Thursday, August 21, 2008

RU closed after violent clashes

Rajshahi University (RU) was closed for an indefinite period yesterday following violent clashes that erupted the night before between students and local businesspeople.

The RU authorities asked resident students to vacate all of the 16 dormitories by 12:00 noon yesterday.

At least 60 people including teachers, students and police personnel were injured and six off-campus stores vandalised during the clashes. Out of the seriously injured, mostly students, 20 were admitted to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital while the rest were given first aid at RU Medical Centre.

Bangladesh Rifles and Rapid Action Battalion were deployed on the campus at around 2:00am to contain the situation.

The RU syndicate in an emergency meeting held later in the morning at the vice chancellor's (VC) residence decided to close the university sine die.

Prof Mamnunul Keramat, the acting VC, said the decision was taken to avoid further casualties or damage to properties. "Academic activates will resume as soon as possible," he added.

Many students had to start vacating their dorms as early as 2:30 in the morning when senior teachers following a meeting with law enforcement agencies informed them that the RU authorities had decided to close the university.

RU Proctor Enamul Haque, Assistant Proctor Abdul Haque, Student Adviser Faridul Islam, Prothom Alo photojournalist Azahar Uddin were also injured in the clashes

The students were infuriated with transport service operators at around 8.30pm on Tuesday as one of their fellow students was allegedly forced out of a Dhaka-bound bus, said sources.

The student, Humayun Kabir, said even though he had paid Tk 250 for the trip, the bus crew refused to ensure his designated seat. As he insisted on getting a seat, he was forced off the bus near Natore -- 45km away from Rajshahi.

Kabir's fellow RU students were agitated when he returned to Rajshahi and told them about his ordeal. A large number of students then attacked a Rajshahi-Dhaka bus ticket booth at Binodpur Bazar, triggering workers of transport services and other local businesses to retaliate.

Chase and counter chase continued for hours when a number of students pelted stones at the VC's residence and the locals assaulted the proctor.

Vehicular movement on Dhaka-Rajshahi highway came to a halt as both the clashing groups barricaded the highway.

At one stage, as Shah Mokhdum and Sher-e Bangla halls and the residences of hall provosts came under attack of outsiders, police fired blank shots and lobbed tear gas shells to get the situations under control, said Mahbubur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police.

No one was arrested till filing of this report.

Meanwhile, AHM Khairuzzman Liton, the mayor-elect of Rajshahi City Corporation, blamed the RU authorities for not taking necessary steps to avert the incident that ensued over a trivial matter.

He also urged the authorities concerned to investigate into the matter and take stern action against responsible persons.

The RU syndicate yesterday formed a seven-member committee headed by Prof Dr Delwar Hossain of Applied Physics Department to probe into the incident.

Other members of the committee are Prof Entajul Haque, syndicate member

Siddik Hossain, Dean of Social Sciences Faculty Prof Sadekul Islam, former

RU proctor Prof Shamsul Alam Sarker, Prof Abdul Latif and Shahabuddin Sarker.

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