The ongoing movement to reform the existing quota system in government jobs is a conspiracy that a certain group with vested interests has hatched against the government, several Awami League leaders said on Monday.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, they said anti-government forces, especially the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir, as well as BNP's student wing Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, were behind the movement, using the general students for their political motives.
The attack on the residence of Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman was also a part of this conspiracy, they added.
Requesting anonymity, senior Awami League leaders close to party chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the premier herself was considering the movement a deliberate act against the government, and had instructed the party leaders to gather information about the protesters.
An Awami League Presidium member, asking not to be named, told the Dhaka Tribune that leaders and activists of Shibir and Chhatra Dal were provoking general students in the name of movement against the existing quota system.
He further alleged that it was likely that a faction of Bangladesh Chhatra League, student wing of the ruling Awami League, had also joined in the anti-government forces aiming to stop the council of Chhatra League's central committee next month.
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Awami League leaders also alleged that students would not attack the DU VC’s residence, and someone was likely trying to use the ongoing movement against quota to create unrest before the next general election.
Speaking to reporters, Awami League Presidium member Mohammad Nasim, also the Health and Family Welfare minister, said protesters were trying to create anarchy in the name of movement, and that the government would take strong steps against any kind of anarchy.
“The attack on the VC’s residence was not a part of the movement; it was deliberately done to disrupt law and order in the name of movement,” he added.
Chhatra League: For the movement, against the movement
Though the ruling party sees the movement as an anti-government act, a number of leaders and activists of its student wing, the Chhatra League, have actively supported the movement.
Several Chhatra League leaders have claimed that they resigned from their posts in the organization to protest the police attack on the demonstrators.
Among the leaders who have resigned are Saifullah Saif, general secretary of Chhatra League unit in DU tourism department, Osibur Rahman, assistant entertainment secretary in Sergeant Zahurul Haque Hall unit, and Sharif Hasan Sujon, general secretary in the applied physics department unit.
Also Read - From protest to mayhem: How it all unfolded
Saifullah Saif said among the total number of protesters who were demanding a reform of the existing quota system, around 60-70% were Chhatra League activists and leaders.
Sources in the student organization said several of their leaders had been injured when police baton-charged the demonstrators.
However, the Dhaka Tribune could not independently confirm the identify the injured Chhatra League leaders.
Meanwhile, several members of both the Awami League and the Chhatra League complained that a group of Chhatra League members launched attack on the quota reform demonstrators in order to derail the movement.
Armed with guns, metal pipes, sticks and sharp weapons, a number of Chhatra League activists led by their President Saifur Rahman Sohag and General Secretary SM Jakir Hossain ganged up on the demonstrators just after 6am on Monday, witnesses said.
The demonstrators turned the tide when they retaliated and chased the attacking Chhatra League activists away.
Sources involved with the movement complained that police opened fire at the demonstrators in order to protect the attacking Chhatra League activists.
However, when asked, Chhatra League's DU unit President Abid Al Hasan refuted the allegation.
“The allegations of launching such an attack using local weapons are false and fabricated. We, the Chhatra League leaders, tried to keep the campus environment peaceful. We went there to chase the outsiders out of the campus,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.