Clockwise from left, university teachers, rights activists and other citizens take part in a protest against BCL attacks on students demanding quota reformation in government jobs; police manhandle a person with a child there and policemen drag a demonstrator in front of National Press Club in Dhaka on Tuesday. — Indrajit Kumer Ghosh
Attacks on quota reform protesters by Bangladesh Chhatra League activists at universities for three days until Monday sparked protests in Dhaka and elsewhere on Tuesday.
In Dhaka, police created an atmosphere of panic, manhandling students’ guardians and citizens who came to stage their pre-scheduled protest at 4:00pm in front of National Press Club.
They gathered there under the banner of ‘Udbigno Abhibhabak O Nagarik Samaj’ to protest at BCL attacks and intimidation on different campuses and arrest of quota reform demonstrators.
Police also picked up two — writer and columnist Rahnuma Ahmed and a former president of Bangladesh Chhatra Union Baki Billah —from the spot and released them after about 40 minutes, police and organisers of the citizens’ demonstration said.
In another development, the Shahbagh police showed three quota reform protesters’ leaders and activists – Faruque Ahmed, Tariqul Islam and Jasim Uddin – arrested in criminal cases on Tuesday and produced them before Dhaka metropolitan magistrate Subrata Ghosh Shubha who sent them to jail, New Age court correspondent reported.
Witnesses said a huge number of police were deployed in front of National Press Club since around noon.
As guardians and citizens, including university teachers, rights activists, former Dhaka University students and people of different professions began to gather there sometimes before 4:00pm, cops, led by Ramna division additional deputy commissioner HM Azimul Haque, told them that none would be allowed to stand there.
Within minutes, police began to push and manhandle a couple, Abu Taib and Simi Khanom, former students of DU who came there with their two babies in their laps to join the protest.
The frightened babies were seen to hold fast around their parents’ neck
and waist during the police action.
Meanwhile, police picked up Bangladesh Chhatra Union former president Baqui Billah and dragged him into a prison van.
A group of citizens including writer and columnist Rahnuma Ahmed and DU teacher Fahmidul Huq protested at it and the policemen also manhandled them, witnesses said.
A group of protesters including Rahnuma and Fahmidul got on the prison van in a bid to free Baqui and the prison van left the place with Rahnuma and Baqui, forcing other protesters including Fahmidul to get down from the prison van.
At the same time, police also assaulted citizens and guardians in four groups in front of the Press Club and were locked in altercation with leaders of Democratic Left Alliance, including Zonaid Saki of Ganasanghati Andolon, Saiful Huq of Biplobi Workers’ Party and Moshrefa Mishu of Ganatantrik Biplobi Party.
Hasib Uddin Hossain of Rastra Chinta was among those manhandled by police.
An atmosphere of panic was created, with police blowing whistle, shouting, pushing and manhandling the demonstrators and the demonstrators shouting for justice and protesting at the police action.
Asked why they did not allow the demo and manhandled the demonstrators, ADC Azim said, ‘No comment… I have the right not to say anything.’
He remained mum when the reporters shot back saying that the citizens also had right to express their opinions and thoughts.
Meanwhile, a number of demonstrators, being organised, formed a brief human chain there.
Addressing the programme, Jahangirnagar University teacher Professor Anu Muhammad said that citizens and guardians came to protest at BCL attacks on the students who were on a peaceful movement for a just demand for reforming the quota system. ‘We want a campus for our children, which is free and without terror.’
Supreme Court lawyer Hasnat Quayum, an organiser of the concerned guardians and citizens, urged all the citizens to take to the streets to protest at oppression on their children and to create a good educational atmosphere in all educational institutions.
Later about 5:00pm, Communist Party of Bangladesh, Socialist Party of Bangladesh and Democratic Left Alliance organised a rally on the same venue protesting at attack on quota reform protesters and a logical reformation of quota system.
CPB president Mujahidul Islam Selim, condemning BCL attacks on protesters, demanded logical reform of quota for freedom fighters’ families and urged that the quota for women and underprivileged community should not be abolished.
He demanded immediate arrest and punishment of BCL activists who attacked the quota reform protesters.
Chairing the rally, BSD general secretary Khalequzzaman urged the students to form committees to resist BCL terrorism in all the campuses.
DLA coordinator and Communist League general secretary Mosharrof Hossain Nannu and Biplobi Workers’ Party general secretary Saiful Huq also spoke.
At DU, a section of students under the banner of ‘Students against Repression’ held a rally at the base of anti-terrorism Raju Memorial Sculpture demanding punishment of the BCL activists who carried out repeated attacks on quota protesters and safe environment of education on the campus.
DU chapter Chhatra Federation president Umme Habiba Benojir said that the BCL goons tried to establish a reign of terror in the campus by flexing muscle on general students but university administration utterly failed to ensure safety of students.
Later, the protesters bought out a procession which paraded streets on the campus before ending in front of proctor’s office where they chanted slogans in favour of their demands and flooded the proctor with questions.
Proctor Golam Rabbani then said they were aware about the incidents and would take action against those who created chaos on the campus.
BCL activists were also seen standing beside the Raju sculpture when ‘Students against Repression’ staged demonstration, witnesses said.
At Rajshahi University, teachers and students at a sit-in condemned and protested against the assaults and attacks on quota reform protesters by the Chhatra League activists.
They held the hour-long programme near the grave of Dr Shamsuzzoha, who was shot dead by Pakistani military in front of the main gate of RU on February 18, 1969 while trying to protect students.
Earlier on Monday night, condemning the BCL attacks on general students RU associate professor Farid Uddin Khan of economics in his facebook timeline declared that he would go to his office in barefooted and would stand at Dr Zoha’s grave for an hour keeping silence.
Department sources said that though Professor Farid Uddin Khan came to the department in barefoot in the morning, he was told by the department chair and the university authorities not to go the grave.
However, five other teachers went to Zoha’s grave at 11:00am expressing solidarity with Professor Farid and staged a silent sit-in there for an hour.
Following the teachers, several hundred general students also expressed solidarity with the teachers and joined the programme.
They also declared that they would organise the same programme today at the same venue and at the same time.
BCL leaders and activists tried to bring out a procession where teachers and students were staging a sit-in at 12:00pm.
The university authorities and the law enforcers stopped both the groups at the university Paris Road and forced the general students to leave the place around 12:15pm.
BCL RU unit president Golam Kibria told New Age that they took position near the grave so that none could create anarchy on campus in the name quota reformation.
Women Rights Campaign platform Naripokkho in a statement also condemned BCL attacks on quota demonstrators and demanded punishment of attackers.
On Saturday, BCL activists attacked the protesters on the DU campus when they were preparing to hold a press conference to spell out their demands, leaving 15 protesters injured.
The protesters, under the banner of Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Adhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad, were attacked, intimidated and arrested at different places of the country on Sunday when they were holding demonstrations on university campuses in protest against Saturday’s attacks.
On Monday the protesters held demonstrations on campuses in protest against Saturday’s attacks on them and demanding gazette notification abolishing quota in government jobs as the prime minister had announced in Parliament on April 11.
The protesters began the movement demanding quota system reforms in mid-February.