Tuesday, 17 May, 2022

Student-Trader Clash and Tragic Deaths

Pranab Kumar Panday

Student-Trader Clash and Tragic Deaths
Pranab Kumar Panday

In the last few days, the most talked about topic in print, electronic and social media in Bangladesh was the clashes between the students of Dhaka College and the traders in the adjoining areas. We often witness conflicts between students and traders or employees working in different shops in different parts of the country, including Dhaka. However, this time, the conflict was protracted, and several people on both sides were injured, which is undesirable. However, questions have been raised in various quarters as to why such clashes are taking place and what are the impacts of such clashes in the long run.

As some employees of the shop were beaten up by the Dhaka college students, the traders attacked the students by passing false information to this effect, and later the students also got involved in clashes with the traders. Police tried to stand between the two sides to keep both sides at bay. However, the students accused the police of being one-sided. Reports circulating in various electronic media based on the video footage clearly showed that after the conflict between the employees of the two shops, one group of employees involved a group of students of Dhaka College in the clash, and later it became widespread.

When the clashes subsided, the situation calmed down on the first day with the intervention of various parties in the administration. Later, the Hon'ble Minister of Education visited the place and tried to calm down the situation by talking to everyone. Dhaka College holidays were announced so that the situation does not get worse. However, the students took a strong stand saying that they would not leave the hall and stay in it at any cost. Closing down educational institutions could temporarily reduce the intensity of the situation, but it is not a solution. If both parties do not maintain their coexistence, then both parties suffer. If traders do not operate in those areas, students will have many problems. The thing that needs to be realised by the traders is that if the students turn away from them, they will not be able to earn the amount of money they used to earn from them. Therefore, if both sides do not ensure coexistence based on compromise, then such unrest will continue.

However, in the general sense, even if the incident is interpreted as a conflict between students and business people, it is important to find out if there is any force or group behind the incident. It is necessary to consider that after the clash between the employees of the two shops, one side brought the students of Dhaka College to their side and got involved in the clash. Whether this is a coincidence or intentional that needs to be clarified. We have seen different events happening in different parts of the country. In most cases, one group has continued its efforts to destabilise the country. Attempts have been made to provoke communal riots, create problems between different groups, or create conflict between the warring parties on political issues. As a result, the law enforcement agencies have to seriously consider and find out whether there is any incident behind such clashes.

We often witness that ordinary citizens or bystander who have nothing to do with this kind of incident, got killed by falling into a trap created by both parties. This kind of incident is very heart-breaking. As in many other cases, we have seen the news of the untimely demise of an innocent bystander –Nahid - who used to work as a delivery man for a courier service organisation to maintain his livelihood. Nahid got married just six months ago and lived in Kamrangirchar with his family. Nobody will care for the emotion of the girl who has lost her husband before the colour of henna has faded away from her hands.

Have any of the parties involved in the conflict thought about what would happen to Nahid's parents, who lost their only earning member or how they would maintain their days? Nahid's death is not the only death. We have witnessed the death of bystanders in various collisions before. Another man called, Morsalin, who worked in a clothing store, died in the same incident. Therefore, it is time to identify those responsible for such incidents and bring them to justice as soon as possible. If such people are punished, others will think twice before committing such incidents.

During the clashes, students from other schools, colleges and universities in Dhaka expressed their solidarity with the Dhaka college students. Even students of Dhaka University supported the students of Dhaka College during the conflict. The leaders of different levels of the Chhatra League strongly protested against this incident. Although they tried to appease the students of Dhaka College, they also demanded action against the traders. The demand raised by the students of Dhaka College is that if Dhaka College remains closed, then no business establishment in that area will be able to open.

On the third day after the incident, when various shops in the Newmarket started opening, the college students again took position there. Later, they returned from the place after the intervention of the police and shops in Newmarket were again closed. If such incidents happen repeatedly, it would be a great loss for both parties. Traders need to keep in mind that students of all the educational institutions adjacent to Nilkhet and other areas are their customers. They would have suffered a lot in the days before Eid if their shops remained closed for long. If such incidents had not occurred, they would not have suffered such losses. Thanks to the ministry of education and the traders’ association for their initiative to help both parties to agree to help the situation become normal. One positive thing is that both parties have been found committed to ensuring the punishment of the culprits who instigated the clash.

The traders should consider that their children also study in these educational institutions in these areas. Therefore, they have a responsibility to maintain peace in these areas. The brute reality is that in most cases, such incidents take place due to the employees of different shops. It does not mean that students are not responsible for such clashes. Therefore, employers need to be more careful while handling their employees. If the traders fail to control their employees such incidents would happen frequently. And the responsibility rests with the traders as well. The students should also control their behaviour to avoid such clashes.

Students and traders are not rivals - this is something that both parties need to realise. Students should understand that they are studying in various colleges and universities to build their career. At the same time, the traders are there to earn money. Both sides must understand that conflict is not desirable for either of them. The law enforcement agencies have to investigate the issue more deeply. It should not be forgotten that various plans are being made inside and outside the country targeting the forthcoming parliamentary elections in 2023. At the heart of all plans is to create a kind of instability in the country. A group seeks to maximise their interest by creating instability. With this in mind, the government and members of the law enforcement agencies need to be vigilant. Besides, conscious citizens should be aware of such incidents.


The writer is a Professor in the

Department of Public Administration at Rajshahi University