Anti-quota movement: Protestors leave Shahbagh after 4 hrs, announce fresh progs

Demonstrators block Shahbagh and InterContinental hotel intersections to press home their four-point demand on 7 July 2024Prothom Alo

The demonstrators against the quota system in government jobs ended their Sunday’s programme by lifting the blockade of the vital Shahbagh intersection in the capital after over four hours.

The students and job seekers also have announced fresh blockade programmes in various areas of the capital from 3:30 pm Monday to press home their four-point demands, including the reinstatement of the circular issued by the government in 2018 by cancelling the quota system in government jobs.

Students of Dhaka University have been waging the movement centrally under the banner of “anti-discrimination student movement”.

Responding to their call, students of different universities and colleges across the country have been holding processions and blocking roads since 1 July.

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Although the blockade at Shahbagh started after 4:00 pm, the students of Dhaka College blocked Science Lab hours before.

As the Shahbagh intersection was blocked, protestors simultaneously blocked different other intersections including Chankharpul, Nilkhet, Tantibazar and Sher-E-Bangla Nagar areas, crippling the city traffic movement.

Vehicles were stranded in the same place for hours while people left vehicles and headed to their destination walking. As a result of the gridlock on roads, the metro rail was teeming with passengers. Platforms of metro stations saw long queues of passengers.  

Vehicular movement became normal through Shahbagh intersection as the demonstrators lifted the blockade at around 8:00 pm.

Before leaving the Shahbagh intersection, the protesting platform’s coordinator Nahid Islam said, “The boycott of classes and examinations and general strikes in educational institutions will continue for an indefinite period. The blockade programme will also continue.”

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He further said the students would gather in front of DU central library at 3:30 pm tomorrow, Monday, and enforce blockade again.

The protesters don’t have any alternative to continue the movement as they are pushed to walls, he added.

“The students don’t have any alternative. Either we will return home with our demands fulfilled or we will leave the country. Why would meritorious students live in a country where there is no value of merit?”

Meanwhile, police officials summoned the leaders of the platform and talked with them in the evening. Upon returning to Shahbagh, they announced not to compromise.

Till 2018, there was 56 per quota in government jobs, including 30 per cent freedom fighter quota, 10 per cent women quota, 10 per cent quota for people from backward districts, 5 per cent quota for ethnic minorities and 1 per cent quota for physically challenged persons.

Anti-quota protesters block Shahbagh intersection on 7 July
Sazid Hossain

That year, there was a big protest in the educational institutions across the country, including the Dhaka University demanding quota reform.

The protester demanded to bring down the quota percentage to 10 from 56 per cent.

In the face of the movement, the government abolished the entire quota system for first and second class government jobs.

Later, on 4 October that year, the public administration ministry issued a circular cancelling the quota system.

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However, in 2021, the offspring of freedom fighters filed a writ with the High Court challenging the abolishment of the freedom fighter quota for government jobs.

Following the hearing on that writ, the court declared the cancellation of the freedom fighter quota as illegal on 5 June this year. The job aspirants have been protesting since then demanding the reinstatement of the circular abolishing the freedom fighter quota.

Following the court verdict, the students and job aspirants took to the streets again. They have been demonstrating continuously since 1 July.

Apart from the reinstatement of the circular, the job aspirants and students united under the banner of ‘anti-discriminatory student movement’ are also pressing some other demands.

Those include the formation of commission to omit irrational and discriminatory quotas in all grades of government jobs subjected to the reinstatement of the 2018 circular, considering the backward community as per the constitution, closing down the scopes to use the quota facility more than once, filling up the empty posts reserved for quota on the basis of merit and taking effective measures to ensure a corruption-free, neutral and merit-based bureaucracy.