Anti-quota protesters battle with police

Bangladesh on 12 July 2013
Location : Bangladesh | Source : New Age. Image Source: New Age

BCL men attack protesters, movement spreads to other campuses

Students demanding cancellation of quota in government jobs fought pitched battles with the police on the Dhaka University campus on Thursday as their movement spread to major universities across the country.

Pro-government Chhatra League activists attacked protesters on the Dhaka University campus and beat them up with sticks and iron rods, the protesters alleged.

Witnesses said the police had fired rubber bullets and tear gas and charged batons to disperse the violent protestors most of whom were unsuccessful candidates of the 34th Bangladesh Civil Service preliminary test for recruitment of gazetted officers.

They demanded an immediate cancellation of all sorts of quota in public service recruitment.

The student agitation that broke out on Tuesday spread out to other major universities on Thursday as students of Jahangirnagar, Rajshahi, Chittagong universities and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in Sylhet blocked roads and highways in front of their respective universities on to realise their demand.

A government job seeker and former DU student Mamun Khan said they would continue the movement until the quota in public service recruitment was cancelled. They said they would declare fresh protest programmes from Shahbagh at 3:00pm today. He claimed that at least 100 protesters were injured in the clashes.

Several hundred job-seekers who did not pass the 34th BCS preliminary exam, started the protest on Tuesday immediately after the Bangladesh Public Service Commission published the results on the day.

They demanded re-evaluation of answer scripts claiming that they had not been selected even after doing well in the exam and cancellation of the quota system.

The Public Service Commission published the preliminary results in which 12,033 out of 2.21 lakh candidates came out successful. The examination was held on May 24 to fill in 2,052 positions in different cadres.

A commission official said that about 6,500 quota beneficiaries were selected for the written exams.  

In the wake of the movement, the PSC authorities on Wednesday decided to review the results. But students stuck to their demand for cancellation of the quota in the public service recruitment.

Under the present BCS examinations system, 30 per cent of the seats are reserved for children of freedom fighters and 10 per cent for women.
A further 10 per cent is reserved for districts, 5 per cent for national minorities and 1 per cent for people with disabilities.

In Dhaka, unsuccessful candidates, mostly former and current DU students fought pitched battles with the police for about four hours on the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. The protesters hurled stones at the Dhaka University vice-chancellor’s residence, proctor’s office and set fire to several floats on the fine arts faculty premises. 

The violence left at least 30 people injured. Of them 17 were taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital and two at the DU medical centre.  Police picked up at least 12 job seekers from Shahbagh area on the day.

The protesters tried to gather in front of the Public Library at about 11:00am to put up a blockade at Shahbagh crossing like the previous day.  But police foiled the attempt and detained several protesters. At one point the police charged batons forcing the agitators to leave the place. The protesters then gathered in front of the fine arts faculty, started fire on the road and hurled stones at law enforcers.

Police fired tear gas and the fighting continued for about two hours.

The protesters took several large floats out of the fine arts faculty premises and set fire to them on the road. They also damaged several vehicles, including one of private TV channel ATN Bangla. 

At one point the protesters retreated to Dhaka University Central Library area at about 1:00pm and police followed them. The law enforcers fired tear gas to flush them out.

The angry students threw stones at and vandalised the Dhaka University proctor’s office. They also vandalised the office room of sociology department.  

Earlier, the protesters also besieged and forced their way into the vice-chancellor’s official residence, assaulted the guard and trampled on the plants at the garden at around 12:30pm prompting the police to fire tear gas to flush them out.  

Dhaka University proctor Amzad Ali said primarily they had some sympathy for the protesters’ cause, ‘but what they did today [ Thursday] indicated that some other forces, maybe Jamaat-Shibir, have infiltrated [their movement] … Such activities cannot be accepted.’

Dhaka Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner SM Shibli Noman told reporters in the afternoon that 12 protesters had been detained for questioning at the Shahbagh police station.

‘When protesters tried to put up a blockade at Shahbagh this [Thursday] morning, police requested them to stage demonstrations in front 
of the Public Library. But, instead of listening to the police, the protesters assaulted them prompting the police to strike back,’ he said.

Witnesses said that Chhatra League activists led by its DU unit president Mehdi Hasan and general secretary Omar Sharif, attacked an anti-quota movement procession while it was passing the lecture theatre.

The BCL activists pounced on the protesters with sticks and iron rods and beat them up. 

They also beat up some other protesters at different places, including inside the arts faculty building and adjacent places.  Witnesses said BCL activists had harassed some women protesters.   

Omar Sharif, claimed that the anti-quota demonstrators were Shibir activists and general students had chased them away. Chhatra League later brought out a procession with a call to resist Shibir on the DU campus. 

Leaders of Chhatra Sangram Parishad, a combine of Chhatra League, Chhatra Maitree, Chhatra League (JSD) and other organizations, at a press conference at Madhu’s canteen in the afternoon, said that anti-liberation Jamaat-Shibir forces had provoked some outsiders to hold the movement for cancellation of quota in the public service.

Leaders of Pragatashil Chhatra Jote, a combine of left leaning student orgnisations, at another press conference at the same place, also said anti-liberation Jamaat-Shibir forces had instigated the movement as the protesters had shouted slogans against freedom fighters.

Both the combines said they wanted reform of the quota system in the public service but not its cancellation.

Meanwhile, students at Jahangirnagar University blocked the Dhaka-Aricha highway in front of the university for about two hours from 11:00am to press for cancellation of quota in public service recruitment.

The roadblock triggered tailbacks on the highway causing immense suffering to commuters.

Students at Rajshahi University blocked the Dhaka-Rajshahi highways at about 10:45am for two hours, extending their support to the protesters.
Students of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology put barricade on Sylhet-Sunamganj highway from 12:30pm for about one hour. They also brought out a procession demanding cancellation of quota in public service recruitment.

Students in Chittagong University brought out an anti-quota procession on the campus. 

The students said their protest would continue until their demand was met.  

Government job seekers also held a sit-in and formed a human chain at Netrakona.

The prime minister’s public administration adviser HT Imam told New Age, ‘The government has no plans to reform the existing quota system in the civil service exams.’

‘We have discussed the matter in the cabinet and made the decision,’ Imam said on Wednesday.    

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