Thousands of jobseekers along with university students demanding reduced quota in government jobs took to the streets across the country on Sunday, disrupting traffic in Dhaka and elsewhere.
After daylong protests on the streets disrupting traffic, protesters took to the streets on campuses of Dhaka, Jahangirnagar and Rajshahi Universities at night and the protests continued flaring up on campuses across the country throughout the night, New Age university correspondents reported.
Rajshahi University students also blocked the Dhaka-Rajshahi highway in front of the campus at night.
At the Dhaka University protesters vandalised vice-chancellor’s house at about 1:30am Monday and chased activists of ruling Awami League-backed student body Bangladesh Chhatra League who, in several motorcycles, tried to disperse them from in front of Rokeya Hall at about 1:45am and in front of Raju Sculpture at about 2:15am. The protesters also set two motorcycles of the Chhatra League activists on fire in front of Rokeya Hall at about 1:45am.
The protesters also called an indefinite strike at educational institutions across the country from today.
Chhatra League activists and police jointly attacked the protesters at about 2:30am and forced them to retreat to the teacher-student centre. Many protesters, including female students were also injured.
Protesters, however, continued protests inside the TSC while cops and Chhatra League activists laid siege to the TSC.
In the capital, their protest halted traffic in areas surrounding Shahbagh from 3:00pm till 8:45pm, triggering traffic tangles which caused huge suffering to city dwellers, especially patients and people returning from offices.
Protests also halted traffic on busy highways like Dhaka-Aricha highway, Dhaka-Rajshahi, Dhaka-Chittagong, Dhaka-Mymensingh, Dhaka-Rangpur, Khulna-Kushtia highways amid heavy presence of police.
A four-hour clash between police and protestors at Shahbagh was continuing till 11:45pm as the law enforcers attacked the demonstrators charging batons and firing tear shells leaving scores injured.
The protesters held rallies, sit-in and human chains and others programmes at different places in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Mymensingh cities and in front of different public universities as the part of the central programme in support of their five-point demand including reduction of quota to 10 per cent from the existing 56 per cent in government jobs.
The demonstrators under the banner of Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad also demand recruitment of jobseekers in vacant posts on the basis of merit if eligible candidates are not found under quota, an end to special recruitment tests for quota candidates and a single age limit for all jobseekers.
The jobseekers held the protests across the country when Bangladesh Public Service Commission on the day published a circular for the 39th special Bangladesh Civil Service examination seeking applications against 4,792 posts of physicians and prime minister Sheikh Hasina on March 21 from a rally in Chittagong categorically said that existing quota system in government jobs would stay.
Police attacked the protestors consisting of university students and government jobseekers about 7:45pm at Shahbagh to disperse them from the place after protestors kept the intersection blocked for about five hours.
Parishad convener Hasan Al Mamun said that police carried out attack on their peaceful programmes by charging batons and firing tear shells.
He about 11:00pm said that at least 100 jobseekers were injured and took treatment at different hospitals.
He also said that they would enforce indefinite strike at all educational institutions from today in protest at police attack on their demonstrations.
Female students of Rokeya and Shamsunnahar halls around 11:45pm were holding demonstrations inside the hall compounds in solidarity with the movement.
Police started lobbing teargas canisters and charging batons about 7:50pm to
disperse jobseekers in order to clear the road. Since then law enforcers and students were locked in chase and counter-chase in between Shahbagh and TSC area that was continuing till 11:50pm.
Police also used water cannons and fired tear shells and rubber bullet several times in front of Dhaka University’s fine arts faculty, university central mosque, central library areas where the on-the-run jobseekers tried to reunite.
The students retaliated, throwing brick chips on the law enforcers, said witnesses.
When protestors tried to take shelter at TSC of the university, Chhatra League activists, led by Dhaka University unit general secretary Motahar Hossain, chased them away and slapped and kicked them, said demonstrators,
Motahar said they resisted unruly protestors who tried to vandalise TSC.
Dhaka Medical College hospital emergency and casualty unit resident physician Mohammad Alauddin said at least 13 injured Dhaka University students took primary treatment there till 11:00pm.
Among the injured DU students are Akram Hossain, Abu Bakar Siddiqui, Md Mahin, Aslam Uddin, Mahfuzur Rahman, Mohammad Rafique, Raj, Sohel, Khorshed Alam and Omar Faruque.
Protestor said that Abu Bakar Siddiqui a third year student of Bangla department suffered serious injuries on his left eye.
Earlier, several thousand current and former students brought out a procession from Dhaka University central library before beginning a sit-in at Shahbagh intersection around 3:00pm.
Banner of the procession has a large picture of the country’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and many others carried his photo.
At the outset, the Parishad convener Hasan Al Mamun, also vice-president of Dhaka University’s Haji Muhammad Mohsin Hall unit Chhatra League, announced that they would continue their protest until a specific announcement regarding reformation of the existing quota system was made in the ongoing session in parliament.
Current and former students have been demanding revision of quota for the last several years.
Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad, formed in February this year, has been holding regular protests. They on March 29 declared countrywide protest for April 8, said organisers.
They are on the street as 56 per cent candidates are now recruited in government jobs on the basis of quota –– 30 per cent for freedom fighters’ children and grandchildren, 10 per cent for women, 10 per cent for people of districts lagging behind, five per cent for people of ethnic minorities and one per cent for physically challenged.
Jobseekers at Shahbagh chanted slogans in favour of their demands and sang patriotic songs surrounded by a huge number of police and in presence of water cannon. Protesters also handed over flower to the on-duty riot police.
Shahbagh police officer-in-charge Abul Hossain said they requested the protestors to leave the place considering the sufferings of general people.
The sit-in caused huge tailbacks and the worst suffers were people returning from offices, elderly people and patients to and from hospitals like Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical College hospital, BIRDEM hospital, Dhaka Medical College hospital and others.
Many were seen walking towards their destinations. Cashing in on this situation, rickshaw-puller and auto-rickshaws charged double and triple fares, said Afzal Rahman, who was walking toward his Mirpur home.
New Age Mymensingh correspondent reported that students of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University and Ananda Mohan College and others kept Dhaka-Mymensingh highway blocked for about five hours.
Several thousand students continued their protest at By Pass intersection till 7:30pm halting traffic of the newly declared city.
New Age Jahangirnagar University correspondent reported that students of the university blocked Dhaka-Aricha highway in front of the university main entrance on the same demand.
Several hundred students blocked the highway, an important road for communication between capital and northern and southern districts, for about an hour from 3:45pm. The blockade caused several kilometres-long tailback on the highway.
The protestor withdrew their blockade at the intervention of the university authorities and leaders of ruling party-backed student orgnisation Bangladesh Chattra League of the university unit.
They also brought out a procession on the campus to drum up support for their demands.
New Age Chittagong correspondent reported that students of Chittagong University formed a human chain in front of their campus gate and brought out a procession in the port city.
They formed a human chain from 1:00am and brought out a procession which began at Sholoshahar and ended at GEC intersection.
Chittagong Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner (north) Abdul Waris said that 30-40 minute tragic jam took place in the areas through which the procession moved.
Several hundred Rajshahi University students blocked Dhaka-Rajshahi highway in front of the university main entrance on the same demand, reported New Age Rajshahi University correspondent.
They kept the highway blocked for about four hours from 4:00pm.
Masud Monnaf, convener of RU unit quota reform movement, told New Age that they would continue their blocked programme until their demands were met.
New Age correspondent in Comilla reported that students of Comilla University blocked Dhaka-Chittagong highway for about an hour from 5:30pm at Kotbari Biswaroad
Mainamati highway police sub-inspector Abdul Salam said the students blocked highway despite their repeated requests but it did not affected the traffic.
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