Ruling Awami League-backed Bangladesh Chhatra League activists roughed up anti-quota protesters at Dhaka University on Saturday, leaving 15 students injured.
Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakshan Parishd, the platform that was on movement since mid-February demanding reduction of quota in public jobs from the existing 56 per cent, was scheduled to hold a press conference at DU in the morning.
Protesting at the attack, the platform announced human chains today at all universities and colleges across the country, barring Dhaka University, as the institute is set to observe its 97th founding anniversary on the day.
The platform’s joint convener, Rashed Khan, in a press conference at Dhaka Medical College Hospital in the afternoon, also said that they would hold protest rallies in all universities and colleges across the country on Monday.
Witnesses said leaders and activists of BCL central body and Dhaka University unit took position in front of DU Central Library and in the adjacent areas since about 8:00am as the Parishd was scheduled to hold a press conference there to announce their fresh agitation demanding gazette of the PM’s April 11 announcement to abolish quota system.
As soon as the Parishad leaders were preparing for the press conference around 11:00am, a group of 30 to 40 BCL activists, wielding machete and local weapons, attacked the protesters calling them ‘Shibir’ activists.
Convener Hasan al Mamun and joint-convener Farooq Hossain of the Parishad managed to flee the scene but another joint convener Nurul Huq Nur was caught by BCL men, who beat him up, punching and kicking.
DU librarian SM Jabed tried to resist the attackers but the Chhatra League attackers also assaulted him.
BCL activists also attacked other quota reform protesters, leaving several more injured.
Later, BCL activists also launched further attacks on the protesters in front of Dhaka University central library and Public Library at Shahbagh, leaving two more injured.
The attackers also chased out the demonstrators form the area, witnesses and quota reform activists said.
Joint-convener of the platform Rashed Khan alleged that the BCL activists carried out repeated attacks on them without any provocation, leaving at least 15 of their leaders and activists
injured. ‘They have been admitted to different hospitals,’ he said.
Of the injured, Dhaka University students – the platform’s joint convener Nurul Huq Nuru, 25, Abdullah, 24, Hasan Al Mahmud, 25, and Jalal, 25, of Mohsin Hall, Ataullah, 25, of SM Hall, Saddam Hossain, 25, of Suriya Sen Hall, Sahed, 25, of Bangabandhu Hall, and Dhaka College students – Masud, 25, and Haider, 25, were rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, DMCH officials said.
Of them, Nuru’s condition was serious and was under observation at the hospital’s emergency department and Abdullah and Saddam were admitted to the hospital’s casualty department, they said.
Attending doctors said all the victims received injuries from battering in different parts of their bodies, especially in the faces, heads, chests and backs that caused red and black scares.
Besides, they said, they found swells in different parts of their bodies.
Saddam, who had been groaning in pain on a DMCH bed, said, ‘[I feel] pain all over the body.’
‘They swooped on me and…,’ he could not continue as his voice choked at 2:00pm.
Ataullah was sleeping then as physicians administered him sedative injection.
About 4:00pm, the quota protesters shifted the three as well as Hasan to private hospitals, alleging that they got ‘no treatment’ at the hospital.
Doctors and nurses of the departments of DMCH, however, said that those who brought the injured students to the hospital took them away on their own.
DU proctor Golam Rabbani said that he was aware of the incident but had no idea why the protester wanted to destabilise the university in the name of quota reform movement which had nothing to do with Dhaka University.
BCL general secretary SM Zakir Hossain denied the allegation of involvement of any BCL men in the attack.
‘The violence was the result of an internal clash of the quota protesters and no Chhatra League member was involved,’ he claimed.
If any BCL member had participated in it, they did so individually, not as a member of Chhatra League, Zakir said.
He further said that the quota protesters continued their demonstrations, even after assurances from the prime minister and were trying to create unrest at the university.
Shahbagh police station officer-in-charge Abul Hasan told New Age that they were aware of an ‘incident’ at DU.
‘But we did not interfere as it was on the university campus. None came to us with any complaint and none was arrested,’ he said.
In the face of protests across the country, prime minister Sheikh Hasina announced in the parliament on April 11 that the quota system in government jobs would go.
The protesters took to the streets on February 17 and continued the protests for reduction of quota in public service recruitment to 10 per cent from the existing 56 per cent.
On April 9, at least 50 people were injured at Dhaka University as the quota reform protesters were attacked jointly by law enforcers and Bangladesh Chhatra League activists.
Left leaning student organisation Bangladesh Chhatra Federation brought out a procession on the campus Saturday evening protesting at the BCL attack.
Bangladesh Chhatra Union and Socialist Students Front in separate statements protested at the assault on the protestors.
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