Bangladesh govt alarmed over students’ protest

Published August 4, 2018
DHAKA: Demonstrators, most of them students, protest over recent traffic accidents that killed a boy and a girl.—Reuters
DHAKA: Demonstrators, most of them students, protest over recent traffic accidents that killed a boy and a girl.—Reuters

DHAKA: A massive student protest in Bangladesh, sparked by the death of two teenagers mowed down by a speeding bus in the capital, has alarmed the government ahead of a general election and prompted a warning against opposition meddling.

In the latest violence, an angry crowd set ablaze a bus on Friday after it hit a motorcycle and killed the rider in heavily congested Dhaka, where traffic has been paralysed and 317 buses burnt in protests that have injured 51.

Tens of thousands of uniformed students have turned out to demand a crackdown on reckless bus drivers since Sunday, when a privately run bus hit the college students, provoking fury.

“We have assured them that all their demands will be fulfilled and a law will be proposed in the next session of parliament,” interior minister Asaduzzaman Khan said.

“But we fear the movement may turn violent as there is a conspiracy to...make the government inoperative. We’ll take stern action against those conspiring to exploit this by inciting the minors.”

Law enforcement agencies had proof that activists of the student wing of the main opposition Bangla­desh Nationalist Party (BNP) had been told to mix with protesters, Mr Khan added, urging parents to steer children away from the protests.

The BNP rejected the accusation of instigation.

“The government should resign immediately for failing to tackle road accidents and solve the crisis of mass commuting,” Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, its secretary general, said.

“This is pretence to cover up its failure.” The protests spreading across Bangla­desh have highlighted traffic risks in the densely populated country, where more than 4,000 people die in road accidents each year, one of the world’s highest rates, the World Bank says.

Police said they had arrested the bus driver in Friday’s incident.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2018

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