Students’ protests for road safety flared up across the capital and many districts on the second consecutive day on Wednesday following the death of a Bangladesh University of Professionals student as a speeding bus ran him over on Tuesday.
The students of Bangladesh University of Professionals and educational institutions in the adjacent areas started their protests on Pragati Sarani in front of Jamuna Future Park at Bashundhara in the morning for safety on roads and justice for the killing of the BUP student, Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury.
As the day went by, hundreds of students of different public and private universities expressed solidarity with BUP students and took position in crossings and roads at Shahbagh, Science Lab, Dhanmondi, Farmgate, Rampura, Badda, Uttara and the Old Town of Dhaka for the same demands.
In the evening, a group of BUP students issued a seven-day ultimatum and postponed the protests until March 28 while some other students protested at the decision.
Besides taking position on roads and chanting slogans for road safety, the protesting students were also seen to check documents of vehicles and drivers and control traffic on city roads on Wednesday.
Huge traffic gridlock kept the city people waiting on roads for hours all day long, especially at Bashundhara, Uttara, Rampura, Badda, Shahbagh, Famrgate, Dhanmondi and Old Town.
Thousands of people were seen walking on roads or riding on rickshaws on almost all roads while the number of city buses was less compared to usual days.
The students were seen to help ambulances on roads where they took positions.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority stopped operation of all Suprobhat and Jabal-e-Noor paribahan buses.
On Tuesday, BUP first semester student Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury was crossing the road using zebra crossing while a Suprabhat Paribahan bus ran him over at Pragati Sarani and dragged him along several metres as the driver tried to speed away, witnesses said.
Students immediately took position on Pragati Sarani for eight-point demands, including ensuring capital punishment for the driver and bus owner in 10 days, cancelling route permits for all buses involved in road accidents including Suprobhat and Jabal-e-Noor buses, conducting dope test for drivers and their assistants, freeing transport sector of political influence, checking driving licences in every month, putting an end to driving without licence and running of unfit vehicles, displaying identification cards of drivers on every bus, building a footbridge at the accident spot, setting up bus stoppages, installing CCTV cameras at all zebra crossings and banning seating service buses.
On Wednesday hundreds of students from BUP, North South University, Independent University, Bangladesh, University of Information Technology and Sciences, American International University-Bangladesh and Siddheshwari Degree College took to the streets in front of Jamuna Future Park at Bashundhara at around 9:30am, halting traffic on the busy road causing untold public sufferings to commuters on the road at the busy hours.
The protesters chanted slogans, ‘We want justice, blood of my brother cannot go meaningless, we fare no death for the memory of Abrar.’
Several hundred Dhaka University students blocked the busy Shahbagh crossing at 11:00am expressing solidarity with the BUP students.
Students of different city schools also joined them at Shahbagh.
The students were seen to pass the ambulances or vehicles carrying patients in Shahbagh crossing. Students at many points also checked driving licence and registration papers of vehicles.
Agitated students said that the government cheated them as it did not implement any of their demands pressed for seven months ago.
They said that they could not trust any government assurance again and would continue the protests until realisation of the demands.
Students of Dhaka City College, Dhanmondi Government Boys High School, Home Economics College, Daffodil International University and other educational institutions also joined the protests and took position in Science Lab crossing.
Jagannath University students also joined the protests and chanted different slogans at the university and roads in the adjacent areas.
Students took position on roads in Rampura, Badda, Uttara areas also.
‘I started from Old Town at 11:00am and reached home at Dhanmondi 4 at 4:00pm,’ said Dhanmondi resident Nasim Akhter.
New Age correspondent in Rangpur reported that Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Parishad Rangpur division students formed a human chain in the city’s Lalbagh area for two hours at the noon.
They expressed solidarity with BUP students’ protests while students of different educational institutes joined them.
Local people at Sharsha in Jashore blocked the Jashore-Benapole highway as a schoolgirl lost her leg after her school van was hit by a speedy pickup van Wednesday morning.
At about 11:30pm, Dhaka north city mayor Atiqul Islam, BUP vice-chancellor Major General Md Emdad-Ul-Bari and Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia assured the protesting students in Bashundhara area of realising their demands and requested them to leave the street.
The students ignored their request and vowed to continue protests until their demands were met.
Before that, mayor Atiqul laid foundation of a footbridge named after Abrar on Pragati Sarani, where the university student was killed.
On the foundation stone name of the deceased student’s father was mentioned Arif Ahmed Chowdhury as laying the foundation. But the father was absent from the programme.
At about 1:00pm a student delegation went to DNCC Nagar Bhaban for discussing with mayor Atiqul several demands, including trial of all killings in road accidents, removal of former shipping minister Shajahan Khan from all important positions, filing charge sheet on Tuesday’s incident in 24 hours and trial under Speedy Trial Tribunal, announcement of building footbridges, zebra crossings and underpasses at the accident prone spots and cancellation of route permits of Suprabhat and Jabarl-e-Noor bus companies, save transport workers from syndicate and appointment of drivers following labour law.
At about 6:00pm, BUP student Tawhiduzzaman, on behalf of the delegation, told a press conference at Bashundhara that they called off the protests until March 28 giving a 7-day ultimatum to the authorities to meet the demands.
They also threatened to resume the protests if the authorities missed the deadline.
Many of the protesting students, however, rejected the decision and announced that they would continue the protests until they found any mark of positive changes.
They demanded that the mayor must set foundation stone of footbridges in front of all educational institutions and ask the police to file the case against the driver, owner and assistant of the bus under Section 302 of the Penal Code on charge of murder.
DU student Billah Tuhin, who briefed reporters, told New Age that they already posted on Facebook that as it was a movement of BUP students, DU students would also postpone the protests.
Gulshan police station officer-in-charge Abu Baker Siddique said that victim’s father retired brigadier general Arif Ahmed Chowdhury filed a case with the police station Tuesday evening accusing the bus driver Shirazul Islam, owner, conductor and driver’s assistant under Section 304 of the Penal Code.
The arrested bus driver was remanded in police custody for seven days as he was produced before a metropolitan magistrate’s court on Wednesday. But other accused were still in hiding, the police officer said.
BRTA Mirpur circle deputy director Shafiquzzaman Bhuiyan said that they asked the owners of 167 Suprabhat buses and 29 Jabal-e-Noor buses to submit all documents in three days.
Until that, none of these buses would run on roads and they would check the documents for further decision, he added.
In the capital, at a meeting of Dhaka Road Transport Owners and Workers’ Unity Council, its convener Khandaker Enayet Ullah said they would stop movement of all buses under contract system.
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