They alleged the attackers were hired goons of the VC, Prof Khondoker Md Nasiruddin, who wanted to quell the movement by intimidating them.
Wielding sticks, dozens of “outsiders” swooped on protesters at four places when the students were on their way to the campus from their homes in adjacent areas, the protesters said.
The attacks, carried out between 10:30am and 1:00pm, left at least 20 students, including three campus reporters, injured. Many of them were being treated at Gopalganj Sadar Hospital.
The incident triggered condemnation from teachers and journalists.
Assistant Proctor Humayun Kabir, a lecturer of Sociology department, resigned in protest.
Earlier in the day, the authorities declared an impromptu 10-day vacation ahead of Durga Puja and asked the students to leave dormitories by 10:00am.
The largest religious festival of the Hindus would be celebrated in the first week of next month.
The students alleged that the authorities also snapped power and water connections to the dormitories and shut the dining rooms there, apparently to force them to leave the campus.
They said the moves were aimed at “gagging the voice against corruption and irregularities that have plagued the university for long”.
Since Thursday, several thousand students have been demonstrating for the VC’s removal, bringing allegation against him of sexual harassment, nepotism in recruiting teachers and other employees, and corruption in development projects, including the construction of the Shaheed Minar and Bangabandhu’s mural on the campus.
A section of students began an indefinite hunger strike to press home the same demand.
The VC, Prof Khondoker, had denied all the allegations while talking to The Daily Star earlier.
This newspaper tried to contact him several times yesterday for comments on the attacks, but he did not pick up calls.
The protesters said the first attack was carried out around 10:30am yesterday near Gobra Madrasa when students, failing to get transport, were walking to the campus on foot.
More than 100 youths, many of whom carrying sticks and sharp weapons, attacked the students. Even girls were not spared, they said.
To escape the beating, many students jumped into waterbodies in the area, said Sairul Islam, a third year student of chemistry department.
“Many of the students were caught and beaten. Anyone found trying to capture the incident on cell phone were beaten even badly,” said an injured female student, wishing not to be named.
Protesters were intercepted and beaten in Balurmath area, Sobhan Road and Sonakur areas.
“I saw an attackers grabbing a female student by her hair and assaulting her. He was also scolding her for joining the protests,” said a student of management department, who was attacked in Sobhan Road area.
The injured were rescued and taken to hospital by fellow students.
Defying university order and attacks, the students demonstrated in front of the VC office for the third straight day yesterday. They vowed not to leave until the VC steps down.
The university suspending Fatema Tuz Zinia, a student and also a campus reporter of English newspaper daily sun, on September 10 for a Facebook post triggered the movement.
Talking to this daily, Assistant proctor Humayun said, “I resigned as I can’t be holding the post anymore ethically following attack on my students.”
Yesterday, at least 10 teachers of the university went to the demonstrators and condemned the attacks. They expressed solidarity with their demand.
Gopalganj Chhatra League also condemned the attacks on general students and said it wanted the attackers to be punished.
In a press release, the BCL unit extended its support to the “logical” demand of the students.
Journalists working at Rajshahi University demonstrated on the campus, protesting the attack that left three of their colleagues injured.
Quota reform activists brought out a procession at RU demanding the VC steps down.
Speaking there, Nurul Haque Nur, quota reform leader and Vice-President of Dhaka University Central Students’ Union, said, “Students come under attack whenever they protest for a logical demand. We demand the VC’s resignation.”