Bus driver remanded, as authorities get seven days to meet the students’ demands
Students of different public and private educational institutions demonstrating in Dhaka since Tuesday for safer roads — following the death of a Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP) student in a road accident — have postponed their movement till March 28.
The announcement came after a meeting between a 10-member student delegation and Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam and Dhaka Metropolitan Commissioner (DMP) Asaduzzaman Mia on Wednesday afternoon.
After the meeting, one of the delegation members told reporters that they took the decision as the mayor assured them of meeting their eight demands to ensure safer roads and implementation of traffic rules and laws.
BUP student representative Faysal Enayet said they will sit with the mayor again on March 28, to assess the progress of their demands.
“Compromising in meeting our demands will lead to students from all over the country joining the demonstration and classes at all educational institutions being suspended after March 28,” he added.
Also Read- Suprovat Paribahan bus driver remanded
Soon after, the BUP students, who were also joined by many of their teachers, withdrew their blockade on Pragati Sarani, in front of the Jamuna Future Park at Kuril.
However, students of North South University (NSU), United International University (UIU), American International University of Bangladesh, and Independent University of Bangladesh later in the evening rejected the decision to postpone the movement, and announced that they would continue the protests on Thursday.
NSU student Kawsar Habib, who was seen leading this group of protesters, said that they stopped the protest at 7pm for the day and would resume demonstrations around 10am Thursday.
UIU student Faisal Kabir Rafi said: “The student delegation that met the mayor is not the central committee. They failed to properly present all the demands to the mayor. They also did not discuss with all the other agitating students before postponing the movement.”
He added: “We will try to meet the mayor on Thursday and present all the demands in an organized manner. We will also form a committee to coordinate all the protesters.”
Protests, remand and compensation
Abrar’s death under the wheels of a Suprovat Paribahan bus in front of Jamuna Future Park, near the main gate of Bashundhara Residential Area, Tuesday morning had sparked a daylong protest, and it later spread across the capital and the country on Wednesday.
A Dhaka court on Wednesday placed bus driver Sirajul Islam, who was arrested on Tuesday, on a seven-day remand in a case filed by Abrar’s father Brig Gen (retd) Arif Ahmed Chowdhury.
Earlier in the day, the High Court also ordered Suprovat Paribahan to pay Tk10 lakh to Abrar’s family as compensation within seven days.
Since Wednesday morning, agitated students of different schools, colleges and universities had boycotted classes and put up blockades at Science Laboratory and Dhanmondi 27 on Mirpur Road, Shahbagh, Tejgaon industrial area, and Farmgate, causing severe gridlock.
They however, later in the afternoon, called off their demonstrations for the day following the core demonstrators’ decision to suspend the movement.
Suprovat, Jabal-e-Noor buses banned
After the meeting with Mayor Atiqul, BUP student representative Tawhid Al Zaman said they had demanded the mayor press murder charges against the bus driver within 24 hours.
But the mayor said the driver was already in police custody on a seven-day remand and after that, police would press charges as early as possible, not exceeding 30 days.
The agitators also urged the mayor and the DMP commissioner to take steps to scrap route permits for all Suprovat and Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan buses — to which the authorities concerned argued that these companies operate under several owners and banning all vehicles would not be just.
They said they have primarily suspended route permits of the buses of particular owners and their license and registrations will be verified before regranting route permits.
However, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) later on Wednesday evening banned both companies from operating buses in the capital until further notice.
The two transport companies were asked to submit papers of all their buses and minibuses to BRTA within three working days.
Earlier in the day, DMP chief Asaduzzaman had also claimed that all Suprovat Paribahan buses were banned from operating on Dhaka streets since Tuesday night.
A nationwide weeklong student movement demanding safer roads had brought the country nearly to its knees after two college students were killed on July 29, 2018 under the wheels of a Jabal-e-Noor bus on the capital’s Airport Road.
Also Read- BUP VC urges students to call off protest
The mayor’s pledges
After Wednesday’s meeting, the DNCC mayor said the authorities would identify the areas where there is no zebra crossing and footbridge, in front of educational institutions and in other accident prone areas in Dhaka.
"We will first work out a special plan within the next seven days in this regard and initiate steps with the next 30 days to implement it," said Atiqul.
Earlier in the morning, he had met protesting students and announced formation of separate student committees to ensure discipline on the roads.
He made the announcement after laying the foundation stone of a foot overbridge, to be constructed in memory of Abrar, on top of the zebra crossing in front of the Jamuna Future Park where the BUP student died.
The mayor said: “Separate committees, comprised of students from every educational institution, will be formed. These committees will work in tandem with the traffic police and city corporation personnel to help re-establish discipline on roads.
“I will make a serious effort to begin forming these student committees. I am expressing my solidarity with the Student Movement for Safer Roads. We will work together to resolve this grave issue.”
Additional reporting by Syed Zakir Hossain and Ashif Islam Shaon