On 29th June, two young students- one boy and one girl were killed by a bus. The bus was apparently racing with an another bus which was the reason for the speeding and which in turn killed two young innocent children. The driver has been arrested by the local police. The accident might have passed as an everyday occurrence in a city with notoriously dangerous traffic and in a country where more than 4,000 pedestrians were killed in road accidents last year. Following this incident, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh was bought on a standstill by the young students to protest against the traffic laws. Tens of thousands of schoolchildren took to the streets of Dhaka, blocking roads and intersections, leading to deadlock in the city. The protest, rare in Bangladesh was initially supposed to be a peaceful protest. The protesters stopped trucks, buses and cars, demanding to see the licenses of drivers and check if vehicles were in roadworthy conditions. And while they may be at odds with officials, the protesters have won widespread praise for easing Dhaka's congestion and making drivers, even officials, carry driving licenses. The students were checking the licenses of the vehicles- which is the job of the police. If the license is fine, the student would let them go. But if the driver doesn’t have a license, the students would simply take the key. The protest overall was a very peaceful protest, the students sat on road without any violence, they even cleaned the road. They even maintained the traffic. They made sure that the common people do not suffer.
But even as the protest continued peacefully, the government decided to take matters in their own hands. They dispatched police force, which started violence against the students. The police started beating up people, they started torturing the students. They used lathis, tear gas, rubber bullets to create a sense of fear among the students. The authorities initially declined this, but later with video evidence they had accept it. Violence continued as police clashed with university students on campuses and in residential areas. Other than the police, a pro-government group namely Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) also caused violence. The members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League reportedly thrashed and beat up the student protestors. Police and Bangladesh chhatra league together beat up thousands of innocent students and giving this entire protest a violent form.
As the major part of the protest consisted of young students, the major form of communication was the social media. Social media has played a key role, in both spreading the initial news about the two killed as well as in organising the demonstrations. Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp were mainly used by the students to create awareness as well as organising the protests. Prominent activist and renowned photographer Shahidul Alam was charged on Monday with spreading propaganda and false information on social media after commenting on the protests on Facebook. His detention came hours after he had strongly criticised the government's handling of the demonstrations in a television interview with Al Jazeera. Rights group Amnesty International called for his immediate release and a stop to the government's "violent crackdown" on "overwhelmingly peaceful student protesters". Amid all this protest, the car of the US convoy was attacked by the protestors.
Following the protest, the government did not want the student to connect and communicate and hence they turned off the internet for the entire country for one whole day, breaching the basic fundamental right for the freedom of speech. The government faced a lot of criticism from the world for its move to turn off the internet.
This protest has bought the attention of the entire world on Dhaka. The US embassy in Bangladesh has criticized the attack of the police on the students. The UN also criticized the situation in Dhaka.
Ms Hasina on Sunday urged the students to go home. The government has promised to consider road safety reforms to address the students' concerns and on Monday the cabinet approved a new Road Transport Act that has been in the pipeline for some time.
It is also reportedly considering the death penalty for deliberate road deaths in a bid to appease protesters.
Written by- Shriniket Vichare.