War-torn Dhaka

Between guns, teargas, canisters and armours, Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh turned into a war-torn city with fresh agitations led by the students and teachers against the military-backed interim government since 20 August to withdraw the army from all educational institutes across the country. In consequence, the caretaker government once again imposed an indefinite curfew on the streets of the country’s six divisional cities since 22 August.

The clash which originated from a playfield during a football match for an alleged assault to some students and teachers by army personnel on the ground, immediately raised a nationwide university student-teachers’ demand to withdraw the military from the Dhaka University’s campus. With the ongoing protest gearing up further, the caretaker government made a quick decision to withdraw military from the university campus to maintain peace. Ten trucks of the military that garrisoned inside the university premises left by 11:00pm on 21 August.

As if this war has been fuelled to continue, by the next morning, nationwide university students demanded the withdrawal of military camps inside all universities and colleges across the country. The situation further ruined when students, hawkers and picketers alike united against the caretaker government to withdraw military from the country.

With the situation rapidly going out of control and the military held back by the government for its earlier fault, law enforcers took the streets to fight the situation against the students and picketers. On 22 August, the streets of the Dhaka city and the country as a whole became a war-torn nation with fierce battle between students, picketers and the law enforcement. Strikes have been called by the students in all public universities across the country.

Roads transformed into battlefields with picketers dismantling and putting fire on shops, markets, public and private offices, petrol pumps, cars and vehicles that they found on the streets. Hundreds of people were injured in the sporadic clashes that left one killed.

A failure to tackle the situation left the civilians in complete fear of the caretaker government’s every move as the police were not sparing anyone they found on the streets. Trees, pillars and structures were pulled down and set ablaze to set the demarcation of territories taken over by the picketers during the fierce battle that triggered several gunshots, teargas, crude bombs by the police while the agitators used stones, brickbats, bamboo and wooden sticks and petroleum.

By the evening of 22 August, the caretaker government in a press note ordered all universities and colleges across the country to shutdown until further notice and with that came an indefinite curfew in effect.

“The government so far has given its best effort not to make anyone feel about the existence of the state of emergency inside the country. However, situation has proven so critical that we had no option but to impose the curfew to resist any harm to the nation,” said Mainul Hosein, law and information adviser to the caretaker government in an urgent press conference called immediately after scheduling the curfew from 7:00pm on 22 August.

It has been a conspiracy by the political parties to raise the rage among the students against the caretaker government, said Mainul during the press conference. “We have information that a huge sum of money has been invested in the process.”

Since the imposition of curfew on the streets of the Dhaka city and five other divisional cities, more 200 people have been arrested and scores of people have been assaulted by the joint forces for violating the curfew orders.

Mobile phone networks have been snapped by the government at several intervals for more than 24 hours in the first three days of the curfew to restrain any planning of untoward situation by allies against the government. However, this has led to losses worth hundreds of crores of taka for the mobile phone operators.

Although the press has always been kept out of the purview of the curfew but the caretaker government did not even spare the press from its curfew restrictions. A number of reporters have been arrested without specifying their charges on the first day of imposing the curfew. On the second day, although press has been released from the curfew’s purview, more than 30 journalists have been harassed and assaulted by the joint forces, some of who were critically injured and had to be taken to the hospital. A media gag was also imposed, warning against any broadcast of the violence.

Joint forces have shot video during the clashes to identify the students who were involved behind the fierce demonstrations carried out across the city. As curfew continued for the third consecutive day, police have filed at least 28 cases against more than 80,000 unidentified people in the Dhaka city.


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