The clash between the students of Dhaka College and traders of New Market and surrounding areas, particularly in the month of Ramadan, could not be more insane and regrettable. Conflicting versions about the cause of the violent running battle notwithstanding, one thing is clear that the incident reflects a growing aggressive mentality. Some would like to blame rent-seeking which is generally an economic concept. Theoretically it occurs when an individual or entity or a group of people seeks to attain wealth without any reciprocal contribution to productivity.
Linking rent seeking with the said clash may sound weird. The scope of rent-seeking mentality is highly prevalent in most areas of monetary transactions. It may be as simple as toll taking from the street vendors in a locality; it may also be mediation in exchange for money to get a deal in favour of a party in a feud. Essentially it is illegal earning through shady deals. Rent-seekers get undue benefit at the cost of others.
In fact the problem is systemic. How can hawkers illegally occupy footpaths to continue business as if it is normal? Various agencies and local bullies realise illegal tolls from vendors carrying on business on encroached spaces. If a section of students take a cue from their political mentors, there is nothing to be surprised.
In this case, a more authentic version is that the feud ensued over placing of benches for iftari items between two fast food outlets. Employees of one of the shops sought intervention by some student leaders of the Dhaka College. Their intervention was too much which drew flak from other shop owners and employees, leading to assault on them. They returned to their college and incited the general students to take revenge and thus things went out of control when shopkeepers and salesmen confronted them.
The retailers of the Dhaka New Market, one of the oldest shopping centres in the city, have been doing business not at all in an ideal condition. On various occasions, they alleged that makeshift shops on footpaths and streets harm their regular trade. These makeshift vendors pay unauthorised toll to do their business and divert a section of shoppers from the shopping centre. They also create obstacles on footpaths and streets making the movement of pedestrians and vehicles difficult. Quite naturally illegal toll collection has made this possible.
As the rent-seekers want to keep their money flow nonstop, they do whatever is needed. This sometimes creates trouble. Some of the rent-seekers virtually hire goons to flex their muscles and a tiny section of students also join which is undesirable. Using the students of Dhaka College is, however, not a new thing no matter how small their actual participation is.
The retail traders in the area are, however, aware of the fact that a section of their regular customers are students of Dhaka University, Dhaka College, Eden College, Home Economics College, Dhaka City College and some other educational institutions. As they usually do not want to lose their customers, sometime they sell goods at discounts to students. Thus, despite some conflicts, a mutual understanding among students and retailers generally prevail which is not the case for makeshift vendors. Rent-seekers try to fish in the muddy water. Some elements with their helmets on, wielding machetes were found to get involved in the clash. They are unlikely to be students or shop-keepers. An investigation should be carried out to find their identity.