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Hundreds of Teachers Demonstrate Against Government

January 7, 1988

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ More than 400 teachers marched Thursday to demand the resignation of President Hussain Muhammad Ershad, and 14 people were injured in student clashes on a university campus, witnesses and police said.

Pro- and anti-government students fought pitched battles at Chittagong University, about 130 miles southeast of Dhaka. Bombs were hurled and shots fired during the clashes Wednesday night, police said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of teachers processed from Dhaka University campus and walked to the nearby Martyrs Memorial, shouting ″Ershad must quit 3/8″ witnesses said.

Riot police guarding the university did not intervene, even though processions and rallies are banned under the government’s emergency rule imposed Nov. 27.

The emergency regulations are aimed at suppressing the opposition movement against Ershad, a former army general who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1982.

Ershad is under increasing pressure from opposition leaders to step down and hold elections under a neutral interim government.

The teachers passed a resolution at a meeting before the march demanding that Ershad hand over power to a caretaker government so free elections can be held.

″The academic atmosphere in the country has been destroyed by the frequent closure of educational institutions by the government,″ said Quamruz Zaman, president of the nationwide Bangladesh Teachers Association.

He said the closings have brought ″untold suffering to the students and teachers alike.″

Student clashes in Chittagong University, meanwhile, left 14 people wounded. Police said that a group of students, armed with bombs and revolvers, tried to take over a residential hall occupied by another group.

A professor contacted by telephone said the attackers were supporters of Ershad who had lived in the hall until last year. They were forced out by supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami, a Moslem fundamentalist organization, said the professor. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

Strikes and protests by Jamaat-e-Islami and other opposition parties have rocked Chittagong, Dhaka and other universities.

The coalition of opposition parties, led by Sheik Hasina of the Awami League and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has led a campaign of anti-government strikes and rallies since Nov. 10.

The government has said that the country is losing as much as $50 million daily from reduced production and exports. It blames the loss on the opposition campaign.

There has never been a peaceful transfer of power in the nation since it became independent from Pakistan in 1971. Its 105 million people have a per capita income of $150 a year.

On Dec. 6, Ershad dissolved the Parliament and promised new elections within the 90 days set by the constitution. He also had declared a state of emergency and suspended rights of free speech and freedom of assembly.

His Jatiya party enjoyed a majority in the parliament. The party won 213 seats in the 330-member house in the parliamentary elections in May 1986. Ershad was elected president in a vote that October.

The opposition leaders maintain that both elections were rigged.

Update hourly