People from all walks of life have taken to the street in Dhaka, Bangladesh to protest the death of two students on 29th July, who were run over by a speeding bus. The protests have picked up pace over the past week with throngs of people demanding better road safety and a bettered transport system. Teens as young as 13 have been seen on Dhaka’s notoriously clogged streets, checking drivers have valid licenses and that cars and buses are in roadworthy conditions before letting them drive on. In light of these protests, here are a few ways we found the protest to demonstrate the similarities between the way Pakistanis and Bangladeshis protest.
As mentioned before, the death of two students is what started the protests in Dhaka. Shaheed Ramiz Uddin School and College students Diya Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib were killed, and several others were injured when a bus of “Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan” plowed into a group of students on July 29. While this isn’t exactly a feature common to just Bangladesh and Pakistan, it is usually when there is the loss of innocent life that people come together in the South Asian countries.
About 25 students were reportedly injured on the seventh day of the protests. The BBC reported that it is unclear who perpetuated the violence against them. The police, however, reportedly used tear gas and rubber bullets to dispel the crowd. Consequently, a doctor and witnesses quoted by AFP news agency said the number of injured was much higher, at more than 100. This narrative of protest sights being tear gassed by security apparatuses hits too close to home. A feature of South Asian protests and repression, perhaps?
As the protests ensued, the government reportedly blocked mobile internet service for 24 hours as well. This was obviously a security measure, as is in Pakistan at any crucial social or political moment in the country. Whether it a political rally, a politicians homecoming, or an ongoing protest, Pakistani protestors have had their fair share of mobile service outage as well. But we can’t help but wonder, isn’t this just a way to try to curb the democratic right to protest?
A woman trying to cover and report on the clashes claimed she was molested while out on the streets. This is also unfortunately true for protests that happen in Pakistan. Not just protests but political rallies as well. It is a sad reality that women and men alike cannot take up a cause in either country without having to worry about safety against sexual predators.
This is what it is great about protests in both countries. The Dhaka protests led to an international outcry by Bangladeshi students in Toronto, for instance. The Bangladeshi Student’s Association at the University of Toronto has been reporting on the protests and keeping the diaspora aware of the ongoing struggle for road safety back home. Similarly, Pakistani students abroad take up initiatives that start back home as well. Students from both countries organize themselves to demand better every day. This creates more awareness in the international community and it is a good way to keep the diaspora connected with people back home.
Here is hoping that the struggles of the students in Dhaka bear fruit. Hoping that they get access to a better road safety system so that no human life is lost due to the recklessness of any public vehicle driver ever again. And here is hoping that students continue to organize better for their rights and hold accountable those in power for provision of basic rights in both, Bangladesh and Pakistan.