DHAKA (Reuters) - Traffic poured onto the streets of Bangladesh’s main cities on Friday as the army-backed interim government relaxed a curfew imposed two days ago to quell street violence, allowing people to venture out to buy essentials.
“The law and order situation is fully under control,” the country’s police chief, Nur Mohammad, told Reuters, dismissing fears the curfew relaxation might see a return of the protests, which had begun as a student demonstration on Monday.
A statement from the government said the curfew, which was lifted at 8 a.m. (10:00 p.m. EDT), would be reimposed at 10 p.m.
The curfew -- which shut down public transport, schools, banks, clinics and pharmacies -- was imposed in Dhaka and five other cities on Wednesday after a student-led protest against the presence of troops at a football match at the Dhaka University campus turned violent and spread across the country.
The violence subsided on Thursday, as security forces patrolled the streets and the authorities warned they would take stern action against disorder.
All universities and colleges in the six cities, including the 40,000-student Dhaka University, were closed indefinitely.
Security forces detained two Dhaka University professors late on Thursday, including Anwar Hossain, general secretary of the university’s Teachers Association. The other was professor Harun-ur Rashid, dean of the Social Science Department.
Two other teachers and a top student leader have been arrested, and cases filed against 2,500 students.
Thousands of Muslims went to say prayers at mosques in the Bangladesh capital on Friday noon, and were given entry only after checks by security forces.
Witnesses said police stopped every devotee at the gate of the city’s largest Baitul Mokarram mosque and conducted body searches, in what police said were normal security precautions.
Bangladesh has repeatedly suffered unrest and crippling strikes over the past two years, which finally led to the imposition of a state of emergency when the interim government took charge in January.
It has promised to hold a free and fair election by the end of next year, after completing a drive against corruption.
The authorities have ordered a judicial inquiry into the Dhaka University incident, which they said was fuelled by a section of “politicized” teachers.
Zillur Rahman, acting chief of Awami League, one of Bangladesh’s two largest parties, demanded “exemplary punishment” for those responsible for triggering the violence.
Political analysts said the curfew and strong presence of armed forces on the streets sent a “tough message” to those trying to shake the stability of the interim government.
Students have played a key role in Bangladesh political movements in the past, including in the 1971 war of independence against Pakistan, and led a people’s revolt that toppled former army ruler Hossain Mohammad Ershad in December 1990.
In recent years, students have been prominent as activists for the country’s two main political parties.
Additional reporting by Ruma Paul, Azad Majumder and Nizam Ahmed