A week of student protests in Bangladesh culminated with police clashing with students on the streets of Dhaka on Saturday, according to reports from the scene.
Citing emergency ward doctor Abdus Shabbir, the AFP news agency reported 115 students have been injured. "A few of them were in very bad condition," Shabbir said.
Witnesses reported police using tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets in the Jigatala neighborhood of Dhaka's Dhanmondi area. Others reported seeing civilians, believed to be supporters of the ruling Awami League party, joining in the crackdown.
However, police spokesman Masudur Rahman denied that security forces fired rubber bullets or used tear gas. "It's not true," he told the AFP news agency. "Nothing happened at Jigatala."
Separately, road transport minister Obaidul Quader rejected allegations that his party supporters attacked the students.
Country-wide protests in Bangladesh after speeding bus killed two, injured nine
Students launched country-wide protests last week, after a speeding bus plowed into a crowd killing two teenagers and injuring nine others. Protesters see the incident as a symptom of disregarding road safety standards in a country where drivers often operate vehicles without qualifications or documents.
The protesters put up roadblocks in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh. They also stopped and controlled thousands of vehicles, including those belonging to high-ranking officials and judges, to control their papers. Some buses were also vandalized by the protesters.
"We don't want to be killed [by a] road crash," 10th grader Mohammad Selim told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency.
Minister’s insensitive comments trigger backlash
Protests intensified after Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, who maintains close ties to transport unions, made an insensitive comment about the unrest.
"A road crash has claimed 33 lives in India's Maharashtra; but do they talk about it the way we do?" Khan said, referring to a deadly accident in the western Indian state earlier last week.
The minister's comments prompted widespread criticism by social media users in Bangladesh, with some calling for him to step down immediately. Khan later apologised for his remarks.
Other officials have urged calm, saying the government will consider road safety reforms. However, their pleas have done little to discourage students from taking to the streets.
Inputs by NH Web Desk
Deutsche Welle, or Dw, is Germany's public international broadcaster
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