Police arrest two transport workers on Saturday, local transport workers suspend passenger bus services in retaliation
Students of Barisal University have again blocked the Barisal highways in support of their three-point demand, including the arrest of the real culprits and their mastermind behind the attack on 25 of their fellow students earlier in the week.
They resumed their protests at around 9:30am on Saturday by putting up logs on the Dhaka-Barisal-Patuakhali and Barisal-Bhola highways and setting tyres on fire, bringing traffic to a grinding halt.
Transport workers, too, launched their own protest, after police arrested two workers suspected to have been involved in Tuesday’s attack, in the early hours of Saturday.
The blockade and the strike have led to hundreds of vehicles being stranded on the highway, causing immense sufferings to people, especially those who were travelling for the three-day weekend – particularly to Kuakata sea beach in Patuakhali.
Mahamudul Islam Tomal, on behalf of the protesters, said their ultimatum to arrest the attackers ended at 5pm on Friday and soon after that, they urged the universities to sue three people, including a transport owner.
“However, the university filed a case against unnamed people instead, which proves that they are not taking the matter seriously,” he said.
“We want an attempt-to-murder case to be filed, besides a guarantee of our security,” Tomal said, adding that at least 50 phone sets belonging to the students were stolen when the transport workers swooped on them at a university hostel on Tuesday.
Police have arrested two people in this connection, reacting to which Tomal said: “The main culprits were spared and ordinary transport workers were caught.”
Kotwali police station OC Md Nurul Islam said police arrested two transport workers at around 2am on Saturday in Barisal’s city’s Ruptali bus terminal during a raid, after the case was filed.
Police were working to book others involved in the attack, he added.
The arrested transport workers are Md Firoz Munshi, a helper with South Bengal Paribahan, and Abul Bashar Rony, a supervisor with MK Paribahan.
OC Nurul said the two men had confessed to their involvement in the attack on the students.
Barisal University Proctor Subrata Kumar Das said: “I think the rest of the attackers will be arrested soon and police will be able to unearth the motive behind the attack.”
He said he was not aware of any political connection to the incident.
In retaliation for the arrests, local transport workers called a strike on Saturday and suspended passenger bus services between Barisal and seven southern districts on 17 routes, demanding the release of the arrestees.
They also took to the streets protesting the arrest at eight key points around Ruptali bus terminal, staging their demonstration by burning tyres.
The transport leaders threatened that bus services would remain suspended until the arrested workers were released.
Barisal-Patuakhali Minibus Owners’ Association President Kawser Hossain Shipon alleged that police had unlawfully made the arrests.
“Those who were arrested were not involved in the attack. We will continue our protest until they are released,” he said.
Meanwhile, members of the Student Rights Council of Barisal BM College organised a human chain on Sadar Road to demand the arrest of the transport workers who had attacked the Barisal University students.
On Tuesday, two students of the university were assaulted by a few staffers of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) at BRTC bus counter in Ruptali area of the city.
In protest, some students of the university blocked the bus terminal for two hours. They dispersed only after police arrested one BRTC employee, identified as Rafique, in connection with the attack.
In retaliation, transport workers armed with sticks barged into a university hostel and attacked Tomal, on Tuesday night.
As news of the attack spread on social media, students from other hostels of the university rushed to the spot to save Tomal. The transport workers attacked Tomal's rescuers too, leaving 24 of them injured.