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Fresh quota reform movement prog

Daylong 'Bangla Blockade' countrywide strike today

Apex court also hears today students' plea for undoing job-quota reinstatement

FE REPORT | July 10, 2024 00:00:00

A day's pause in street squatting escalates into an all-out dawn-to-dusk blockade today (Wednesday) as the protesters Tuesday announced the programme to press their demand for reform in the quota system in government recruitment.

In a fast development, the apex court also hears today students' plea for overturning a High Court order on reinstatement of the quota system in government jobs.

A ruling-party alert also came the same day against any provocative action from party rank and file. "Do nothing that creates provocation," Awami League general secretary and transport minister Obaidul Quader said to convey party chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's stance on the simultaneous students' quota and university teachers' pension protests.

The student protesters made the announcement on the blockade during a press conference in front of the central library of Dhaka University, followed by a campaign rally.

"We will continue our 'Bangla Blockade' programme as previously did in the past two days…. we are announcing dawn-to-dusk blockade for tomorrow," Nahid Islam, one of the leaders of the anti-quota movement, said at the press conference.

Nahid Islam stated, "We are protesting for one demand: the abolition of all discriminatory quotas and the passage of a law in parliament to reduce quotas for backward communities to a minimal level (5%), as specified in the Constitution."

He emphasized their desire to resolve quota 'discrimination' without causing undue suffering to the public.

Additionally, two Dhaka University students filed a petition challenging the High Court verdict that reinstated the quota in government jobs.

Senior lawyer Shah Monjurul Haque, accompanied by lawyer M Harunor Rashid Khan, represented the petitioners to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, students from Jahangirnagar University (JU) briefly blocked the Dhaka-Aricha highway on the day, demanding comprehensive reforms to the job-quota system. The blockade, which lasted about 30 minutes, was lifted after "policymakers showed goodwill" in addressing their concerns.

However, protesters warned that if their demands were not met in the upcoming Appellate Division hearing on the quota issue, they would stage a daylong blockade and potentially "immobilize the entire country".

Earlier, students marched under the 'Anti-Discrimination Student Movement' banner, starting from the central library at 3:30 pm. They moved through various campus roads before blocking the highway near the main gate at 3:45 pm. The blockade ended around 4:15 pm.

Sohagi Samia, a student from the Drama and Dramatics department, criticized the prolonged 30-percent quota for the third generation of freedom fighters, stating it was meant to be temporary since 1972. She emphasized their demand for logical quota reforms, particularly for disadvantaged groups.

Arif Sohel, convener of the JU Anti-Discrimination Student Movement, mentioned that the symbolic blockade was lifted due to positive assurances from officials ahead of the hearing. However, he hinted at stricter actions if their demands remain unmet.

The students have staged protests for a week, including a nationwide 'Bangla Blockade'. They initially had four demands but are now focused on one: passing a parliamentary law abolishing discriminatory quotas in government-job grades while minimizing quotas for disadvantaged groups like the disabled and tribals, in line with constitutional norms.

Students from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) have shown solidarity with the movement demanding reforms in the government job quota system.

BUET students formed a human chain in front of the BUET Shaheed Minar on Tuesday afternoon.

Issuing a press statement, they stated, "The 30 percent Freedom Fighter Quota was reasonable during and after the war due to the hardships faced by freedom fighters. However, their successors did not endure the same challenges, making it necessary to reform the quota system."

They also criticized the 10 percent quota for women as disrespectful, calling for its reformation.

Despite a day announced pause, students and job aspirants of different public universities and government colleges under the banner of the Students Movement Against Discrimination protested for the ninth consecutive day on Tuesday blocking highways, including Dhaka-Aricha, Dhaka-Rajshahi and Dhaka-Barishal Highways and others to press home their demand.

The protests stepped up after the Supreme Court on July 4 upheld a High Court verdict that declared a 2018 government circular abolishing the quota system in public service illegal.

On October 4, 2018, the government issued a circular abolishing all 56 per cent quotas - 30 per cent for freedom fighters' descendants, 10 per cent for women, 10 per cent for people from underdeveloped districts, 5 per cent for ethnic communities; and one per cent for physically challenged people - in the government jobs following student protests.

In 2021, seven job-seekers filed a writ petition challenging this decision.

After hearing the petition, Chamber Judge of the Appellate Division Justice Md Ashfaqul Islam sent it to the regular Appellate Division bench for detailed hearing today (Wednesday).

Senior lawyer Shah Monjurul Hoque who represented the students during the hearing told reporters that another student will be added with the two petitioners.

He further said, "These students have filed the petition on behalf of general students, not on behalf of the agitating students who are seeking abolition of the quota system. The petitioners have sought justification of the judgment of the High Court.

Their (petitioners) main demand is for reform of the quota system, not for abolition. We want it (quota system) to have a dignified solution. However, we will accept the apex-court decision whatever it will pass after hearing on it."

Earlier on the day, the Chamber Judge gave permission to the students for filing their petition as an affidavit.

The government also filed a petition seeking a stay on the HC judgement which came for hearing on July 4.

Adjourning the hearing, the apex court on that day asked the government to submit a leave-to-appeal petition with this court after the release of the full text of the HC verdict.

Earlier on June 5 this year, the High Court bench of Justice K M Kamrul Kader and Justice Khizir Hayat declared illegal a government decision that abolished the FF quota.

The FF quota has been reinstated following the High Court order, opined the concerned lawyers.

The government on October 4 in 2018 abolished all types of quota in class one and two government jobs. The decision triggered protests by descendants of freedom fighters who had been enjoying 30 per cent quotas in all government jobs.

Later in 2021, seven job seekers who are the descendents of freedom fighters filed a writ petition challenging the government decision that abolished the FF quota in class one and two government jobs.

Upon hearing on the petition the High Court on December 7 in 2021 issued a rule asking the government to explain as to why the decision taken by them should not be declared illegal.

After hearing on the rule, the High Court bench on June 5 declared the rule absolute.

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