On July 8, 2018, student activists and journalists at two universities in Bangladesh were physically attacked during protests over attacks on student activists.
Student activists affiliated with the so-called quota reform movement, which since early April 2018 has been publicly demanding that the government revise its policies relating to recruitment for public service jobs, had gathered on the campuses of Jagannath University (JnU) and the University of Chittagong (UC) for rallies on the same day. The students were protesting recent attacks on their fellow quota reform activists and demanding safe campuses. At JnU, student members of a group called the Progressive Student Alliance staged a rally around 12:30 pm, when they and several journalists were reportedly attacked by members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), a conservative student group. Ten student activists and four journalists were reportedly injured in the attack.
Around the same time at UC, members of a group known as the Bangladesh General Students’ Rights Protection Council were reportedly attacked by BCL members as they attempted to form a human chain as part of a protest. In that incident, one student and two journalists were injured.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during student protests. Students have the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association on campus, but those rights must be exercised in a manner consistent with university values, including non-violence and social responsibility. Violent acts by students engaged in organized expression not only pose a direct threat to the immediate victims, but also undermine academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, and harm democratic society generally.