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Troops Patrol Bangladeshi Cities Under Curfew Following Student Unrest

  • Anjana Pasricha

Troops are patrolling major cities in Bangladesh, where the army-led administration has imposed a curfew to quell unrest by university students. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the students are demanding an end to emergency rule imposed in January.

The usually bustling streets of Dhaka were deserted Thursday - a day after the military-backed interim administration imposed an indefinite curfew in the capital and five other cities.

Only pedestrians and cycle rickshaws ventured out as police and soldiers set up checkpoints at major street junctions.

The curfew was briefly relaxed in the evening.

Universities and colleges have been shut down in the six cities, and students have been asked to vacate hostels.

The tough action comes in the wake of three days of violent student protests.

The unrest initially erupted at Dhaka University, where students clashed with soldiers at a football match, and demanded the removal of an army post on the campus earlier this week.

The protests quickly spread to other campuses, although the administration agreed to withdraw troops from Dhaka University.

The demonstrating students later spilled into the streets demanding an end to emergency rule. They were joined by slum dwellers and shopkeepers. At least one man has been killed and more than 150 people have been injured in the unrest.

An independent political analyst in Dhaka, Ataus Samad, says the demonstrations are a sign of simmering discontent with the interim administration.

"Students said that we want a normal situation in the country, not be gagged like this, without any democratic rights, and shopkeepers, hawkers and other poor people, they said we are going hungry and we don't have work, prices have gone up, so this government has failed," said Ataus Samad.

Political analysts say early this year the administration got wide support from a public fed up with the country's bickering political parties. But discontent has been growing, particularly over rising prices of food.

The government has appealed for calm, and called the violence a "conspiracy." Interim government chief Fakhruddin Ahmed says the curfews are a "temporary measure" to protect public and private property.

Observers say the government will be on the lookout for further signs of student unrest in the coming days - in the past university students have played a key role in political movements in Bangladesh.

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