100 injured as police, BCL men fire at will
RU closed for indefinite period, BGB deployed on campusSM Atik and Nazim Mridha . Rajshahi
More than 100 students were injured, 20 of them reportedly hit by bullets, as the police and activists of the ruling party-backed Chhatra League on Sunday swooped on the students protesting against increased fees and move to introduce evening courses on a commercial basis at Rajshahi University.
The Rajshahi University syndicate at a meeting on Sunday night declared the university closed for an indefinite period and asked all resident students to vacate the halls by 8:00am today.
Activists of Chhatra League were seen firing shots at random to terrorise around 5,000 protesters who had locked up academic buildings and begun demonstrations as part of their on-going movement after rejecting the vice-chancellor’s announcement that the university was suspending the fee hike but would go ahead with the plan to introduce evening courses.
The home ministry in the afternoon deployed Border Guard Bangladesh to the campus to avert further deterioration of the situation and an emergency meeting of the university syndicate reviewed the situation.
The university students had been staging protests since Thursday against the two-to-five-fold increase in fees and move to introduce evening courses on a commercial basis branding the moves as a ‘plot’ for privatisation and commercialisation of education.
The university authorities on December 24, 2013 decided to increase fees two-to-five-fold to raise the money required for the salaries of teachers appointed in addition to the number of posts advertised. The authorities also decided to introduce evening courses in social sciences, law and arts.
The university vice-chancellor Mizan Uddin told New Age, ‘An unwarranted incident has happened. We hoped that students would return to the classes as we suspended the increased fees. But they continued protesting and engaged in clashes with law enforcers.’
The vice-chancellor also said the university administration would take action if any student had used firearms.
At least 20 students were admitted to hospital with bullet wounds, including Parag, Rabiul, Masum, Ashiq, Abdur Rashid, Abdul Latif and Saju of marketing department, Ashiqur Rahman of statistics, Zahir Raihan of management, Sohel Rana, an MBA final year student, Abu Sufian, Rubel Parvez and Ragib of mass communication, Anwar of botany, Nazrul of applied chemistry and Hamidul, Rana and Rakhi.
At least 10 journalists, including New Age correspondent Nazim Mridha, were injured when police charged batons and fired rubber bullets after reporters approached them for information. The police pounced on the newsmen at the instruction on Rajshahi Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Proloy Chishym, witnesses said.
The injured journalists included Gulbar Ali of Natun Pravat, Rajshahi, Bulbul Ahmed Fahim of Manab Kantha, Golam Rasul Roni of INB news portal, Zahirul Islam Moon of AB News, Zakir Hossain Tamal of Sheersha News.com, Golam Rabbani of Mashranga TV, Rumi of Sonar Desh, Jewel of Jaijaidin and Sajeeb of a news portal.
The protesters began mobilising around 7:30am after locking up all the academic buildings. At about 9:00am, the police tried to break the locks at Rabindra Arts Building and Shahidullah Arts Building triggering scuffles with the protesters. At one point, the police seized the PA system used by the protesters and chased them.
Around 10:30am, the demonstrators regrouped near the administrative building where two crude bombs went off minutes later while the protesters continued their rally.
At about 11:30am, a group of Chhatra League activists led by its university unit president Mizanur Rahman along with outsiders took out a procession on the campus and at one point attempted to pass through the protesters’ rally.
To maintain peace, the protesters made room for the procession to pass through but moments later a crude bomb went off and Chhatra League activists began firing and blasting crude bombs. A number of leaders on the university committee of Chhatra League were seen firing shots openly.
As the protesters began running for cover, police waiting at Lichutala fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them while the Chhatra League men continued attacking the protesters at Shahidullah Arts Building and Old Folklore Square in a bid to drive them out of the campus.
Around 2:00pm, over five thousand protesters returned to the campus and gathered in front of the university’s central library continued agitating till late in the afternoon defying firing of tear gas. The students at the rally vowed to continue the movement until their three-point demand was met. They asked the university authorities to give exemplary punishment to the BCL attackers and bear the cost of treatment of the injured students.
The university unit BCL president Mizanur Rahman Rana said that they had taken the ‘action’ as Shibir men infiltrated the protests and also because the students were trying to threaten peace on the campus.
The university proctor Tariqul Hasan said that the situation was under control though tension was prevailing on the campus.
RMP deputy commissioner Proloy Chisim told New Age that the police had charged baton and fired rubber bullets to keep order.
Bakhtiar Ahmed, associate professor of anthropology, termed the attacks on the students ‘unprecedented’. ‘We have moral support for the students’ demands,’ he said.
Vice-chancellor Mizan Uddin on Saturday had announced suspension of the increased fees but said they would go ahead with the plan for evening courses.
Police had also raided five halls of residence on Saturday night but made no arrests.
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