2018 Bangladesh road-safety protests
|2018 Bangladesh road-safety protests|
Students blocking a road in Uttara, Dhaka,
2 August 2018
|Date||29 July 2018 – 8 August 2018|
|Caused by||Two college students killed by negligent driver|
|Goals||Ensurement of safe roads, formulation and implementation of road-safety laws, and punishment of drivers violating traffic laws|
|Methods||Processions, road blockade, sit-ins, Human chains, Checking Driving Licence, Controlling traffic on the road etc.|
|Resulted in||Formulation of a new road safety law by the government, announcement of traffic week, change in driver recruitment and payment schemes|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
A series of public protests in Bangladesh advocating improved road safety were held from 29 July to 8 August 2018. They were sparked by the deaths of two high-school students in Dhaka struck by a bus operated by an unlicensed driver who was racing to collect passengers. The incident impelled students to demand safer roads and stricter traffic laws, and the demonstrations rapidly spread throughout Bangladesh.
The protests were peaceful until 2 August, when police attempted to disperse the demonstrators with tear gas and people believed to be members of a pro-government youth league attacked protesters and journalists. The government arrested several protesters and a photographer for giving an interview about the protests to international media. Various international organisations and high-profile figures expressed solidarity with the protesters. The crack-down on the student protesters received high criticism both domestically and internationally.
The third Sheikh Hasina Cabinet approved on 6 August a draft traffic act stipulating capital punishment for intentional killing and a maximum five-year prison sentence for accidental killing with a motor vehicle. The protesters felt that the maximum five-year sentence was too light for accidental deaths due to reckless driving. By 8 August, the situation in the city had returned to normal, most students had returned to their classes and traffic had resumed as normal, with many sources stating that the nine-day protests were over.
Bus services in Dhaka are notoriously unregulated and accident-prone. Although many traffic laws and regulations were passed by the parliament, it had not been put into action. Research by the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways showed that more than 4,200 people were killed and 16,100 others were injured in road accidents in Dhaka in 2017. It is estimated that approximately 2.4 million vehicles are being driven by unqualified drivers in Dhaka in 2018. The deaths of two students had led to these protests.
The protests started on 29 July 2018 after two students of Shaheed Romijuddin Cantonment College were killed when a speeding bus ploughed into a bus stop on Airport Road, Dhaka. The vehicle had been racing another bus to pick up passengers when it drifted onto the sidewalk, killing the two and injuring 12 others. Hundreds of students poured into the streets demanding justice for the incident. The bus responsible for the crash was run by Jabal-e-Nur Paribahan and owned by Shahadat Hossain, who was later arrested. It was later revealed that three buses were involved in the incident. All three drivers were arrested, along with two assistants.
Hours later, journalists spoke with Shajahan Khan, Bangladeshi Minister of Shipping, who is also the Executive President of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, who said, "a road crash has claimed 33 lives in India's Maharashtra; but do they talk about it like the way we do?" His remark and smile were highly criticised by citizens and triggered protests in other areas of the country, and the protesters started demanding his apology.
The protests then spread outside Dhaka. The protesters, mostly students aged 15 to 19, blocked roads at major points and checked the legal documents and fitness certificates of different vehicles at different points throughout the country. The students declared 9 demands. Members of civil rights organisations expressed solidarity with protests. The protests continued for a fifth day despite the government's declaration that all educational institutions would remain closed countrywide on 2 August 2018.
Ilias Kanchan, a Bangladeshi film actor, road safety activist and founder of the Nirapad Sarak Chai campaign, expressed solidarity with the protests by initiating a human chain in Dhaka on 3 August. On 5 August, Dhaka University students blocked Shahbag Square demanding Shahjahan's resignation, before proceeding to Science Lab Square, where police attempted to disperse them with tear gas. Dozens of students were injured and several journalists were beaten up by pro-government activists.
On 6 August 2018, demonstrations were held in different parts of the country by students of the private and public universities. In Dhaka, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters, and approximately 40 students were injured and 10 people were arrested from the nearby area of the private university campuses. On 7 August 2018, hundreds of journalists formed a large human chain outside the National Press Club demanding punishment for attacks by BCL activists on journalists while covering the news of the protests, and also demanding punishment for attacks on the student protesters. Following arrests of some of the student protesters, BRAC University students boycotted class on 8 August demanding release of the detained protesters, while Professor Abdul Mannan Choudhury, Vice-Chancellor of World University of Bangladesh also asked the government to release the protesters. No further protests have been reported since.
Retaliation and attacks on protesters and journalists
Student protesters and journalists collecting news of the protests were attacked by pro-government supporters alleged to be members of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of the ruling political party, injuring about 115 students and 15 journalists in Dhaka.
One local daily newspaper reported that three of its journalists were beaten and one female journalist was molested by BCL men while covering protests in the Jhigatola area of Dhaka on 4 August. Local journalists also reported having their camera equipment destroyed and phones snatched. They also alleged that they were forced to delete the videos of violence from their mobile phone.
Bangladesh Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used batons to disperse the protesters leaving many people injured. The police and the road transport minister Obaidul Quader rejected all allegations of attack on the protesters. One top leader of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League alleged that some criminals wearing school uniforms had joined the violence, but this was unconfirmed.
Posts on social media alleged that four female students of Bir Shreshtha Noor Mohammad Public College were taken to Bangladesh Awami League office and raped by BCL activists; however, these reports remain unconfirmed and have been denied by BCL leadership. Some of the alleged incidents, including rape, were later described as rumours that spread over social media.
On 5 August, police used tear gas again to disperse thousands of school, college and university students. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the protesters to go home and expressed concern that a "third party" could sabotage the protests and put the safety of students at risk. At least six photojournalists, including photojournalists of Associated Press, The Daily Bonik Barta, Janakantha, a photography student of Pathshala South Asian Media Institute as well as freelance photojournalists, were attacked with iron rods, machetes and sticks in Dhaka by activists of BCL. Law enforcement was present for the incident, but did not make any attempt to stop the attackers. The attackers tried to snatch the victims' camera and phones, threatening to attack anyone who possessed a camera.
Following a live interview about the protests with Al Jazeera, photographer Shahidul Alam was detained by a group of between 30 and 35 plainclothes police officers on 5 August. Alam was charged under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act and was remanded for seven days. He told the court that he had been tortured while in police custody. The Supreme Court halted the seven-day remand on 7 August and after observing his physical condition ordered authorities to admit him to a hospital. Alam was taken to a hospital on 8 August at 9 am. However, Alam was taken back to the office of the Detective Branch of police again at 2 pm on the same day.
More 5 people have been detained by the Bangladesh Police including Mahabubur Rahaman Arman, a human rights activist, and cybersecurity and crime analyst who was charged under Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act and was remanded for six days. Others were remanded for 3-5 days in the same Act during that time.  
On 6 August, East West University students who had blocked the road in front of the University in late morning protests were attacked by a group of men carrying sticks. Local residents stated that the labour union wing of the ruling party, the "Shecchashebok League" activists, were among the attackers. Police also fired tear gas shells to disperse the protesters. Prothom Alo correspondent Nasrin Akhtar Shumi, who recorded the violence on her phone, had her phone snatched away by the police who took her to the local police outpost and erased the video recording. Police were also alleged to have sought assistance from pro-government youths to deal with the protesters.
Relatives of the protesters expressed their dismay when 22 private university students involved in the protests were detained by the police on 7 August, but no legal action was taken on the alleged ruling party activists who attacked the protesters. On 8 August, police raided the Bashundhara Residential Area in Dhaka, where a number of private university students reside, but no one was arrested during the operation.
Although no official statement was published by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said at a press briefing on 2 August that the prime minister had requested students to stop protesting on the streets and return to their schools. The Ministry of Education advised all educational institutions to remain closed on 2 August in order to control the ongoing wave of student agitation. Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid said that this decision was taken based on security concerns. The Cyber Crime Unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police filed cases against 29 individuals and online news portals for sharing news and media related to the protests at the Ramna Police Station. Private television channel Ekattor TV was issued a letter of warning by the Information Ministry after it aired footage of student protests on national television.
On 4 August, the government blocked mobile internet access for 24 hours in response to supposed misinformation circulating online. Internet service providers were ordered to reduce the mobile internet speed to 1.28 kbit/s to prevent upload of pictures or videos to the internet. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan announced that police would take "tough action" against the agitating students "if limit is crossed [sic?]".
On 5 August, 3G and 4G cellular networks were again reportedly blocked by authorities in an attempt to control the mass spread of misinformation online, resulting in a temporary communication black-out.
Bus owners took the decision to put contract drivers on monthly payroll. They commented: "The drivers move recklessly so that they can earn extra on an additional trip when they can. If they get a monthly salary, their mentality of rash driving will change." The announcement came on 8 August and had been set to be enforced from 1 September 2018.
In response to the protests, national authorities launched "Traffic Week", a week-long road-safety program. On its first day, 5 August, 19,366 cases were filed for traffic rule violators, with 25,882 more recorded the following day.
Bangladesh police filed 34 cases against protesters and arrested at least 37 of them. No charges were filed against the attackers over attacks on protesters and journalists. Photographer Shahidul Alam was detained for interrogation and remanded by police due to his social media activity on the protest; Amnesty International condemned the arrest.
According to an official in the cyber crime division of the Dhaka metropolitan police, up to 1,200 social media accounts have been identified to allegedly spread rumours. In addition to police officers, members of pro-government youth league BCL, also asked followers to send examples of anyone allegedly spreading rumours. Posts featuring the names and pictures of alleged activists including four women were spread across Facebook and Instagram. These actions have made many students in Dhaka to panic and made them stop posting about the protests online. There are also reports of terrified students deleting their online messages of support to the protests. On 9 August, Dhaka University authority handed over one of their student to police with the assistance of pro-government youth league BCL for his Facebook posts.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) scrutinised over 1,500 profiles on different social media and launched legal action against 150 such profile holders for their alleged involvement in instigating anarchy during the movement.
The United Nations expressed concern for the safety of Bangladeshi children and young people in the protests. The US Embassy in Dhaka issued a statement condemning the actions taken against the student protesters. London-based Save the Children urged the government to meet the demands of the students and to ensure the safety of the protesting students. The High Commission of Canada to Bangladesh also expressed Canada's concern for the safety of the students exercising their rights and called for action against "those violating these democratic rights". Amnesty International also released a statement, calling for the release of activist and photographer Shahidul Alam and for an end to the crackdown on student protesters. Similarly, PEN International issued a statement demanding the immediate release of the photographer. Indian writer Arundhati Roy, Canadian author Naomi Klein, American writer philosopher Noam Chomsky and Indian intellectual Vijay Prashad also demanded immediate release of photographer Alam in a joint statement. RSF urged the government to protect those involved in the freedom of the press. Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallström voiced her concern regarding the violent scenes witnessed in Dhaka and called for the respect of the right to peacefully protest. The European Union also expressed concern over the attacks on students and journalists. New York-based Human Rights Watch criticised the Bangladesh government for "unlawfully attacking" student protesters and locking up people for "peaceful criticism".
Injured journalists and photographers
- A. M. Ahad, Photojournalist at Associated Press
- Ahmed Deepto, Staff reporter at Prothom-alo
- 2018 Bangladesh quota reform movement
- 2015 Bangladesh student protests
- 1952 Bengali language movement
- "Students end protests on road safety in Bangladesh after nine days; education ministry to hold meet tomorrow". Firstpost. 7 August 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
- "Scores injured in traffic protests in Bangladesh capital". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "Protesting Teens Bring Bangladesh's Capital to a Standstill". Time. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "Student protests surge in Bangladesh capital". Associated Press. 5 August 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "Dhaka streets appear deserted". 5 August 2018.
- "11 arrested, 27 cases over violence during student protests". Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "Bangladesh arrests top photographer amid student protests". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "UN concerned for students' safety as safe-road protests simmer in Bangladesh". Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "Stop unlawful action against protestors: EU". The Daily Star. 7 August 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "Celebrities join students for the protests". The Daily Star. 3 August 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "Students sued, not attackers". 8 August 2018.
- "How dare you hit my child!". 6 August 2018.
- "Bangladesh criticised for student and media crackdown". Al Jazeera.
- "Cabinet approves Road Transport Act". Dhaka Tribune. 6 August 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "Causing Death by Rash Driving: Maximum 5 years' jail". 7 August 2018.
- Hasnat, Mahadi Al (6 August 2018). "Students' protest in Bangladesh nears end after series of violent events sees several journalists injured". Firstpost. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- Manik, Julfikar Ali; Abi-Habib, Maria (5 August 2018). "Students Pour into Dhaka's Streets to Demand Safer Roads". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- Antara, Nawaz Farhin (4 August 2018). "Unlicensed drivers a problem for commuters, stakeholders". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan owner arrested". Dhaka Tribune. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
- "Dhaka shaken by youth spirit". The Daily Star. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
- "Outrage over Shajahan's smile, remarks". The Daily Star. 31 July 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "Dhaka comes to standstill as students hold massive protests over poor road safety; Sheikh Hasina promises reforms in phases". firstpost.com. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
- "Ershad express solidarity with student protest". New Age. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "Protest spreads outside Dhaka". The Daily Star. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
- "Dhaka school students take to streets to protest against bus killings". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- France-Presse, Agence (3 August 2018). "Teenagers bring parts of Bangladesh to a halt with bus death protests". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "People stand in solidarity with students' protests". The Independent. Dhaka. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "Guardians express solidarity with protesting students". The Daily Star. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "Students continue street protests for fifth day". Retrieved 2 August 2018.
- "Schools, colleges shut tomorrow: Ministry". The Daily Star. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "Immediately implement students' logical demands". The Daily Star. 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "Journalists, including AP photographer, beaten up". Dhaka Tribune. 5 August 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "Safe Road: DU students block Shahbagh demanding Shahjahan's resignation". The Daily Star. 5 August 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- News, United. "Aftabnagar, Bashundhara turn volatile amid attacks on students". unb.com.bd. Archived from the original on 7 August 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "Violence continues in Bangladesh capital as students protest". kansascity. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "Arrest culprits in 72 hours". 8 August 2018.
- "No general amnesty for varsity students". The Daily Star. 9 August 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "115 students injured in clashes as Bangladesh teen protests turn violent". Rappler. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "Dozens of students injured in Bangladesh road safety protests". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "4 Daily Star journalists assaulted". The Daily Star. 5 August 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "Bangladesh teens attacked during protest". BBC News. 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "জিগাতলা, মিরপুরসহ সারা দেশে যা ঘটেছিল". প্রথম আলো (in Bengali). Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "Bangladesh students injured as police clash with road safety protesters", Deutsche Welle, 4 August 2018, retrieved 4 August 2018
- Alam, Julhas (4 August 2018). "Many injured as police, protesters clash in Bangladesh". CTVNews. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "Minute by minute: Saturday's protest ends with violence in Jigatola". 4 August 2018.
- "BCL denies allegations of rape, detention of female students". The Daily Star. 4 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- কল্লোল, কাদির (5 August 2018). "নিরাপদ সড়ক আন্দোলন: কী ঘটেছিল ধানমণ্ডিতে?". BBC News বাংলা. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "Student Protests Surge in Bangladesh Capital". Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "জিগাতলায় শিক্ষার্থীদের ওপর কাঁদানে গ্যাস". The Daily Star Bangla (in Bengali). 5 August 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urges student protesters to go home amid violence". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "PM Hasina urges all not to pay heed to rumours". Prothom Alo. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "IGP: DB working to identify the attackers of journalists". Dhaka Tribune. 13 August 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
- "5 photojournalists hurt in 'BCL attack'". The Daily Star. 5 August 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "Several hurt as AL men attack protesters". The Daily Star. 5 August 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- Paul, Ruma. "Bangladesh protests spur cabinet to toughen punishment for traffic..." U.S. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
- Safi, Michael (6 August 2018). "Photographer charged as police crackdown in Bangladesh intensifies". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
- "Arts and human rights organisations denounce arrest of Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam". theartnewspaper.com. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
- "Bangladesh arrests top photographer amid student protests". Deutsche Welle. 6 August 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "Tortured in custody". The Daily Star. 7 August 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "High Court halts Shahidul Alam's remand". Dhaka Tribune. 7 August 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "Photographer and activist Shahidul Alam taken to hospital".
- "Shahidul Alam taken back to police custody". The Daily Star. 9 August 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "আন্দোলনে গুজব ছড়ানোর অভিযোগে গ্রেফতার ৩". www.ekushey.tv. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "গুজব রটনায় জড়িতদের বিরুদ্ধে কঠোর সরকার : ৪০ আইডি চিহ্নিত, ২৪ ঘণ্টায় ২৫ জনকে জিজ্ঞাসাবাদ". www.bhorerkagoj.com. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld – Bangladesh: Organization called Bangladesh Awami Sechcha Sebak League (BASL) (Secha Sebak, Sechchasebak, Sechcha Sebok, Sechchasebok, Sechchashebak); its links with the Awami League (AL); its leaders; its political program; the specific problems its members have with the authorities and other political groups; if applicable, how these problems compare with those of AL members".
- "Clashes in front of East West University". bdnews24.com. 6 August 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "Why are universities under attack?". The Daily Star. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
- "22 pvt students on police remand".
- "Police raid Bashundhara neighbourhood in Dhaka after clashes with university students". Retrieved 9 August 2018.
- "PM calls upon students to return to their classes: Kamal". The Daily Star. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
- "আন্দোলনে উসকানির অভিযোগে পুলিশের মামলা". প্রথম আলো (in Bengali). Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "Govt warns Ekattor TV on its coverage of student protests". Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "Dia's father urges students to go home". The Daily Star. 3 August 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
- "Authorities slow mobile internet to quell student protests". Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "Action if limit crossed: Home minister". The Daily Star. 5 August 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- AFP. "Bangladesh Cuts Mobile Internet in Road Safety Protests". VOA. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "Bangladesh may introduce death penalty for accidental road killings". The Independent. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "Bangladesh approves new road safety law to placate protesters". Arab News. 6 August 2018. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
- "Bus owners to put contract drivers on monthly payroll instead". Dhaka Tribune. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "25,882 more cases filed on 2nd day". The Daily Star. 7 August 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
- "Release of detained students, withdrawal of cases demanded". New Age. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
- "Students sued, not attackers". The Daily Star. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
- "Photographer Shahidul Alam remanded for seven days in ICT case". Retrieved 12 August 2018.
- "নোয়াখালী বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের শিক্ষকরা কর্মবিরতিতে". Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- Safi, Michael; Rahman, Shaikh Azizur (10 August 2018). "'None will be spared': students fear reprisals over Bangladesh unrest". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "Students in Bangladesh Are Deleting Their Pro-Protest Posts Because They're Scared of Reprisals". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "DU hands student to police for Facebook posts". Dhaka Tribune. 9 August 2018. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "DMP taking steps against 150 social media IDs". Dhaka Tribune. 13 August 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
- "Safe roads: US embassy condemns attacks on student protesters". The Daily Star. 5 August 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "Save the Children asks Bangladesh govt to meet student protesters' demands". Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "High Commission of Canada to Bangladesh". facebook.com. Retrieved 6 August 2018.[non-primary source needed]
- "Bangladesh: Release photographer and end violent crackdown on student protests". Amnesty International. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
- "PEN International – Bangladesh: authorities must immediately and unconditionally release…". PEN International. PEN International. 6 August 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2018.CS1 maint: others (link)
- "Arundhati, Chomsky among others demand release of Shahidul Alam". New Age. Retrieved 10 August 2018.
- "Bangladesh : plusieurs reporters attaqués, le photojournaliste Shahidul Alam détenu par la police | Reporters sans frontières". Reports Without Borders (in French). Retrieved 7 August 2018.
- "Bangladesh criticised for student and media crackdown". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
- "Fakhrul visits injured photojournalist Ahad". Prothom Alo. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
- "Eight Journalist injured in Banladesh". UNi India. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bangladesh Road Safety Protests 2018.|
- on YouTube