Anti-quota protesters left Shahbagh after 5hrs, announce strikes on Sunday

Students and job seekers blocked Shahbagh intersection for five hours on Thursday protesting against the reinstatement of the quota system in government jobsShuvra Kanti Das

The students and job seekers protesting against the reinstatement of the quota system in government jobs have lifted their blockade at Shahbagh after five hours announcing fresh programmes.

The demonstrators left the important intersection of the capital at around 6:10pm and announced strikes in all colleges and universities of the country on next Sunday to press home their demand.

The blockade created huge traffic congestion in the city as several hundred students laid siege to Shahbagh intersection near Dhaka University at 12:18pm.

The students gathered in DU central library premises at around 11 in the morning today and brought out a procession that paraded different roads on the campus. The protesters then blocked Shahbagh intersection.

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The demonstrators, under the banner of ‘anti-discrimination student movement’, chanted different slogans seeking reinstatement of a government circular issued in 2018 reforming the quota system in government jobs. They continued their agitation amid heavy rain.

A large number of police members were waiting at Shahbagh intersection beforehand, but they did not bar the demonstrators. A commotion was created briefly as the police donned helmets in an apparent bid to disperse the crowd at around 5:00pm but the situation calmed soon.

Before lifting the blockade, the platform’s coordinator and DU student Nahid Islam announced a fresh set of programmes. He said the demonstrators will campaign online and offline on Friday to press home their four point demands, bring out protest processions at 3:00pm on Saturday in all universities and colleges of the country and observe strikes and boycott classes and examinations on Sunday.

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He said the government’s executive branch issued a circular scrapping quota system in 2018 in face of protests but the quota has now been reinstated using the judiciary. This is tantamount to farce with the students.

Till 2018, there was a 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 impaired persons. That year, there was a big protest in the educational institutions across the country, including the Dhaka University demanding quota reform.

Anti-quota protesters carried placards and chanted different slogans to press home their demands at Shahbagh on 4 July
Prothom Alo

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.

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.

We would suggest the honourable court considers our position. And, we want to ask the executive branch of the government what circular they issued that can be scrapped within five years?
Nahid Islam, spokesperson, anti-discrimination student movement

Apart from the reinstatement of the circular, the job aspirants and students 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.

Nahid Islam, the spokesperson of the platform, said the government’s executive branch still can issue notification cancelling the quota system.

“We would suggest the honorable court considers our position. And, we want to ask the executive branch of the government what circular they issued that can be scrapped within five years? That circular must have been faulty…they made a farce with the students,” Nahid added.