Anti-quota protests halt Bangladesh: 100 students injured

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Bangladesh is yet again witnessing a tough time as students assembled at Dhaka University were in direct tussle with the police. This is undoubtedly, one of the biggest protests in the Sheikh Hasina era which has got tremendous public support. When the police fired bullets and tear gas shells at students who assembled at Dhaka University in huge numbers, more than 100 have been injured. The protestors are not only within the periphery of Dhaka University but also it has spread in universities in Chittagong, Rajshahi, Barisal, Rangpur, Sylhet, Savar, Khulna and the government doesn’t seem to be too comfortable in tactfully handling the young students either. The protesting students are calling for immediate withdrawal of discriminatory quotas for government jobs in favor of special groups.

According to the protesting students, 56% of the government jobs are set aside for 5% Bangladeshis whereas the remaining 95% people have to literally compete for 44%, creating an imbalanced equation. Interestingly, many of the students are in favor of slashing 30% quota set aside for descendants of veterans of the Bangladesh Liberation War. No doubt, Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League is not at all in a position to make any compromise on that. In all these decades, even when Awami League was not in power, they always looked to garner support from the veterans of the Bangladeshi Liberation War and families, evoking sentiments of late Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. It is too early to say that BNP or other opposition forces are behind this mass scale protests but indeed there are examples of corruption where there has been a gross misuse of the quotas in Bangladesh.

Although Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked senior Minister Obaidul Quader to have talks with the student protest leaders, any immediate settlement doesn’t seem to be likely. Anyhow, the police firing has not helped Awami League’s cause and the changing scenario can definitely give a breather to the opposition political parties. Controversies with regard to reservation or quota are very common in the Indian subcontinent but the magnitude of the protests is no doubt alarming for the current Awami League government

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