Govt should withdraw cases against student protesters

Updated at 12:37am on August 21, 2018

THE university students arrested in connection with the protests that the school and college students had held for nine days since July 29 seeking justice for the death of two of their fellows in a traffic accident and demanding road safety by putting an end to the chaos that has mired the road transport administration for decades have been remanded on bail and released. The students, mostly of universities, arrested for holding protests, since the middle of February with breaks, seeking reforms in public service recruitment quota have also been remanded on bail. While the arrest of the students for holding road safety protests, which ranking government leaders and police officials saw to be ‘just’ and ‘justified’, and for holding protests seeking reforms in the quota for public service recruitment, which government leaders in the initial days found to be ‘justified’, their detention and their being remanded in police custody for interrogation were worrying, their being remanded on bail comes as a welcome piece of news. The students were arrested in cases filed against unnamed people with different police stations of the capital Dhaka for joining the road safety protests of the school and college students in the later days and for holding quota reforms movement. In both the cases, leaders and activists of the Chhatra League, the student wing of the ruling Awami League, attacked the protesters.
The cases in connection with the road safety protests were filed between July 29 and August 15. But the police are yet to file any case or arrest any of the attackers, who were wearing helmets or had their face wrapped around with pieces of cloth. Chhatra League activists that time also attacked the journalists covering the student protests for road safety. Although not all of the attackers had their faces covered and many of them could be traced from the photographs and video footage that newspapers and television channels published, the police have eerily remained silent about this. The police are even reported to have aided the attackers that time. Many of the protesters, especially the university students, were arrested in cases filed under the Bangladesh Penal Code and the Special Powers Act between July 29 and August 11, many others were arrested in cases filed under the controversial Section 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act on charge of ‘instigating’ the students at the time of the road safety protests. But, as it comes out, many of them agreed to the just demands of the students, as government leaders and police officials did, and extended support for the protests.
What has happened centring on the arrest of students, more so given the use of the controversial section of the ICT Act, reeks of a high-handed attitude, and coercive tactics, of the government. Government leaders themselves agreeing to the student demand and then the police arresting some of the students for extending support for the protests entirely beats the logic. The arrested being remanded on bail, and released, is welcome. But the government must now take steps to withdraw the cases against the student protesters and let normalcy prevail.