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Traffic standstills in Dhaka as protesters begin day-long blockade against quota system

Traffic standstills in Dhaka as protesters begin day-long blockade against quota system

Photo: Collected from social media

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Meanwhile, the Appellate Division is scheduled to hear a fresh plea filed by two Dhaka University students challenging the reinstatement of the quota system at around 11:30am on Wednesday

Staff Correspondent

Publisted at 11:01 AM, Wed Jul 10th, 2024

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As part of their ongoing movement termed "Banglga Blockade", the anti-quota protesters are enforcing a day-long blockade on Wednesday (10 July) to press home their one-point demand of a quota reform for government jobs.

Students of seven colleges began blocking the Science Laboratory intersection of the capital as per the pre-announced programme from 10:30am.

More than two hundred students brought out a procession from Dhaka College and blocked the Science Lab intersection.

As a result, all traffic on the main and branch roads in the area came to a halt - leading to long queues of vehicles. 

Sudents gathered at the Shahbagh intersection around noon yet again, chanting slogans against the quota system, bringing vehicular movement in the area to a standstill.

In Cumilla, students from Cumilla University blocked the Dhaka-Chattogram highway at Kotbari Bishwa Road around 11 am, causing a long tailback on both sides of the highway. Additional police were deployed to maintain law and order.

In Khulna, students from Brajalal College (BL) took to the streets at Natun Rasta around 10 am as part of the Bangla Blockade. They also blocked railway tracks in the city, halting train communications.

Similarly, students from Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) barricaded railway tracks, halting the Dewanganj-bound 'Teesta Express' from Dhaka at Jabbarer Mor around 10:45 am, suspending train services. They also marched on campus to support the Bangla Blockade.

"The Bangla Blockade programme will continue from 10am to sunset on Wednesday," said Nahid Islam, a coordinator of the movement, during a press conference on Tuesday (9 July).

He said students will gather at the DU Central Library from 10am. Later, the blockade will be enforced at all the intersections of the capital. including Shahbagh.

"Our blockade programme will include roads and railways. We call upon all the students, parents and the public to participate in the programme," he added.

Meanwhile, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court issued a status quo for four weeks regarding the High Court’s earlier order to reinstate the quota system in government jobs.

Students of Dhaka University and other universities have been protesting for several days against the High Court’s order reinstating quotas in government jobs. Yesterday, protesters filed an application with the Appellate Division seeking a stay on the High Court order reinstating the freedom fighter quota.

Earlier, on July 4, the High Court adjourned a hearing on a petition filed by the state seeking a stay on the High Court verdict due to the absence of the writ petitioner’s lawyer.

The quota system, which reserved 56% of positions in government jobs for various quotas, was abolished in 2018. This decision was challenged in 2021 by descendants of freedom fighters, resulting in a High Court ruling on 5 June 2024, declaring the abolition of the freedom fighters’ quota illegal.

Law Minister Anisul Huq on Tuesday (9 July) said the court is the appropriate place to resolve the ongoing crisis over the quota system in government jobs as street movements cannot give any solution to this.

"This is a matter of the court. There would be no solution to this through street movement. It could result in contempt of court. That is why, court is the appropriate place to resolve the crisis over quota," he said while talking to reporters at the ministry.

"If they [anti-quota protesters] want to become a party in the case and raise their points in court, I hope and I think the Appellate Division would hear arguments of all the parties and do justice," he added.

University students have been holding sit-ins, organising marches and blocking roads and highways, demanding the reinstatement of the 2018 quota cancellation circular since 2 June.

The 2018 rounds of quota reform protests were called off when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the abolition of the system in April of the same year. 

However, the High Court on 5 June of this year ordered the government to retain the 30% freedom fighter quota in government jobs. 

It also declared the circular issued on 4 October 2018 cancelling the quota system as illegal.

Following the verdict, students announced their non-stop movement.

The quota system was introduced through an executive order in 1972 and was amended several times.  Since 1972, several public service reform committees and the Public Service Commission, the body that oversees government recruitment, objected to the policy.

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