A standoff between the students of Barishal University and transport workers has led to daylong blockades, cutting the district off from some parts of Bangladesh

The students blocked the Barishal-Kuakata Highway next to the university on Saturday, while the transporters took position one and a half kilometres away at Ruptali Bus Terminal.

The protests, which followed attacks on students and arrests of transport workers, snapped Barishal’s road connection with Bhola, Patuakhali, Barguna, Jhalokathi and Pirojpur causing sufferings to travellers on 17 routes.

Nurul Islam, OC of Kotwali Police Station, said the police were holding talks with both sides to bring the situation under control.

The students took to the streets on Feb 16 after two of their peers were harassed at Rupatali BRTC counter. The police arrested a BRTC worker later on that day.

The same night, the transport workers attacked the students residing in a mess at Ruptali.

The disgruntled students retaliated with a daylong blockade of the Barishal-Patuakhali road the following day. They lifted the blockade after the university administration promised to do whatever it takes to get the attackers arrested.

On Friday night, police arrested Abul Bashar Rony, 25, supervisor of MK Paribahan, and Md Firoz, 40, a driver’s helper at South Bengal Paribahan, in a case filed over the assault on the students.

Transport leaders and workers launched their protests against the arrests around 11am on Saturday, blocking the roads at Rupatali.

The protesting students blocked the highway alleging that that the police arrested innocent transport workers instead of those actually responsible for the attack. “This is actually a ploy to safeguard the actual attackers,” said Sujoy Shuvo, one of the student protesters.

Mahmud Hasan Tamal, another student, said that the students injured in the attack have identified the attackers, but the university administration has filed the case accusing unnamed individuals.

Unless the real attackers are brought to justice, the protests will continue with the roads blocked, he said.

Kawser Hossain Shipon, general secretary of Barishal-Patuakhali Minibus Owners Association, said it was the BRTC workers who had a trouble with the students at the counter, but the police “unjustly” arrested two other workers.

Sultan Mahmud, general secretary of the district’s Transport Workers Union, said their strike will continue until the release of the workers.

OC Nurul denied arresting innocent workers, saying that the police took the step after an investigation.

“All of those involved in the incident will be brought to justice. We are also careful about not harassing anyone innocent,” he said.

The university administration invited the students to talks to find a way out of the standoff, said Assistant Professor Arif Hossain, president of Barishal University Teachers’ Association.