The organizers of mass protests against the government’s quota system in public service recruitment tests will announce the next steps for their movement on Thursday, following an “unclear” announcement on abolishing the system made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
For the past two months, Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad has been spearheading the nationwide movement demanding change in the quota system, claiming it excludes a large number of qualified candidates at a time of rising unemployment in the broader economy.
The organization on Wednesday suspended their demonstrations until this morning, however, after Joint Convener Nurul Haque told reporters that the prime minister’s announcement was “not properly clear to them.”
“We will discuss and decide the next course of our movement,” Nurul said from his position at Dhaka University’s (DU) TSC around 6pm.
“We will announce our next step from here at the base of Raju Memorial Sculpture at TSC at 10am on Thursday.”
Nurul said they would assess the prime minister’s announcement and related legal issues before making any decisions.
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The quota reform movement received a major boost this week after violent tripartite clashes between police, Bangladesh Chhatra League and the demonstrators in DU campus between Sunday evening and early Monday injured more than 100 protesters.
“We had this movement with just a handful of students, and now it has spread nationwide,” he said. “We want to thank everyone who participated in the demonstrations across the country and made the movement a success.
“This demand is of all the students of the country. I urge everyone to stay calm and trust us. Hopefully, we will come up with a decision that will be beneficial for all students.”
After the announcement from the organization leaders, the demonstrating students were seen leaving the DU campus as the massive crowds gradually thinned, allowing life to return to relative normal on the streets of the capital.
Earlier in the morning, several thousand students from various colleges and universities boycotted their classes and examinations and thronged the DU campus, as the protests entered a fourth day.
Students of private universities - including North South University, Independent University, University of Asia Pacific and Daffodil International University - blockaded major roads at different areas of the capital including Bashundhara Residential Area main gate, Pragati Sarani, Mirpur, Farmgate, Shukrabad and Dhanmondi.
They, too, lifted the blockades and suspended their protests after the announcements were made from TSC.
DU VC and teachers extend support
On Tuesday, the students' platform had announced its intention to continue the movement until a specific statement from the prime minister was made.
The following day, DU Vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman expressed solidarity with the demonstrators, saying their quota reform demand was “logical.”
“We have asked the government to take quick measures and give assurance to the students so that they can return to normal life,” he told reporters.
He also urged law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of the students.
In the early hours of Monday, a group of protesters had laid a siege around the VC’s home inside DU campus. At one point, they broke the main entrance of the residence and extensively ransacked several rooms and furniture. Two cars were torched and two other vehicles vandalized.
Asked about the attack on his residence, VC Akhtaruzzaman said: “I feel safe in the hands of my students.”
The quota reform movement was given a further boost on Wednesday when the Dhaka University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) extended its support.
In a press release, DUTA said a reform of the existing quota system was a demand of present times, and urged the government to announce a “clear decision regarding this issue as soon as possible”.
It also urged the police not to carry out any action against students involved in peaceful demonstrations.