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Protesting students rule roads
Thousands of students, mostly teenagers took to the streets in Dhaka and elsewhere for the fifth straight day on Thursday protesting against transport sector anarchy and seeking safe roads and justice for the deaths of two fellows in a road accident in Dhaka on Sunday.
The young protesters came under attack by cops and a group of youths at Mirpur 13 in the afternoon, few hours after Dhaka Metropolitan Police assured of handling the protesters with highest patience.
Braving rains, the young protesters demonstrated on all the major roads, points and intersections carrying handwritten posters, chanting slogans, disciplining the traffics and talking to the drivers and passengers to create awareness about traffic rules.
Tailbacks were seen at places as the young students checked driving licenses and documents of vehicles.
The students kept an emergency lane for ambulance and other patient carrying vehicles and stopped vehicles keeping space at zebra crossings to allow people to cross the road without hindrance.
At places, they stopped government cars as the drivers had no or expired licence and cars having no valid documents.
Commuters in Dhaka suffered immensely as there was almost no public bus on city roads. Most of them
were seen walking to reach their destination while some others opted for rickshaws and CNG-run auto rickshaws spending almost double fare.
The students put blockades at over 30 major points, including Shahbagh, Farmgate, Kakrail, Jatrabari, Science Laboratory, Babu Bazar Bridge, Johnson Road, Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur, Agargaon, Mirpur, Kakoli, House Building Road to Jasim Uddin Road of Uttara, Matijheel, Mouchak, Banglamotors, Rampura, Technical and Shantinagar.
The protesting school and college students carried posters reading ‘we want justice’, ‘missing notice: justice is missing’, ‘caution: development work is going on, sorry for temporary problem’, ‘road is closed: works for repairing the state is on’, ‘how many bodies would need to bring road safety’, ‘ministers say foul talks’, ‘none instigated us, we are instigated by our conscience’.
They chanted slogans to press home their nine-point demands and the resignation of the shipping minister Shahjahan Khan, also transport sector leader, for smiling over the deaths of two students in Kurmitola accident.
Water resources minister Anwar Hossain was compelled to get down from his car as the driver failed to show driving licence to the protesters at Dhanmondi.
The protesters surrounded the white car carrying the minister while crossing the road in front of Ibne Sina Hospital at Dhanmondi at about noon and the minister was seen getting down from the car and leaving the place boarding on another car, witnesses said.
The students stopped the car of principal secretary to the prime minister at Kakrail and found no valid documents of the driver, witnesses said.
The agitating students found a jeep carrying uniformed River Police deputy inspector general Habibur Rahman and other police personnel and its driver having no document near Karwan Bazar, witnesses said.
Habibur told reporters on the spot that it was a government car and he did not know anything about it.
The young protesters also took to the streets in all divisional cities, including Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshshi, Sylhet, Rangpur and Mymensingh, and district towns, including Gazipur, Narayanganj, Gopalganj, Jhalakathi, Kushtia, Naogaon, Chuadanga, Barguna, Jessore, Noakhali and Chandpur.
Shaheed Ramiz Uddin School and College students Diya Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib were killed and at least 12 others were injured as a bus ploughed through a crowd of students waiting for buses in front of Kurmitola General Hospital on Airport Road on Sunday while racing two other buses.
The students took to the streets in Dhaka on Sunday and placed nine-point demands, including justice for the deceased, apology of shipping minister Shajahan Khan and safe roads.
Shajahan Khan, talking to reporters at the ministry Thursday afternoon, said that there was no possibility of his resignation as the students were demanding his apology, not his resignation.
He said that he had already apologised to the students.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police at a briefing at its media centre urged the protesting students to go back to their homes and not to pay heed to instigations of vested interests on social media.
Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crimes unit chief Monirul Islam at the briefing sought help from guardians, teachers and citizens in this connection and said that about 300 vehicles, including five of the police, were vandalised and eight buses were set on fire during the protests since July 29.
Asked whether the students’ protests for safe roads, which remained unmet for years, was a slap on authorities responsible for traffic management, he said, ‘Sometimes we have to learn from children…We will implement all those the children brought to our fore.’
He said that they were dealing with the protesters with highest patience.
Dhaka metropolitan magistrate Nurun Nahar Yeasmin on Thursday remanded M Shahadat Hossain, owner of the bus of Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan that killed the two students at Kurmitola, in police custody for seven days for interrogation in the case filed over the accident. Rapid Action Battalion arrested Shahadat on Wednesday.
In Shahbagh and adjacent areas, over 1,000 students demonstrated between 11:00am and 4:30pm blocking all the roads leading to Shahbagh intersection. They chanted slogans in support of their demands.
Speaking there, Bir Shrestho Munshi Abdur Rouf Public School and College second-year student Hashib Hasan said, ‘We do not have any political affiliation and have not waged the protests for any political benefit. We want capital punishment of the perpetrators.’
The agitated students announced to gather at the same spot at 11:00am on Friday and vowed to continue their protests until their demands were met.
Dhaka University Teachers Association and Bangladesh Chhatra League on Thursday expressed solidarity with the protests and urged the government to meet their demands and take steps to implement those.
The association issued a statement signed by its president ASM Maksud Kamal and general secretary Shibli Rubayat Ul Islam Thursday evening.
A group of Dhaka University teachers backed by Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami and Dhaka University unit of ruling Awami League backed student body Bangladesh Chhatra League brought out separate silent processions on the campus demanding safe road.
Save the Children in a statement on Thursday urged the government to ensure safety of the children in the movement.
At Uttara, a section of celebrities of film industry took possession near Mascot Plaza and expressed their solidarity with the protesting students.
At Banglamotor, the students were seen checking documents of vehicles and drivers for about seven hours since 11:00am and drivers of the vehicles were seen to keep their driving licence and vehicles’ registration ready to show the students.
A covered van driver said that he had to show his driving licence 25-30 times to reach Banglamotor from Gabtoli but none demanded bribe which he used to pay to cops earlier.
Traffic inspector Altaf Hossain at Banglamotor, at about 5:00pm, said that eight cops used to control traffic in the intersection in two shifts. ‘Cops left the spot as soon as students took full control of traffic at around 3:00pm.’
He said that agitated students misbehaved with a number of police and government vehicle drivers as they failed to show their driving licences or their vehicles registration papers.
Students forced cops to seize a microbus carrying home ministry sticker and another unlicensed motorbike of a cop at Banglamotor about 4:00pm, witnesses said.
A traffic police official said that they cannot take steps against vehicles of the government and VIPs as ‘we do jobs under them.’
The situation was almost same at other places in Dhaka.
At Mirpur 13, police and some unidentified youths attacked the protesting students near SOS Hermann Gmeiner College Thursday afternoon, leaving several protesters and cops injured, witnesses said.
The police, however, claimed that the students were violent and attacked cops.
Witnesses said that the cops and the youths tried to remove some protesters from the road when a human chain was underway at Mirpur-14 at about 4:00pm.
At one stage, the protesters threw brick bats on police and then the police chased the protesters, they said.
At about 6:00pm, they said, the cops swooped on the protesters and beat them up. A group of unidentified youths carrying sticks also joined the police to attack the protesters. The melee continued for about an hour, witnesses said.
Kafrul police station duty officer sub-inspector Nazrul Islam said that police intervened when the protesters and some local youths were chasing each other at Mirpur 13. At that time some cops, including inspector (operation) Quamrul Hossain, were injured.
The students also attacked the police, he claimed.