Quota reform activists on Saturday in a press conference said that they were living in fear of arrest, enforced disappearance and torture while urging the government to stop repression of their leaders who were campaigning for a ‘logical’ solution to the quota system.
In a written statement, Bangladesh General Students’ Rights Protection Council joint convenor Muhammad Ataullah also put forward a set of demands, including withdrawal of cases filed against their leaders and release of all arrested.
‘All cases should be withdrawn and torture in the name of remand in custody should be stopped,’ Ataullah told reporters at the Crime Reporters Association office in Dhaka.
With high fever, Ataullah also appealed to the government to ensure medical treatment for those who received injuries in attacks by activists of ruling party associated student body Bangladesh Chhatra League.
Ataullah explained that it was a peaceful movement with logical demands and that they were devoid of having any political ambition or funding other than small contributions from the students.
He said that they were in fear of arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance and custodial torture and attack by ruling party activists.
Ataullah said that he was not sure whether he could return home as the police were chasing their leaders and activists.
He alleged that a Facebook group with 30 lakh membership had been hacked by sinister quarters while their activists in Dhaka and Rajshahi were denied medications both in public and private hospitals.
‘We are disappointed over it,’ he lamented.
He also narrated the sorts of repressions they were facing since June 30 when they tried to hold a press conference in front of the central library at Dhaka University, and also how their fellows Rashed Khan and Mahfuz Khan were arrested and Faruk Khan, Nurul Hoque Nur and Tarikul Islam were beaten by Bangladesh Chhatra League activists.
Ataullah said that they wanted reforms of the quota system, not abolition of it. ‘We are not against quotas for freedom fighters. We believe freedom fighter the quotas should exist because we got the country liberated because of them… what we want is its reform.’
In the same press conference, parents, two sisters and wife of arrested quota reformist leader Rashed Khan said that the police tortured Rashed while he was arrested in a case filed with Shahbagh police by a BCL leader.
Rashed’s mother Saleha Begum said that she had been working at a house to provide financial support to her son.
Rashed’s mason father Nabai Biswas said that his son was struggling for a right cause.
‘I demand release of not just my son but all those who were arrested in the similar movement,’ the father said, ‘I was only six-month-old during the 1971 war but a group of people are trying to taint me as a collaborator of Pakistani forces.’
He said that he had received calls from BCL leaders asking him to stop his son from the movement and threatening that the family would be vanished otherwise.
A number of BCL activists also visited his house in Jhenaidah and threatened his family, he said.
‘My son was targeted and there was an attempt to shot him dead,’ said Saleha.
Rashed’s family said that a team of lawyers led by Jyotirmoy Barua was providing legal supports.
‘We are not told where my husband is … now I see my future is dark,’ Rashed’s wife Rabeya Alo said, ‘After his arrest, the police are now branding my husband as an extremist.’
Last week, quota activists were beaten, attacked by the BCL men on campuses while police manhandled teachers, guardians and citizens in Dhaka.
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