Dozens of people have been injured in Bangladesh‘s capital after student protests over road safety turned violent, marking a major escalation on the seventh day of unrest.
Police on Saturday fired rubber bullets at student protesters in Dhaka, AFP news agency reported, citing witnesses and a doctor.
They also fired tear gas and used batons to disperse hundreds of young people angry over the traffic deaths of two fellow students on Sunday, reports said.
Emergency ward doctor Abdus Shabbir told AFP they had treated more than 115 injured students, some of whom had injuries consistent with rubber bullets.
“A few of them were in very bad condition,” Shabbir said.
The Daily Star reported that up to 25 people had been injured in the protests.
Police denied they fired rubber bullets or used tear gas. “Nothing happened at Jigatala”, a spokesman told AFP, referring to the Dhaka neighbourhood where the clashes reportedly took place.
TV stations showed footage of protesters throwing stones at police.
Protesters were reportedly also attacked by alleged pro-government activists.
Obaidul Quader, road transport minister, rejected allegations that cadres from the ruling Awami League party had attacked the students. He said the party office closes to Jigatala was vandalised by unidentified youths wearing school uniforms before the clashes erupted.
“We all are feeling threatened here. We wanted a peaceful protest. We don’t want any trouble occurring around here. Yet rubber bullets were shot at our brothers,” a student told AFP.
Thousands of students have been taking to the streets after a speeding bus killed teenagers Diya Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib on the roadside on Sunday.
The deaths incensed students who have since brought parts of the country to a standstill checking drivers’ licenses and marching through the streets.
Authorities say more than 300 vehicles have been vandalised since the protests started. Bus companies have taken their vehicles off the road to prevent them from being damaged.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Wednesday promised that the government would launch a public transport safety campaign and urged the protesters to go home.
The education ministry shut down high schools on Thursday in an effort to quell unrest, promising students their demands for reforms to road safety would be considered.
Bangladesh’s transport sector is widely perceived as unregulated and dangerous.
According to the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways, a private research group, more than 4,200 pedestrians were killed in road accidents last year, a 25 percent increase from 2016.