Authorities move as Dhaka students protest reckless driving deaths for third day

Students from schools and colleges protesting against deaths of two fellows in Dhaka have blockaded several key streets disrupting traffic for the third day.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 31 July 2018, 06:00 PM
Updated : 31 July 2018, 08:09 PM

The protests on Tuesday prompted the Prime Minister’s Office to order a crackdown on rogue drivers and Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan to apologise for his comments on the deaths of students in the accident.

The protesters blocked streets at Farmgate, Science Laboratory intersection, Mirpur, Motijheel, Kakrail and Badda for hours, grounding traffic across the city to a halt.

Uniformed students vandalised at least 20 vehicles in a blockade of around three and a half hours at the Science Laboratory intersection.

They have been protesting since a Jabale Noor Paribahan bus ploughed into students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College waiting for transport on the Airport Road on Sunday, killing two and injuring several others.

Demands and steps

The students have made a nine-point charter of demand, including capital punishment for reckless drivers.

Their other demands included apology from the shipping minister for his comments, footbridges at places where students cross streets, and speed-breakers at places prone to accident. 

Shajahan later offered apology for “unintentionally smiling while speaking about the accident without knowing about it”.

At a PMO meeting, BRTA and Dhaka Metropolitan Police were instructed to take legal action against those responsible for the deaths of the two students and arrest underage drivers and those with no driving licence in Dhaka.

Two drivers of Jabale Noor bus and their two assistants detained in connection with the Airport Road crash were sent to jail following court orders.

Day 3 of protests

After staging protests for two days, a Facebook group that identifies itself as ‘Private University Student Alliance’ called for road blockades across Dhaka.

The activist group urged all students to stop the movement of all vehicles, except for ambulances and hajj pilgrims’ cars, in front of their schools and colleges in a post around 10:45am.

The Facebook page described the protest as ‘protest by general students without a political ideology’ and said the ‘blockades’ would continue until their demands were met.

Before the post, students of Ramiz Uddin College massed on one side of the street in front of the Radisson Blu hotel around 10am, but their protests did not disrupt traffic, Nazmul Alam, an additional deputy commissioner of traffic police said.
When the protests were under way on the Airport Road, students of Tejgaon College and Government Science College gathered in front of Babul Tower at the Farmgate, stopping traffic at the busy thoroughfare.

No traffic moved from Mirpur, Gabtoli, Karwan Bazar, and Airport Road through Farmgate for some time.

Later, police officials persuaded the students to move off the road, said Assistant Commissioner of Traffic Police Md Harun.

Martin Gomes, a resident of a Farmgate area, got stuck in the blockade enforced by students while commuting to work with his wife.

The agitated students vandalised a bus, he told bdnews24.com.  The bus was removed from the road around 11am

From Farmgate, the protesters started marching towards Shahbagh, but the police stopped them in front of the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel.

Before the situation surrounding Farmgate normalised after about one and a half hours, other protesters took position at the Science Laboratory intersection and Sony Cinema Hall in Mirpur.

Police charged baton on agitating students at Mirpur Road in Science Laboratory area on Tuesday, who were protesting against the death of two college students after being run over by a bus on Sunday. Photo: Abdullah Al Momin

Hundreds of students from Dhanmondi Ideal College, Government Laboratory School, City College and Dhaka College laid a siege to Science Laboratory and Elephant Road around 11:30am.

The protests disrupted traffic at Shahbagh, New Market, Jigatala and Mirpur Road.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Ahsan Khan told bdnews24.com they could not talk the students into clearing the streets.  

“Students have legitimate demands but the way they’re blocking the roads will bring more sufferings to the people,” said Ratna Basak, a development worker, who was stuck on the street.

Police charged baton on agitating students at Mirpur Road in Science Laboratory area on Tuesday, who were protesting against the death of two college students after being run over by a bus on Sunday. Photo: Abdullah Al Momin

In Mirpur, students mainly from Commerce College blocked the street from Sony Cinema Hall to Dhaka Zoo for around an hour from 11am.

They left the street on their own at noon, Shah Ali Police Station Sub-Inspector Khokon Chandra told bdnews24.com.

The protesters, however, vandalised a number of vehicles while leaving through the Mirpur-10 intersection, DMP AC Syed Mamun Mostafa said.

Traffic in the area normalised around 1:30pm.

Students of Willes Little Flower School took to the Kakrail intersection and smashed a bus around 12:30pm.

They later moved away from the street and staged a human-chain protest after the police arrived, DMP DC Md Maruf Hossain Sarder said.

Away in Arambagh, students of Notre Dame College blocked the street in front of the college around 1:15pm.

They later moved to the Shapla Square in Motijheel and blocked the key point of Dhaka’s business hub, DMP DC Md Anwar Hossain said.

They left the street around 3pm following assurance of arrest of the drivers responsible for the Airport Road crash, DMP AC Mishu Biswas said.

Rumours of a student beaten during protests at Kamalapur created tension while they were leaving, but the police managed to bring the situation under control.

Vandalism

The protests at Science Laboratory intersection began peacefully before the students went on the rampage and torched a Himachal Paribahan bus.

The demonstrators also stopped two Dhaka University buses and had a tiff with the students of the university around 2pm.

The two buses drove off the scene when the police intervened.

Being chased away by the law enforcers, the demonstrators pelted brickbats and vandalised at least 20 vehicles, including a bus of the Dhaka University.

Meanwhile, a group of youths on 30 to 40 motorcycles from the university paraded the streets in the area before the situation normalised.

Car in Quader’s motorcade damaged

A police wrecker smashed a rickshaw and damaged a car of Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader’s motorcade when the wrecker's driver was fleeing from agitating demonstrators at Jigatala.

Witnesses said some students started vandalising the wrecker in front of Japan-Bangladesh Friendship Hospital around 2:30pm.

The demonstrators also beat up the wrecker’s driver.

Tension spread among ruling Awami League activists at their chief’s Dhanmondi office at the time.

The demonstrators fled away when the Awami League activists came out of the office.

The wrecker’s driver, ‘Selim’, said two boys carrying sticks attacked him.

Buses off the road

Owners of some transport companies pulled their buses from services in Dhaka following the street protests launched by students.

The shortage of buses left many passengers in the lurch.

bdnews24.com reporters have seen hundreds of passengers waiting for transport in Mirpur, Mohakhali, Shyamoli, Bijoy Sarani, Uttara and Farmgate—the areas hit by student protests.

The number of buses still on the roads in those areas was too inadequate for the passengers in the afternoon.

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