| Angry students destroy a vehicle during clashes with the police at Dhaka University on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Dhaka, Aug. 21 (Reuters): Angry students, fed up with having the army on campus, burned a military van and damaged at least 50 vehicles today in renewed violence at Bangladesh’s Dhaka University, witnesses said.
At least 150 students were hurt after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the stone-throwing and stick-wielding students at Bangladesh’s biggest university, they said.
The country’s army-backed interim administration which had deployed the army in January after months of political violence said it has ordered troops to withdraw from the campus, following the protests.
“The interim government deeply apologised for the incident and ordered immediate withdrawal of the army camp from the campus and an inquiry into the unfortunate incident,” a statement from the information ministry said.
More than 100 students were injured in similar clashes overnight, after students protested against the presence of army troops at Dhaka University stadium during a football match.
Protests and street assemblies have been banned since the interim government took power on January 12 after months of political violence. Troops have been camping in the gymnasium since then.
Yesterday’s unrest, the first major defiance of the emergency restrictions, spread across campus after troops assaulted some students. Hundreds of police rushed in, firing teargas and rubber bullets, the witnesses said. The students hit back with sticks and stones.
Classes and exams were postponed at Dhaka University in the wake of the violence, while students called for an indefinite strike on the 40,000-strong campus. The Dhaka University Teachers Association said it supported student demands that the army camp be pulled out of the campus.
Violence flared anew today as hundreds of students returned to campus carrying sticks and challenging the police. They again responded by firing tear gas shells, witnesses said.
But the students forced the police to retreat from the campus and then burned effigies of the army chief, General Moeen U. Ahmed, and the interim head of the law and information ministries, Mainul Husein. Students returned to their dormitories after the police withdrew from campus.
A statement from army headquarters said a soldier who was accused of starting a brawl with students yesterday had been withdrawn from duty to face an inquiry.
As reports of the Dhaka University violence spread beyond the capital, students at Jahangirnagar University, 40 km north of the city, barricaded a highway for several hours today, damaging a dozen vehicles on the highway. The student protests also spread to Sher-e-Bangla University at Mirpur in Dhaka and at the country’s two other major universities, Chittagong University and Rajshahi University.