Many injured in clashes between student ‘road safety’ protesters and police in Bangladesh
Anger over the killing of two teens by a speeding bus spilled out onto the streets, but police on Saturday tried to end seven-day protest
Police in Bangladesh’s capital fired tear gas and used batons on Saturday to disperse hundreds of protesting students angry about the deaths of two teenagers, leaving many people injured.
Dhaka remained largely cut off from the rest of Bangladesh. Buses owners and workers said they will not run their vehicles unless they feel safe after dozens of vehicles were either vandalised or torched in Dhaka and elsewhere.
Witnesses and media reports said Saturday’s chaos broke out in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi area as police and ruling party supporters swooped in on the students. A top leader of the ruling Awami League said some “criminals” wearing school uniforms joined the violence. Many protesters blamed the student wing of the ruling party for the attacks.
Television stations aired footage of the clashes, with protesters seen throwing stones at police as the chaos continued for hours.
Witnesses said many people, including some journalists, were injured in the clashes. The English-language Daily Star reported that up to 25 people were hurt.
Thousands of other students took to the streets elsewhere in Dhaka on Saturday, but no major violence was reported.
The protests, which began last Sunday after two college students were struck and killed by a pair of buses, have paralysed Dhaka, a city of 10 million. The two buses were racing to collect passengers, a common occurrence in the city, which is regularly gridlocked.
The protests are an embarrassment for the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina before a general election due in December. Hasina’s party is accusing the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia and its main ally Jamaat-e-Islami, of using the sentiment of young students to create chaos for political gains.
Zia’s party formally extended its support to the protesters. Hasina also said their demands are justified and pledged to fulfil them in phases.
The protesters are demanding safer roads in Bangladesh, where corruption is rife, making it easy for unlicensed drivers and unregistered vehicles to ply the roads. At least 12,000 people die each year in road accidents often blamed on faulty vehicles, reckless driving and lax traffic enforcement.
The students have stopped thousands of vehicles – including those of top officials and judges – demanding to see whether the cars were registered and the drivers had licences.