Dhaka, Bangladesh is witnessing massive students’ protests over issues of road safety and the killing of students in road accidents. However, widespread reports especially accessed on social media, reportedly suggest that the Government of Bangladesh with its police and other informal institutions such as its students’ wing has unleashed a bloodied war on its youth and the visuals are alarming. Most media houses in India have maintained a silence on it, or have resorted to misreporting.
Image Courtesy: Ara Vind / Facebook Page
Students started protesting after two youth were killed and nine others injured in a road accident last week. A bus rammed into a group of students waiting for transport on Airport Road of Dhaka on July 29 in which the two students were killed on the spot.
A Facebook group with the name Private University Student Alliance (formed three years ago during a student movement for the cancellation of VAT on private universities) urged all the students of the city’s educational institutions to make ‘peaceful protests’ in front of their respective schools, colleges and universities the next day.
Protests intensified after what were perceived to be insensitive remarks from Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan who said, “A road crash has claimed 33 lives in India's Maharashtra; but do they talk about it the way we do?”
Students took to streets in order to check for licenses of all the vehicles passing by. Teens as young as 13 were seen checking for licences of vehicles passing by.
However, the Dhaka police has reportedly shown high handedness in trying to quell the protests. They have fired rubber bullets, tear gas and there are reports of large scale violence by police and supporters of ruling Awami league party. There are also reports of sexual abuse of girls and their subsequent disposal in nearby areas.
During the protests, as per reports, more than 100 people were injured in Bangladesh on July 4 as police fired rubber bullets at student protesters in what appears to be a major standoff between the government and demonstrators.
As per ground reports, 4 school boys were shot dead at Jhigatola, 4 girls abducted, allegedly raped, the killed with hammer blows and thrown in Dhanmodi lake.
The AFP news agency cited Abdus Shabbir, the emergency ward doctor who said,
"A few of them were in very bad condition." Several students have been admitted at Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Popular Hospital in Dhaka.
Not only students, but several journalists have also been reported to be injured during the protests due to the chaos that ensued.
Road safety issues have been plaguing the country since a while. The transport sector in Bangladesh has come to be seen as corrupt, unregulated and dangerous and as the news of the two teenage students’ deaths spread across social media like wildfire, the outrage poured on the streets. It was also reported over the week end that the government blocked mobile internet access. Earlier, the transport workers too had staged protests even as the government urged the students to get back to classrooms.
Pro government ‘activists’ from Bangladesh Chhatra League (is a students’ political organisation linked to Bangladesh Awami League Party) also attacked student protesters who were protesting peacefully.
However, the Road transport minister Obaidul Quader rejected any allegations of involvement of party cadres from ruling Awami League Party in perpetuatinhg violence over the protesters.
Protesters have said, “We won’t leave the roads until our demands are met. We want safe roads and safe drivers.”