On July 2, 2018, alleged members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), a national student political organization, attacked students peacefully protesting at the University of Dhaka, injuring at least ten students.
The students were participating in a non-violent demonstration condemning the ongoing violent attacks and prosecutions against quota reform activists. Students and other groups across Bangladesh have been holding protests demanding reforms to the country’s civil service recruitment process. Members of the BCL, which is affiliated with the ruling government party, have frequently used violent force to restrict and retaliate against quota reform protest activities.
At around 1pm on July 2, roughly fifteen quota reform activists gathered near the Shaheed Minar monument on the University of Dhaka campus. Roughly ten alleged members of the BCL arrived on the scene and began violently attacking the activists. BCL members surrounded Faruk Hasan, a student leader of the quota reform group, and brutally beat him. Female students attempting to protect him were also attacked and allegedly taunted with threats of rape by BCL members.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent clashes during a peaceful student protest. State and university authorities have a responsibility to prevent violence on campus, and to investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of such attacks. While students have a right to freedom of expression, they also have a responsibility to exercise that right peacefully and responsibly, including especially by refraining from using violence against fellow students, faculty, and other individuals. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such attacks threaten academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.