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Students protesting in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Hasan
Society

Bangladesh police clash with student protesters

August 4, 2018

Police and the supporters of Bangladesh's ruling party clashed with students who were protesting poor road safety. More than a 100 had to be treated in hospital, many appearing to have injuries from rubber bullets.

https://p.dw.com/p/32cXl

Students take control of Dhaka streets

A week of student protests in Bangladesh culminated with police clashing with students on the streets of Dhaka on Saturday, according to reports from the scene.

Citing emergency ward doctor Abdus Shabbir, the AFP news agency reported 115 students have been injured.

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

Witnesses reported police using tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets in the Jigtala neighborhood of Dhaka's Dhanmondi area. Others reported seeing civilians, believed to be supporters of the ruling Awami League party, joining in the crackdown.

However, police spokesman Masudur Rahman denied that security forces fired rubber bullets or used tear gas.

"It's not true," he told the AFP news agency. "Nothing happened at Jigatola."

Separately, road transport minister Obaidul Quader rejected allegations that his party supporters attacked the students.

Read more: Is Bangladesh becoming an autocracy?

Roadblocks to control vehicles

Students launched country-wide protests last week, after speeding bus plowed into a crowd killing two teenagers and injuring nine others.  Protesters see the incident as a symptom of disregarding road safety standards in a country where drivers often operate vehicles without qualifications or documents.

The protesters put up roadblocks in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh. They also stopped and controlled thousands of vehicles, including those belonging to high-ranking officials and judges, to control their papers. Some buses were also vandalized by the protesters.

"We don't want to be killed [by a] road crash," 10th grader Mohammad Selim told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency.

A bus in Dhaka in flames
Some protesters vandalized vehiclesImage: picture-alliance/Pacific Press/T. Hasan

'We won't leave'

Protests intensified after Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, who maintains close ties to transport unions, made an insensitive comment about the unrest.

"A road crash has claimed 33 lives in India's Maharashtra; but do they talk about it the way we do?" Khan said, referring to a deadly accident in neighboring India earlier that week.

Read more: Is Bangladesh's media freedom deteriorating?

The minister's comments prompted widespread criticism by social media users in Bangladesh, with some calling for him to step down immediately. Khan later apologized for his remarks.

Other officials have urged calm, saying the government will consider road safety reforms. However, their pleas have done little to discourage students from taking to the streets.

ls,dj/rc (AFP, dpa)

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