Student’s death in road accident sparks protests

Shahin Akhter and Rashad Ahamad | Updated at 12:20am on March 20, 2019

images

Students of Bangladesh University of Professionals block Pragati Sarani in Dhaka on Tuesday as a speeding bus kills a student of the university. — Abdullah Apu

Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury

Students of different private universities on Tuesday blocked Pragati Sarani in front of Jamuna Future Park at Bashundhara in the capital for about 12 hours protesting the death of a student of Bangladesh University of Professionals and demanding safe road.
The student was crossing the road using the zebra crossing while a bus of Suprabhat Paribahan ran him over and dragged him along several metres as the driver mindlessly tried to speed away, witnesses said.
Hundreds of students again took to the street demanding safe road within seven months of countrywide student protests that had started in July 29 last year, after a bus ploughed through a roadside crowd of people, killing two students on the spot.
Tuesday’s accident took place amid Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s traffic discipline week, observed across the city to bring back discipline and make people aware of traffic rules.
The victim, identified as Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury, had participated in the July protests, his friends and classmates said.
Police arrested the bus driver who was driving illegally with light driving licence.
The day-long blockade on Pragati Sarani left the city in disarray. People experienced huge traffic gridlock in almost all major roads, especially in Rampura, Badda and Bashundhara areas.
Agitated students also put fire on a Suprabhat Paribahan bus around 12:30 noon.
Around 4:30pm, the newly elected vice president of DUCSU Nurul Haque Nur went to the spot and expressed solidarity with the students.
The students withdrew the blockade around 6:00pm while they vowed to continue with the protest today from 8:00am, at the same place, boycotting classes across the country.
Meanwhile, Dhaka North City mayor Md Atiqul Islam announced that today the foundation of a footbridge would be laid at the accident spot.
The deceased student Abrar Ahmed was the son of retired brigadier general Arif Ahmed Chowdhury of Bashundhara area and an honours first year student of international relations at BUP.
Witnesses said that around 7:00am Abrar was crossing the road using the zebra crossing to get on a university bus parked across the road.
The Uttara-bound Suprabhat Paribahan bus [Dhaka Metro – Ba 11-4135] which began its journey from Natunbazar, hit Abrar and dragged him along for some times after successfully overtaking the BUP bus, they said.
His head was crushed under the wheel while his blood spread all over the zebra crossing, they said.
Some witnesses also alleged that drivers of two Suprabhat Paribahan buses were seen competing with each other right before the accident.
Abrar was rushed to Kurmitola General Hospital where physicians declared him dead.
DMP assistant commissioner (traffic) Badda zone Abdullah Al Mamun also told New Age that the accident took place due to reckless driving of the driver.
The incident was a sharp reminder of the mishap in which two Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College students were killed and 12 more injured while drivers of two Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan were competing with each other at Kurmitola in the capital on July 29.
The incident initiated a weeklong and countrywide protest against the road sector anarchy, and many promises were made on the part of the authorities, and after a total of four traffic weeks and a traffic month observed across the city, the roads in Dhaka remain as unsafe as before.
On Tuesday, after the accident, BUP students blocked the road at the spot to protest at the accident.
As the news spread, students of different universities including North South University, American International University-Bangladesh, United International University and Independent University, Bangladesh took to the street and blocked the road, placing buses across the street in front of the Bashundhara residential area.
As an immediate outcome, movement of all vehicles came to a halt at Rampura, Badda and Bashundhara areas.
They upheld some demands including death penalty for the driver and bus owner, as well as freeing transport sector of political influence, checking driving licences every month, putting a stop to driving without licences and driving 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, putting a ban on seating service buses and bringing back discipline on the road as soon as possible.
The agitated students were seen chanting different slogans demanding safe roads all day long.
‘We want change, not promises’, ‘We want justice’, ‘We want answer’, ‘Justice for Abrar’, ‘Why there is blood of my brother on roads’, ‘When would the authorities be panicked,’ ‘Action action, direct action’, and ‘Blood of my brother would not be shed without justice.’
Some students were seen lying on the zebra crossing wearing burial shroud to remind all about the deaths toll on Dhaka roads.
‘To this day, Jabal-e-Noor is running on road, Suprobhat too will ply the roads tomorrow. We want justice and we are not getting it,’ said a female student while she was in tears.
An agitated student said, ‘Is this an example of traffic week, that a student crossing the road at the zebra crossing and dies on the spot!’
‘The authorities are issuing licences to drivers who don’t even have the knowledge about zebra crossings,’ said another student.
DNCC mayor visited the spot around 10:00am and assured the students that their demands would be met, but the students refused to withdraw the protest.
DMP assistant commissioner (traffic) Badda zone Abdullah Al Mamun said that at 12:30pm students of North South University and IUB allegedly set fire to a Suprabhat Paribahan bus on the same road, and BUP students later doused the fire. The bus was not damaged, he said.
DUCSU VP Nurul Haque Nur said they would not accept so-called probe committee which the authorities are habituated to form after any death on roads.
‘We are in favour of the logical movement of the students,’ he said, adding ‘if anyone tries to hatch any conspiracy against the protesting students, we will give a fitting reply.’
On behalf of protesting students, Maisha Noor declared in the evening that they would continue with their protest today from 8:00am there.
‘We will continue to protest until our demands are met,’ she said.
They also urged the students across the country to take position in front of their respective educational institutions on Wednesday.
A number of other students said that after the student movement in July 2018, they are not ready to be relented by any ‘assurance’ from the authorities.
They said that the government betrayed the students as it is yet to implement the commitments made after the road safety movement last July.
The traffic police members started to remove the buses from the road around 6:10pm and traffic came to normal around 6:30pm.
However, the zebra crossing, where the accident took place, was marked by a rope.
Following DNCC mayor Md Atiqul Islam instruction to cancel the route permit and registration of the bus involved in the accident, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority cancelled the registration of the bus on Tuesday night.
Gulshan police station sub-inspector Nazrul Islam told New Age that they arrested the driver Sirajul Islam, 28, of Bhukhainagar in Barishal and seized the vehicle.
The driver was still at the police station while no case was filed till 10:00pm, said Gulshan police duty officer.
The autopsy of Abrar was held at Kurmitola General Hospital and later the body was handed over to the family members.
His first namaz-e-janaza held at BUP campus after zuhr prayer while DNCC mayor, BUP vice-chancellor Major General Md Emdad-Ul-Bari and others were present, said a press release issued by the BUP.
He was buried at Banani graveyard.