Scores of protesters, journalists injured in clashes, university students join protests, commuters suffer for lack of transports
Violence surged in Dhaka on the eighth straight day of the school and college students’ protests for road safety on Sunday as activists of ruling Awami League and its associate bodies and police attacked protesters injuring scores, including journalists.
Protesters came under attack by AL and its student front Bangladesh Chhatra League and youth front Bangladesh Juba League activists at places, including Jigatala, Dhanmondi, Green Road and Uttara in Dhaka while protesting students were intimidated and their phones were checked allegedly by Chhatra League activists in Chittagong.
Protesters chased a procession of Awami League at Rampura in Dhaka at about noon, witnesses said.
Students of schools and colleges took to the streets on July 29, when two of their fellows were killed as a bus, racing two others, ploughed through a crowd of students and others waiting for bus at Kurmitola in Dhaka.
Students of different public universities, including Dhaka University and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Jahangirnagar University, Rajshahi University and Rajshahi University of Engineering, Technology and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in Sylhet joined the young protesters on Sunday.
Students of different public universities also enforced strike on their campuses.
The Dhaka University and BUET students who joined the school and college students’ protests in Dhaka came under attack by AL, Chhatra League and Juba League activists.
The attackers, many in helmets, with sticks, iron rods and sharp weapons, swooped on the protesters and journalists on duty, witnesses said.
They said that the attackers also forcibly took away helmets of motorcyclists before the attacks.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan, inaugurating the traffic week of the police at Gulistan in Dhaka, warned of stern action against anyone who would cross the limit of patience.
At Shahbagh, several thousand students from Dhaka University, Dhaka Medical College, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and other educational institutes started gathering in the intersection at about 11:00am and blocked the road protesting at Saturday’s attacks on school and college students at Jigatala.
Later, they brought out a procession from the intersection and marched towards Jigatala where Awami League, Chhatra League and Juba League activists carried out day long violence leaving over 100 people, including protesters and journalists, were injured.
As the procession reached Jigatala, police fired teargas shells at about 1:00pm leading a chaos in the area.
Later, AL, Chhatra League and Juba League activists chanting slogans for AL joined the police with sticks, iron rods and sharp weapons in attacks on the protesters.
Protesters took shelter in nearby buildings but desperate attackers found them out and beat them up leaving at least 40 injured.
Dhaka University accounting department final year student Rahatil Rahat alleged that police and Chhatra League and Juba League activists attacked them without provocation when they tried to take a U-turn from Jigatala intersection to go back to Shahbagh.
The attackers took away helmets from standing motorcycles and wore them while attacking protesters, journalists and vandalising different structures. Cops were seen seeing the incidents standing idle.
The pro-AL activists also beat up journalists and passersby, especially who had mobile phones in their hands. ‘We will chop everyone if anyone takes any photo,’ the attackers were shouting.
At least 20 journalists, mostly photojournalists, were injured in the attack and cameras of at least six photojournalists were vandalised and eight of the journalists, including Associated Press photojournalist AM Ahad, were admitted to different hospitals.
They also harassed a female journalist of Channel-i.
The cops in groups of 20-25 were seen searching the areas from Shahbagh to Dhanmondi for injured people at about 3:00pm, when the situation became somewhat normal.
The cops asked the residents to go inside homes and asked the hospital staff to close their doors, witnesses said.
Panic gripped the area and shops and shopping centres remained closed.
At around 4:30pm, several hundred AL activists were seen around its party office at Dhanmondi-3 and some on motorcycles were seen brandishing sticks while at least four people were seen to be caught and handed over to cops by them.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Ramna zone deputy commissioner Maruf Hossain Sardar on the spot told reporters that they had to fire teargas shells to bring the situation under control as the agitated students were marching towards AL office, without paying heed to their requests.
Dhanmondi police station duty officer sub-inspector Mahidul Islam told New Age at 11:45pm that ‘some people’ were detained for interrogation and ‘some students’ were released after primary interrogation.
He, however, did not mention the number saying ‘senior officials were dealing with the matter.’
In the late afternoon, rowdy Chhatra League activists, led by BCL president Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury Shovon and general secretary Golam Rabbani, attacked students, who brought out a procession at Dhaka University protesting at the attacks on students. Three were injured.
Gloam Rabbani denied that Chhatra League activists were involved in the attack.
In Uttara’s House Building area, at least 20 were injured when about 150 BCL activists chased several hundred protesting students at about 11:00am and locked in a clash when the protesters chased them.
BCL general secretary Golam Rabbani claimed that they tried to disperse Chattra Dal and Shibir activists who took position there in the name of general students.
He alleged that Chhatra Dal and Shibir activists set fire to three motorcycles of BCL activists and at least 15 of their activists were injured in attacks at places in Dhaka.
At Rampura, protesting students of East West University, Imperial College, Rajdhani Ideal School and Khilgaon Womens’ College chased a procession of Awami League coming towards them from Badda area at about 12:30pm.
At green road, a group of youths, chanting pro-AL slogans, attacked students of University of Asia Pacific who took position on the road opposite to Green Super Market at about 12:45pm, protesting students said.
In Chittagong, Chhattra League activists, in presence of police, checked bags and mobile phones of citizens whom they suspected as student protesters in WASA and Muradpur intersections of the port city between 10:00am and 1:00pm while they beat and handed over two students of International Islamic University of Chittagong, Md Sifat, 23, and Asif, 24.
Chittagong metropolitan police deputy commissioner (south) Md Tarek said they arrested two suspected Shibir activists.
Besides, a group of students declared end of their protests after a 23-member delegation of the students from various educational institutions met Chittagong deputy commissioner Md Elius Hosain at the latter’s office in the afternoon.
In Dhaka, different school and college authorities asked the guardians on Sunday to bring their children to classrooms.
Tailbacks were seen at places as protesting students checked driving licenses and documents of vehicles and even blocked roads at places.
Commuters in Dhaka suffered immensely as there was almost no public bus on city roads. Transport owners and staff kept their buses off the roads.
Thousands of people were seen walking to reach their destination while some others opted for rickshaws and CNG-run auto rickshaws spending higher fare than that of normal days.
The students took position at almost all the major points, including Shahbagh, Farmgate, Kakrail, Jatrabari, Science Laboratory, Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur, Mirpur, House Building Road to Jasim Uddin Road of Uttara, Matijheel, Mouchak and Rampura.
The young protesters also took to the streets in different divisional cities, including Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshshi, Khulna and Mymensingh, and several other district towns.
Shaheed Ramiz Uddin School and College students Diya Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib were killed and at least 12 others were injured as a bus, racing two others, ploughed through a crowd of students waiting for buses in front of Kurmitola General Hospital on Airport Road on July 29.
The protesters raised nine-point demands, including justice for the deceased, apology of shipping minister Shajahan Khan and safe roads.
A group of teachers of different public universities, at a press conference at the teacher’s lounge of Teachers Students Centre of Dhaka University organised by Teachers Against Repression, condemned and protested at the recent attacks on protesting students.
About 20 teachers of Dhaka University, Jagannath University, Jahangirnagar University were present.
JU anthropology department professor Said Ferdous read out a written statement and said, ‘Students who are in jail must be released and cases filed against school and college students and quota reform protesters should be withdrawn.’
‘Identified attackers who swooped on students must be brought to book and steps to resolve the ongoing crisis be taken,’ he added.
Among others, JU economics department professor Anu Mohammad, DU mass communication and journalism professor Gitiara Nasren, Fahmidul Haq, lecturer Marzia Rahman, international relations associate professor Tanjim Uddin Khan, sociology associate professor Samina Luthfa, economics associate Rushad Faridi were present.
Transparency International Bangladesh in a statement condemned the attacks and demanded judicial probe into the incidents and punishment for the attackers.
Ganasanghati Andalon chief coordinator Zonayed Saki and executive coordinator Abul Hasan Rubel in a statement condemned the attacks.
Communist Party of Bangladesh, Revolutionary Workers’ Party of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal, Jatiya Mukti Council, Nayaganatantrik Gana Morcha and Jatiya Ganafront in separate statements condemned the attacks on the protesting students and urged the government to refrain from applying force on them.
Workers’ Party of Bangladesh general secretary Fazle Hossain Badsha termed the movement a just one and alleged that vested interests were been trying to divert their issue.
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