Bangladeshi Student Protests

On July 29, two teenagers were recklessly killed by a speeding bus attempting to pick up more passengers in Dhaka. As the news of their deaths circulated through social media platforms, teenage students poured onto the capital city demanding justice. The protests have continued for days and have brought the capital to a complete halt with reports of vandalism. According to Time, in the past five days the city has witnessed 317 vehicles vandalized among which eight have been burned. BBC News reported that the situation has since escalated further with 25 students reportedly injured while local journalist women were victims of sexual assault. To tame the protests, the police have allegedly used rubber bullets and tear gas against the youth protestors.

The student demonstrators’ anger stems from their frustrations with the government who they see as incompetent in enforcing traffic regulations as well as highly corrupt. Bangladesh was ranked 28 by Transparency International which is an organization that judges countries over their perceived level of corruption on a scale from 0 to 100. When ranked 1 on the scale, the country is deemed as highly corrupt and 100 as very clean. The pervasiveness of corruption makes it easier to drive with unregistered vehicles and without proper permits consequently endangering the lives of others. The BBC noted that representatives from the “National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways say more than 4,200 pedestrians were killed in road accidents last year – up a quarter from the previous year.”

In an act of defiance, student protestors have taken the onus of imposing traffic regulations over major intersections of the city by checking driving licenses and registration papers. The Guardian reported that high schools across the city have been shut down while bus companies in Dhaka have abandoned operation which has prompted passengers to walk to their workplaces. Instead of pacifying matters, Minister Shajahan Khan added fuel to the fire by mocking the students and suggested that same efforts were warranted when a bus accident in India claimed 33 lives. An outcry on social media ensued demanding his resignation. Meanwhile, the student protestors compiled a list of nine demands ensuring safer conditions which the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has supposedly approved off. Similarly, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has suggested to organize a public transport safety campaign.

The loss of innocent lives has triggered a response that has brought a city of millions to a halt. The students at the forefront of the protests are striving for accountability and transparency from their government officials. Demonstrations on the streets is an example of their profound resentment towards years of government indifference to safety concerns. Students in Bangladesh believe that the government should be responsible and must address its population’s concerns by enforcing stricter regulation. Students also ask that traffic laws be observed, that only qualified drivers be granted a license and that their vehicles be registered. They also seek pedestrian safety. It is imperative for the Bangladeshi government to work with its people to ensure that these student protests do not go in vain and no more lives are lost.

Shehnoor Nasir

Fourth year undergraduate student majoring in political science with a specialization in international relations and a minor in speech communications.

About Shehnoor Nasir

Fourth year undergraduate student majoring in political science with a specialization in international relations and a minor in speech communications.