It has been almost 47 years since Bangladesh was freed from Pakistan and became an independent nation. A lot of blood was shed by the Bangla people which ended with the dramatic public surrender by General Niazi before the Indian troops. It still remains the largest and the only public surrender post World War II. Reservation in various fields including government jobs and education were setup in order to help those who fought for the freedom of their land. As per the most recent status, the Bangladesh government offered 56% reservation for families of freedom fighters, women and certain sectors of indigenous minorities.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena on Thursday announced the abolishment of quota from the government jobs sector following the massive protests by students in the country capital, Dhaka. Hundreds of thousands of students gathered in Dhaka University (DU) campus accompanied by students from private universities in order to protest against the existing reservation schemes in the country. One of the students who on the condition of anonymity reported that the existing reservation scheme though valid for women and certain sectors of minority, is totally unacceptable for the freedom fighter community.
Currently of the 56% reserved quota, nearly 30% is reserved for the children and grandchildren of the freedom fighters which is said to be the root cause of the massive agitation. The According to the students, 56% of the jobs are reserved for around 2% of the population while the rest 98% of the population has to fight for their jobs from a meager 46%. It should be noted that the private sector in Bangladesh is booming only recently and therefore people find government jobs a secure proposition. The first protests emerged on 9th, April against the reservation in BCS (Bangladesh Civil Services) examinations. What started off as a peaceful protest soon ballooned into violent agitation and the local law enforcement agencies retorted to the use of tear gas and rubber bullets which resulted in the injuring of as many as 100 students.
The demands of the protesting students is that the quota for the 1971 war veteran families be reduced to 10% and if a job applicant is eligible for the reservation then he/she should be able to use it only once and not repetitively. Students also mentioned that they are not against quota given for people in need but are against the misuse of the right given to those who no longer require it.
The government in Bangladesh is formed by Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) headed by Sheikh Haseena who is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, considered the founding father of Bangladesh and also brought together the BAL. BAL has never supported the abolishment of reservation as it garners a substantial percent of the vote bank. During the current protests, the police have been on a violent front foot from day 1 and have been supported by the “Chattro League” (a political student group backed by BAL). Students have reported cases of heavy violence by the Chatrro League. Not even girls were spared by the leaders of Chatrro league. One of the girls from Sufia Kamal Hall said that the leaders from the Chatrro League entered the girls’ dormitories and beat anyone up who tried to participate in the movement. Cries of help could be heard outside the premises of the hostels.
The Haseena government has tried everything in their power to suppress the demands of the protesters but finally had to succumb to the demands given the scale of the protests. Before accepting the demands, the BAL government tried to dissipate students from the private universities from joining the protests by increasing the tax on tuition fees for private universities.