THE government still continuing with repression against university students, who joined school and college students in the later days of their protests for road safety, proper road administration and justice for the death of two of their fellow, from July 29 to August 6 — which largely ended in students’ response to ‘a call of the prime minister’ and the cabinet’s approval of the draft of the Road Transport Bill 2018 for passage with a provision for a maximum of five years’ jail and fines for rash and negligent driving that would cause death or serious injury — is worrying. Twenty-two students of North South, East West, South East and BRAC universities, as New Age reported on Wednesday, were remanded in police custody for interrogation for two days in 34 cases filed till Tuesday in connection with violence during the road safety protests. What is disconcerting is that none of the attackers, reported to be activists of the Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, with their face wrapped around with pieces of cloth or in helmet, have been implicated in the cases.
The Chhatra League activists in the last three days of the protests attacked school and college students who took to the streets and journalists who covered the incidents. While scores of school and college students were injured in the attacks by the Chhatra League activists, more than a score of journalists were wounded, some of them grievously. The attackers also broke the mobiles and cameras of the journalists. The attacks mean to be a glaring manifestation of an affront to the expression of freedom and of the media. Yet, the law enforcers, who are reported to have either stood idle or aided the attackers, have not lifted a finger to arrest the perpetrators although print and electronic media have published their photographs or video footage of the attacks from which they could be identified. On the other front, while the protests of school and college students were going on, both government and ruling party leaders and ranking police officials, along with others, said that the demands of the students were just and justified and they learnt a lot from the students about what to do to streamline the road transport administration. But now, when the protests are over, the government is hunting down people for instigating the ‘protests for just causes.’ If the protests are just, and the government so thinks, no support that people extended for the protests, in real or virtual sphere, could be labelled as ‘instigation’. The post-protest action of the government and its in-protest statement do not match and one negates the other.
The government, under the circumstances, must stop treading the path of coercion and high-handedness and stop repression against the students. It must stop hunting down people who supported, as the government leaders claim to have done, the protests of the school and college students who tried to purge, or at least showed the way how to do, the road transport administration of chaos and corruption that has been so left for decades.
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