The latest mayhem involving the owners and staff of a Nilkhet market's shops and the students of nearby Dhaka College is over. In an uneasy turn, the atmosphere could still smack of insidious panic giving jitters to the passersby. Whatever may be the case, the violent incident that gripped the area on April 19-20 has left a fraught leftover. Two youths lost their lives in the frenzied melee.
The terrible street battle between large numbers of students studying at Dhaka College and the small-size business owners in neighbouring Nilkhet could be termed a new addition to the long-drawn-out conflict. The relationship between the college students and the area's shop people --- mainly shop-owners and their staff, has long been confrontational. A common place of frequent outburst of trouble has been the areas' restaurants. Later, many of those were transformed into snacks corners and fast food joints. But the tiffs over 'bill payment' continued, eventually to deteriorate into a permanent bad blood. However, the peaceful general students have all along tried to keep themselves distant from these tense relations. Allegations have been rife that it was an identified section of the college's students, or youths in the guise of students, had developed the habit of eating at the restaurants on credit as well as without payment. This ill practice was beyond imagination in the distant past.
As allegations surfaced in the later years, a section of rowdy elements among the traders began treating the students in general as their rivals. Instead of pacifying these youths, a section of shop owners, allegedly began instigating them against the youths enrolled in Dhaka College. The face-off between the two sides only began intensifying.
All distorted misconceptions about the students ought to have been cleared long ago. First, it was the road transport workers who targeted the teenage and post-teenage students as their 'adversaries'. In consequence, humiliating students inside buses over excessive fare, dropping off students at non-designated stoppages or in the middle of roads emerged as the norm. In cases, some conductors on running buses pushed protesting students out of the vehicles. These acts of the bus conductors resulted in a number of terrible road accidents. Defilement of helpless female students accidentally stuck up inside buses at night created instances of the extent to which these criminalised youths could stoop.
At this point, one might feel tempted to recall the role the students played during the turbulent days of mass movements, hartals etc in the late 1960s. Moreover, the success of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's 1971 Non-cooperation Movement depended a lot on the student brigades tasked with maintaining law and order.
Students are recognised as the future guides to the nation. Indeed, they are. The nation feels indebted to its students for their role in making the dream of a sovereign, independent Bangladesh a reality. Against this glorious backdrop, branding the students in general as roughnecks is sheer injustice. Few acts can be more demeaning. Singling out students for all kinds of rowdy conducts amounts to gross injustice done to them. It's also true there are black sheep.
The student-trader clashes on April 19-20 were no turf war which occurs frequently in violence-prone cities. It was a brazen display of muscle power in the rush hours of Eid shopping. It amounted to a blot on the nation's journey to LDC graduation.
Keeping this fact in mind, the urgent task of the higher authorities should be a single one: ferreting out the unscrupulous elements lurking inside both the traders and the students. Besides, many overcautious people do not rule out the infiltration of elements with ulterior motive into the confused stages of violent chaos.