Police assault schoolchildren, one hospitalized, bus set on fire
Student agitation on road safety spread all over the capital yesterday, with more schools, colleges and universities joining in.
This was the third such day of protests that followed the death of two students on Sunday when a bus ploughed into a group of college students waiting for transport on the Airport Road.
With students staging roadblocks and sit-ins at several major points, it was a difficult day for commuters in Dhaka.
The protests appeared to be spontaneous and disorganized, and the students did not appear to have any spokespersons or leadership.
Police were even more aggressive against the protesters yesterday, and charged at them in many places, seriously injuring at least one boy.
In most places students demanded punishment for the drivers of the buses responsible for the death of the two students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College.
Others demanded that Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan resign and apologize for his remarks on the incident.
Police and Fire Service sources said several vehicles were vandalized and one bus was burned down.
Around 10am, children in school uniforms took position on the Airport Road opposite Hotel Radisson Blu; protested for about 30 minutes at that spot before police dispersed them.
A student from Uttara told the Dhaka Tribune that when they tried to regroup further down the road at the Kuril bus stand around 12:30pm, the police charged at them with batons.
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Traffic Nazmul Alam said that students protested for half-an-hour in the morning but they did not block the road.
Students from Uttara schools and BGMEA University vandalized at least five buses and a mini-truck during their protest. Later a Bushra Paribahan bus was burned near the Jasim Uddin bus stand.
Dhaka Commerce College students demonstrated in front of Sony Cinema Hall at Mirpur 1, while students from other schools and colleges blocked the Mirpur 10 traffic circle.
Nazrul Islam, assistant commissioner of DMP Traffic West, said traffic movement from Mirpur 1 to Mirpur 10, remained close for more than an hour due to the protests.
Students of Shaheed Smriti Police College in Kafrul staged protests around 12pm near Mirpur 10 circle. Police charged batons on them, seriously injuring at least one student.
Mirpur OC Dadon Bhuiyan and Kafrul police station Inspector (Investigation) Aslam Uddin denied the attacks.
Students from Tejgaon College and Government Science College blocked the city’s busiest intersection Farmgate for over an hour after 10:30am.
In the Tejgaon area, students from various private universities took to the streets, accompanied by local school and college students.
Students of East West University blocked the Rampura Bridge area till 6pm.
Hundreds of students from Dhanmondi Ideal College, Government Laboratory High School, City College and Dhaka College staged demonstrations at the Science Laboratory area around 11:30pm. Police charged at them around 1:30pm, injuring some of the students.
Fire Service Control Room Duty Officer Ershad Hossain said a Himachal Paribahan bus was set on fire around 2pm near the Science Lab intersection and the Fire Service brought it under control.
Nearby, in Dhaka University, students formed a human chain at the base of the Raju Sculpture, supporting the movement and demanding justice for the deaths.
Hundreds of students from Notre Dame College took position at the Shapla Chattor intersection - the centre of the financial hub - around 1pm yesterday. Students protested for almost three hours till 4pm and police were eventually able to talk them into unblocking the road.
Earlier, in Kakrail, students of Willes Little Flower School and College took to the streets and vandalized several vehicles.
‘We want justice, we want safety’
Asking to remain unnamed, a student of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College told the Dhaka Tribune: “We are students. We want to study for our betterment, to ensure the development of our country. But the road safety issue has compelled us to stand on the roads. Today my friends got killed and tomorrow my brother would be and then probably my turn.”
“We want justice, so that no one will trod on us on the roads,” he said.
East West University student Saiful said they joined the protests in the hope that the issue would not be swallowed up and the government would take a concrete stand.
While for most citizens of Dhaka, the protests were a source of sufferings, those who spoke to the Dhaka Tribune expressed their support on the issue.
“Their protest is justified, but I worry what the young children will learn from this experience,” Rashedul Islam, an NGO employee in Mirpur, said, pointing to the vandalism.
Azizul Haque, a bus owner, said: “For the safety of my own children, I support them. But they are vandalizing buses, and that puts my livelihood at risk.”
Parul Saha, who was taking her mother to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said they had to suffer because of this protest.
“But still I support it. They might bring about discipline on the roads,” she said.