Students blocked roads, brought out processions and held rallies as a half-day hartal was enforced yesterday across the country, protesting the government’s “failure” to arrest the killers of Sohagi Jahan Tonu.
Progressive Students’ Alliance and Anti-Imperialist Students’ Union, two major alliances of 11 left-leaning student bodies, who called the countrywide strike from 6:00am to 12:00 noon, blocked Dhaka’s key intersection Shahbagh yesterday.
Demanding trial of all murders, forced disappearances and rapes, including the killing of Tonu, around 200 protesters brought out a procession and held a rally at Shahbagh.
Pro-hartal activists blockaded Dhaka-Aricha highway in front of Jahangirnagar University at Savar for around two hours. Ashulia police charged truncheons on the demonstrators and detained at least 13 students.
Mohsinul Quadir, officer-in-charge of Ashulia Model Police Station, told this correspondent that they detained the demonstrators to clear the highway.
Masuk Helal Anik, vice-president of Samajtantrik Chhatra Front of JU unit, was among the detainees, who were all JU students.
In an immediate reaction to the detention, the demonstrators brought out a protest procession on campus and laid siege to the registrar building, demanding the resignation of JU proctor. Police later released the detainees. Traffic in Dhaka city was lighter than usual when the strike began in the morning.
Pro-hartal activists were also seen in Mohammadpur, Malibagh, Paltan, Jagannath University and old Dhaka in the capital. Separate processions were brought out at Paltan and Shahbagh.
Faisal Mahmud, coordinator of Anti-Imperialist Students’ Union, told The Daily Star that the hartal programme gained support from people of all walks of life.
Commuters were stuck at different points on the roads linked to Shahbagh intersection, which was blocked by the pro-hartal supporters.
Movement of vehicles was very slow on key thoroughfares, including Bijoy Sarani, Jahangirgate and Mohakahli, an official of Dhaka Metropolitan Police traffic control room told The Daily Star.
Leaders and activists of Progressive Students’ Alliance of Rajshahi University unit blocked Dhaka-Rajshahi highway in front of the main entrance of the university for one and a half hours to press home their demands. They then joined a protest rally in front of the university central library, our RU correspondent reports.
When pro-hartal activists were picketing at Sadar Road in Barisal city, police stopped them and charged truncheons to disperse them, our Barisal correspondent reports.
At least 10 students were injured, and four of them were admitted to Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Hospital in Barisal.
Shakhawat Hossain, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Police Station, said they drove the demonstrators away from the roads to maintain law and order and traffic flow during the busy office hours.
Comilla’s Victoria College student Tonu’s body was found inside Comilla cantonment on March 20. Though a month has passed, there has been on headway in identifying the killers, agencies report.