2018 Bangladesh quota reform protests
|Bangladesh Quota Reform Protests 2018|
Quota reform protesters at University of Dhaka.
|Date||8 April 2018 – present|
|Goals||Decrease amount of quotas in government jobs in Bangladesh|
|Methods||Processions, Road Blockade|
|Resulted in||Government declaration to abolish quota system in government recruitment.|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The 2018 Bangladesh Quota Reform Protests were protests demanding reforms in policies regarding recruitment in the Bangladesh government services. The protests initially began in Shahbag and on Dhaka University campus on 8 April 2018, and eventually spread to other parts of Bangladesh within days. The protests rapidly attained popularity among students of different universities forcing the government to announce changes in its policy.
Causes and demands
Under the existing Bangladesh government recruitment system, 56 percent of government job entry positions are reserved for specific "entitled" classes: 30 per cent for children/grandchildren of 1971 "freedom fighters," 10 per cent for women, 10 per cent is for districts based on population, 5 per cent for ethnic minorities, and 1 per cent for people with disabilities.
As a result, only 44 percent of the job candidates are able to secure positions on the basis of merit, causing discontent among a large section of general students who say that they are deprived despite scoring higher than candidates who fall under any quota. Previous protests on the same issue were made in 2013 and 2008 but failed to bring change in government quota policy.
In July 2018, protests and counter-violence erupted at various Bangladeshi universities, particularly the University of Rajshahi (RU), over the ‘quota reform movement,’ which sought to change the quota system. RU's vice-chancellor, Professor M. Abdus Sobhan, dismissed the quota-reform movement as an "anti-government movement with a motive to carry out sabotage."
On 21 March 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the quota system in government jobs for freedom fighters, their children and grandchildren will continue when a section of students and job-seekers were agitating seeking quota reform in government jobs.
On 8 April 2018, hundreds of students began protests in Shabag after 2 pm. The protesters under the name Council to Protect Students' Rights demanded the quota system reforms by bringing down quotas altogether to 10 percent and filling up vacant quota posts by candidates from the merit list. At 7.30 pm, police started lobbing teargas shells, charged baton and used water cannons on the crowd. At 8.30 pm, protesters were attacked by a group of Bangladesh Chhatra League activists led by DU unit General Secretary Motahar Hossain Prince. More than 160 protestors were injured in the clashes that took place at Dhaka University campus.
University students from all over Bangladesh boycotted classes, took out processions and blocked highways since morning to express solidarity with the demonstrators of the central program. Thousands of students of BUET, Rajshahi University, Jahangirnagar University, Chittagong University, Khulna University, Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET), Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST), Barisal University, etc. participated in the demonstrations in respective cities. A delegation of protesters met Minister Obaidul Quader Chowdhury at the Secretariat in the afternoon. Mr. Quader asked to postpone protests for one month so that the government may examine the quota system. But protesters refused to pause their programmes until there was specific announcements from the prime minister. Minister of Agriculture and presidium member of the ruling Awami League Matia Chowdhury made a controversial remark in Parliament by calling the quota reform protestors 'children of razakars'.
Students of Stamford University Bangladesh, East West University, North South University, Daffodil International University, Eastern University (Bangladesh), Independent University, United International University, American International University of Bangladesh and University of Information Technology and Science took to different streets in Dhaka and blocked a number of key thoroughfares for several hours. Leaders of Bangladesh Shadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad called for a nationwide road blockade and strike at universities and colleges from 11 April, 2018.
After midnight, Iffat Jahan Esha, the president of Sufia Kamal hall unit of Bangladesh Chhatra League tortured and wounded a female student named Morsheda in Sufia Kamal Hall of DU for participating in quota reform protests. Photo and video of the incident quickly went viral on different social networking sites which drew attention to other general students. At 1 am, around 5,000 students of the university thronged in front of the Kabi Sufia Kamal Hall and took position in front of the gate in protest of the incident. Members of Chhatra League tried to block the protesters from getting out of halls to demonstrate by locking gates and threatening them, but protesters eventually broken down the locked gate at Bijay Ekattor Hall and came out.
Resuming the ongoing agitation demanding quota reforms in government jobs, students made demonstrations in Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Comilla and other places. Many roads including two major highways were blocked by students of University of Dhaka, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Jahangirnagar University, and other institutions. Dhaka-Rajshahi highway remained blocked since morning by several hundred students of Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (RUET). More than 6,000 protesters blocked the CDA Avenue in Chittagong.
In a speech delivered in Parliament, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina criticised the protesters for creating public sufferings and angrily said: "Alright then, there won't be any quotas. There is no need for quotas. They will take BCS exams and get jobs on their merit". While many protesters rejoiced this statement as fulfillment of their demands, others remained skeptic about the commitment of the government and opted to wait until more specific declaration from the government regarding reformation of quota system is made.
The students started second phase of protests saying there has been no sign of quota reform implementation after three months had been passed since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's announcement in Parliament. Protesting students came under several attacks by Bangladesh Chhatra League in Dhaka University and Rajshahi University.
Members of quota reform movement scheduled a press briefing on Jun 30, 2018 at Dhaka University campus but could not hold it as they were attacked allegedly by the members of Bangladesh Chhatra League.
When students were staging a demonstration demanding quota system reform at Dhaka University campus, then at point Faruk Hasan (joint convener, Bangladesh Sadharan Chhatra Odhikar Sangrakkhan Parishad) was snatched away allegedly by a group of Bangladesh Chhatra League men. Moriom Mannan, a first year honours student of Political Science department at Tejgaon College, who joined the protests that day, came to rescue Faruk, but she herself experienced physical assault, verbal abuse and mental tortures allegedly inflicted by activists against quota reform movement and policemen.
Later that day Faruk Hasan went on traceless after being picked up by Bangladesh Chhatra League men allegedly from central Shaheed Minar area.
2 July Rajshahi University Attack
On 2 July, 2018, during their protest march near the main gate of Rajshahi University (RU), a master's student and joint convenor of the quota reform movement at the same university, Toriqul Islam, and 15 others, were attacked by some Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) men, including several local BCL officers, as nearby police stood still. Toriqul was beaten with a hammer and sticks and other weapons, resulting in multiple leg fractures and severe head injury.
- Abdullah Al Mamun, student of the sociology department of the university and assistant secretary of RU BCL, attacking with hammer
- Latiful Kabir alias Manik, a student of history department of the university an activist of Muktijoddha Santan Command, was seen with a machete
- Mehedi Hossan alias Mishu, a student of sociology department of the university and organising secretary of the RU BCL and , was seen with a large stick. Mehedi confessed his involvement in the attack.
- Ramijul Islam alias Rimu, 4th year student of History department of the university and vice president of RU BCL, was seen kicking Toriqul’s head. Ramijul confessed his involvement in the attack.
- Hasan Labon, student of Law department of the university and organizing secretary of RU BCL
- Ahmed Sajib, student of Applied Mathematics of the university and vice president of RU BCL
- Shovon Kaiser, student of Economics of the university and vice president of RU BCL
- Mizanur Rahman, ex student of political science of the university and vice president of RU BCL
- Gufran Gazi, student of information and library management of the university and vice president of RU BCL
- John Smith, 4th year student of Urdu of the university and activist of RU BCL
- Soumitra Karmakar, student of fine arts of the university and assistant secretary of RU BCL
Guardians and teachers of students, rights activists, and eminent citizens scheduled to hold a rally protest the continued attacks, torture and arrest of quota reform activists in front of the Jatiya Press Club at 4:00pm under the banner of "Udbigno Obhibhabok O Nagorik” (worried guardians and citizens). But Police barred demonstrators from holding the event claiming that they did not allow the programme as the demonstrators did not have the permission. When the demonstrators tried to assemble, Azimul Haque, additional deputy commissioner of police (Ramna Division), commanded his men to arrest whoever tries to take position there.
While speaking at a function through video-conferencing from the Gono Bhaban on 17 July, 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina explained her earlier declaration (on 11 April, 2018) of quota system removal was because there had been an anarchic situation created in the name of anti-quota movement.
Under the banner of "All Combined Departments", around 500 students from different departments of Dhaka University formed a human chain on the Central Shaheed Minar premises in Dhaka, demanding exemplary punishment for those who attacked the quota reformists. Holding various placards protesting the recent attacks, they also demanded the release of quota reform leaders who were under arrest and a safe campus for all. Expressing solidarity with the students, assistant professor of DU's economics department Rushad Faridi attended the program. Besides, students of the university's history department formed a human chain at the Aparejeyo Bangla premises, protesting the recent attack on their fellow student Tanzir Hossain Sarker and demanded a safe campus for students. Associate professors Golam Saklayen Saki and MM Kawser were present at the human chain joined by around 200 students of the department. Later, the students brought out a silent procession from the spot. Boycotting regular classes and examinations, several hundred students of Jahangirnagar University also formed a human chain on the campus protesting the recent spate of attacks on some teachers and students and demanded reformation in the existing quota system.
Concern over attack on quota reformists
Against quota reform protest
Some politicians and university teachers have expressed their position against quota reform protest. Among them, Prof Md Akhtaruzzaman, Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University has compared the activities of quota reform protesters with that of Islamist militant outfits like the Taliban, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. He also compared the protests by female students at Dhaka University dormitory a characteristic of militant outfits pointing out that the militant outfits use women and children as their last resort. Vice Chancellor of Rajshahi University, M Abdus Sobhan, also condemned the protest by saying that it is not a quota reform movement rather it is an anti-government movement. Dr. Muhammed Zafar Iqbal expressed that protesters were agitated at freedom fighters & thus disrespected freedom fighters' families.
- "কোটা আন্দোলনে এ পর্যন্ত আহত ২৬২, আটক ৪৪ - daily nayadiganta". The Daily Nayadiganta. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
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