On May 24, 2022, members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) reportedly used sticks and other makeshift weapons to attack a peaceful procession of University of Dhaka students affiliated with Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) on their way to a press conference, injuring roughly 30-40 students.
Around 9:30 am, a procession of hundreds of JCD students were making their way peacefully to Dhaka University’s Journalists’ Association for a pre-scheduled press event. Rakibul Islam Rakib, a JCD student leader who was injured, told the press that the procession was being very cautious and did not raise any protest slogans due to recent BCL violence. Despite this, The Daily Star reports that as the JCD students approached campus, a large group of BCL activists armed with “iron rods, hockey sticks and sticks” were apparently waiting and proceeded to confront and assault the JCD students. Clashes then broke out between the two groups and lasted until around noon.
As a result, roughly 30-40 JCD students were injured, with some having to receive treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Islami Bank Central Hospital Kakrail. Although reporting widely states that BCL activists initiated the violence, the head of BCL at Dhaka University claimed that the JCD students attacked first.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about members of a student group violently attacking another group peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – conduct which is protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bangladesh is a party. Student groups have a responsibility to refrain from physical violence and should respect their peers’ right to peacefully gather. State and university authorities should also take steps to protect students from violence and ensure that they are able to gather safely. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks on student gatherings undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.