Bangladesh: Challenge of the students uprising


Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Asian Marxist Review — The students’ movement that erupted on 29 July following the death of two students in a tragic road accident in Dhaka spread to almost all the major cities of the country. Thousands of outraged school and college students laid siege to the streets of the capital Dhaka for a week demanding road safety across the country. Within days its verve and militancy shook the despotic ‘democratic’ regime of Prime Minister Hasina Wajid’s Awami League (AL), the party of Bangladesh’s national bourgeoisie. This movement yet again demonstrates that the molecular processes in the womb of a society in crisis and the socioeconomic contradictions seething below the surface can abruptly erupt into a volcanic explosion. Any major event or issue can trigger the outburst of accumulating grievances of youth and the hitherto inert oppressed. The issues may or may not be directly linked to the class struggle.

The regime came out with naked brutality to crush the students’ heroic movement. A university student told Bangladesh’s Daily Star newspaper on condition of anonymity:

“At 12:30pm, police started firing teargas shells and some 25-35 men from the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL—the youth wing of the AL) started attacking the students. At that time the university authorities opened the gates and let the students in. A little later, goons kept trying to get into the campus and started hitting the main gate to break it. Some students tried to get back at them by throwing bricks. By around 1:15pm, fourteen students were seriously injured. We tried to get an ambulance but failed. The university authorities did not provide any transport. Then we arranged three cars, one belonging to a student and two to faculty members. Police were standing on the footpath, just looking away. From the second car, the attackers dragged the students out along with the wounded and beat them up. The students were first taken to Banasree Farazi Hospital. They did give first aid but would not admit them. The students went to a few other hospitals but the authorities there would not admit them either. Finally they managed to admit the wounded to a faraway hospital. Our backs were pushed against the wall.”

While covering the students’ protest, several journalists including an Associated Press photojournalist were attacked. A street vendor seeking anonymity told Aljazeera:

“A group of armed and helmeted Chhatra League goons, who were patrolling around the area from morning, launched the attack on journalists in presence of police. They beat them indiscriminately and broke cameras and other equipment.”

Another student of the NSU University told the Daily Star:

“We went there for the protests, but police and BCL men locked us inside the campus. The BCL men were carrying machetes, sticks and rods. They entered the cafeteria and threatened the students not to join protests. Eventually around 2 pm students were let out in groups of two so that they could not form large groups. The BCL members warned students not to join the militant EWU students. However, some students headed towards EW University.”

Although these protests seem to be losing stream, due to the movement’s relative isolation from other oppressed strata of society, nevertheless it is a glimpse of the stormy events that impend in Bangladesh.

Despite the much-bragged high growth rates and fabricated statistics of poverty reduction, the conditions of the ordinary people of Bangladesh are in an abysmal state. There has been a sharp rise in inequality over the last four decades. There is an increased level of poverty and rising unemployment, including disguised unemployment, poor working conditions and frightening homelessness. These economic woes are exacerbated by the worsening climate change. The coal mining and paper industry’s capitalist corporations threaten Sundarban the largest mangrove forest in the world.

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