Sunday, 19 August, 2018

Bangladesh police fire tear gas to disperse students protesting against road deaths

More than 100 students hurt during violent standoffs with police in Bangladesh, hospital says - but police deny anything happened Protesters paralyze parts of Bangladesh after a speeding bus kills two students
Kayla Schwartz | 08 August, 2018, 13:52

Spontaneous student protests are rare in Bangladesh and the government should handle them carefully ahead of elections due by December, said Mahbubur Rahman, a political science professor at Dhaka's North South University.

For the last week, students have brought parts of the capital Dhaka to a standstill with a protest against poor road safety after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged students to go home as police fired tear gas during an eighth day of unprecedented protests over road safety which have paralysed parts of the capital Dhaka. So far they stopped flag cars carrying senior cabinet ministers, Supreme Court judges alongside police and military vehicles to verify their drivers' valid papers and uploaded the pictures of the scenes on the social media when they were found to have lacked the licenses.

This student movement of Bangladesh could make it hard for the ruling party in the coming general elections because on Saturday the incident has given the opposition party an opportunity to question the government.

The police detained three persons after dispersing the agitating students using tear gas shells.

On Sunday, pro-government youth groups attacked protesters and at least five journalists, including an Associated Press photographer.

Photos and images of the attacks on students by the governing party activists are spreading on the social media, instigating new anger.

Authorities have pleaded with students to call off the protests that have almost paralyzed Dhaka and spread beyond the capital.

A photographer for an worldwide news organisation was among those beaten.

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Students have now been protesting for nine days, and have ignored repeated calls from the government for them to return home.

"A few of them were in very bad condition", he said.

"We are deeply concerned about the reports of violence and call on all for calm", the United Nations resident coordinator Bangladesh Mia Seppo said. Local media have blamed groups linked to the Awami League.

"The Bangladeshi government must end the crackdown on the student protesters and people speaking out against it".

Bangladesh police yesterday began cracking down on risky driving. But that figure is disputed by the private organization Bangladesh Commuters' Welfare Association, which says at least 7,397 people were killed in road accidents previous year.

The government blocked 3G and 4G internet services for 24 hours on Saturday evening in response to the protests, with young people complaining that this is to stop them organising and sharing their actions.

Demonstrators also gathered at Science Lab intersection, Asad Gate, Mirpur-10, Panthapath, Technical, Airport road, Mouchak intersections and Uttara House Building areas and called for improvements to road safety.

Additional police have been deployed to thwart any untoward incidents and for the security of students, said Iftekhar Alam, spokesperson of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police.

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