On April 8, 2018, police violently clashed with University of Dhaka student protesters reportedly leaving at least one hundred injured.
The students had blockaded one of the Dhaka’s busiest intersections in a protest demanding that Parliament discuss reforms of the country’s civil service quota system. After five hours of the students’ protest, police began firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons at the students, who retaliated by throwing bricks and rocks. Police used batons to beat back the students.
That night as more police arrived, some student protesters reportedly vandalized the home of the University of Dhaka’s vice-chancellor and the Fine Arts Institute, and lit two cars on fire. Police detained 15 student protesters. At least one hundred students were injured during the day’s protest.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent clashes between police and student protesters. While state authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, minimize the risk of physical injury, and otherwise respect freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and other applicable human rights standards. Likewise, while students have a right to protest and otherwise engage in expressive activities, that does not include violence or destruction of property. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.