Bangladesh’s capital has seen widespread student protests after two students were run over by a bus on Sunday. Students have set up blockades on major roads, vandalised cars and most uniquely are acting as a vigilante traffic police, checking the papers of vehicles on Dhaka’s streets in order to drive home the point that the authorities are not doing their job.
‘The law is the same for everyone’
Here’s a video of a group of belligerent students – most of them in their school uniforms – asking a bewildered cop for his license. The worried policemen – who did not have his papers – ends up apologising to the teens and asking to be let go.
In another incident, a large group of students stopped a police van and forced it to go back, all the while chanting the Bengali equivalent of “f**k the police”.
Incredibly, student groups even caught a minister driving on the wrong side of the road and forced him to turn back, belligerently lecturing him on how lawbreakers were bribing the police. Videos of a perplexed minister being told politely – he was addressed throughout as “sir”– but firmly by the teens, “the law is the same for everyone” have done the rounds frantically on social media.
Social media has played a large role in the protests with photos of police beating up students being spread around. Several of the photos shared are misleading, being taken from older, unrelated incidents.
Public anger against the administration spiked after a minister appeared to laugh off the matter. The minister Shajahan Khan, compared the Sunday accident in Dhaka to one that occurred in Maharashtra on the previous day, arguing that the latter incident had barely caused any outrage in India. Khan met the families of the victims on Wednesday and apologised.
These protests comes in the wake of agitations for quota reforms in April in which students from around Bangladesh hit the streets to demonstrate against reservations in the government bureaucracy. Unlike India’s caste reservations, reservations in Bangladesh were mostly for the privileged, being for the benefit of freedom fights and their descendants, a class that for the most part became the ruling elite of Bangladesh once the country gained freedom from Pakistan.
In the end, the Bangladesh government buckled and announced an end to the quota system.
In 2013, massive youth protests under the Shahbag movement rocked the country, demanding death sentences for people accused of committing war crimes during the country’s 1971 war of liberation as well as a ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladeshi’s largest religious party.