8 days ago

Agitators at JU extend blockade, demand executive order on quota reform

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Students of Jahangirnagar University (JU) enforced a day-long blockade at the Dhaka-Aricha highway on Wednesday, calling for reforms to the government job quota system.

At 10:00 am today, a protest procession from the university's central library moved to the Dhaka-Aricha highway near the main gate.

During the protest, students warned of escalating their actions if the Appellate Division did not rule in their favour at the hearing. They threatened to paralyse the entire country if their demands were not met.

Before the Appellate Division hearing, agitator Ahsan Labib told FE, "We have been protesting since morning. If the hearing does not address the concerns of the protesters and if talented and ordinary students are deprived again, the government has no idea where the momentum of the movement will go."

"Our demand is to reduce all quotas to within 5 per cent. If this demand is not met, we will be forced to implement stricter programmes in all districts starting tomorrow. We want quotas for backward communities and the disabled ones, and we ask that the freedom fighters' quota be limited to their children, not grandchildren," he said. 

Meanwhile, the Appellate Division has ordered a four-week status quo for the parties involved in the writ petition regarding the government job quota system. This means the government authorities are not to implement the High Court's verdict mandating the restoration of a 30 per cent quota for the children and dependents of freedom fighters in various cadre services during this period. 

A five-member bench, led by Chief Justice Obaidul Hassan, issued the order with several observations and directives at around 12:00 pm.

Despite the order, students remained unsatisfied and vowed to continue their protests. The agitators declared they would not leave the streets until the executive branch takes action on 'quota reform'.

Arif Sohel, the movement's coordinator, said, "Should we have to protest again… after a month, six months, or a year? The student community will not accept this until the court provides clear instructions on quota reform."

Regarding quota reform, he emphasised, "We will not withdraw ourselves from the street until the quota system is reformed to include a total of 5 per cent quota for all disadvantaged groups. The government holds the information on who is disadvantaged and in need of quotas, so we've called for the establishment of a commission. We understand the bureaucratic complexities, but before the commission is formed, quotas should be reduced from 56 per cent to 5 per cent to eliminate the existing disparities."

Regarding the public suffering caused by the protest, he stated, "Those who are affected are our brothers, sisters, and parents. The youth attending schools and colleges today will be the workforce of tomorrow. The issue of quota reform, repeatedly legalising and invalidating the 2018 circular, affects generation after generation. This ongoing movement is for all of us."

The students persisted with the blockade despite the Appellate Division's order until 5:00 pm, as of the time this report was being written, and they planned to continue until dusk. During the afternoon, they continued their protest with songs and street plays. The blockade caused a significant traffic jam on both sides of the Dhaka-Aricha highway, impacting ordinary passengers. However, vehicles carrying patients and emergency services were allowed to pass through.

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