the announcement, the situation on the campus was calm with only several hundreds of protesters positioned at TSC.
Later around 10pm, the campus was deserted. However, heavy presence of police and Bangladesh Chhatra League leaders and activists were seen right before that.
Obaidul: Solution by May 7
After the meeting with a 19-member delegation of the demonstrators in the afternoon, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said the government was looking positively at the reasonable arguments of the students and job seekers.
He told reporters that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the weekly Cabinet meeting Monday had instructed the authorities concerned to scrutinize the existing quota system and inform her about it.
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Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader chairs a meeting with quota reform demonstrators at the Secretariat on Monday, April 9, 2018 Courtesy
“We have come to the agreement that a solution to the protesters’ concerns will be produced by May 7,” said Obaidul, also the road transport and bridges minister.
The meeting had started around 4:35pm and ended a little after 6:15pm at Road Transport and Bridges Ministry conference room in the Secretariat.
Obaidul also said: “We are not in a rigid position about this issue. Sheikh Hasina’s government does not ignore logical demands.”
Also Read- Obaidul Quader: Solution to quota issue by May 7
“However, those who attacked the DU vice-chancellor’s residence will be identified and brought to book,” he added.
The minister said: “The demonstrators said those who vandalized the vice-chancellor’s house were outsiders. They have also called for identifying these attackers and bringing them to justice.”
He also criticized demonstrators’ blockades on the highways around the country as they were leading to sufferings of the general people.
Following the meeting, Hasan Al Mamun, also the vice-president of Chhatra League’s Haji Muhammad Mohsin Hall unit at DU, had told reporters about their decision to halt the movement until the first week of May.
He also said the government had assured of releasing those detained and ensure proper medical treatment of those injured during Sunday’s violent clashes.
Obaidul had led an 11-member ruling party delegation in the meeting, which was also attended by Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia.
The 19-strong delegation of the demonstrators included students from DU, Dhaka College, Comilla University and other public and private college and universities.
Police face tougher protest
Earlier, around 2pm Monday, police were forced to withdraw from the TSC area to Doel Chattar after the protestors threw brickbats at them. The law enforcers had retaliated by firing teargas shells at the protestors.
An officer of the Armed Police Battalion was allegedly injured in the clash.
Also Read- From protest to mayhem: How it all unfolded
Several thousands of students had joined the protests and later positioned themselves at TSC intersection at the foot of the Raju Memorial Sculpture. They also chanted slogans asking why the police attacked their peaceful protests on Sunday.
At around 12pm, students tried to carry a procession to Shahbagh through the university campus, when the police stopped them by throwing tear gas shells.
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Students demonstrate at DU's TSC intersection on Monday, April 9, 2018 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune
Students had continued their demonstrations inside university premises in phases since 6am, when Chhatra League activists had launch an attack near Doel Chattar to disperse them.
Before that, more than 50 people, including policemen, were injured during violent tripartite clashes between police, demonstrators and Chhatra League inside DU campus– which started around 7:45pm Sunday and continued in phases until early hours of Monday.
In between clashes, the prime minister had asked Obaidul Quader to hold the meeting with the demonstrators.
Also Read- Over 50 injured as police, quota reform demonstrators clash at Dhaka University
Police had cracked down on the protesters at Shahbagh Sunday evening, after they kept the intersection blockaded for over five hours. Violent clashes ensued and then spread into the DU campus. Around 2am Monday, protesters had surrounded the vice-chancellor’s residence.
Later, the residence was ransacked extensively while two cars of the VC were torched along with furniture. Two other cars were vandalized too.
The demonstrators later alleged that the attack on the VC’s home was carried out by outsiders.