People suffer in a besieged cityStaff Correspondent
Common people suffered for the third straight day on Monday as activists of the ruling Awami League and law enforcement agencies frisked and in cases harassed everyone entering the city which was virtually sealed off in the name of security precaution for the opposition’s Dhaka rally on the day.
People were subjected to stringent security checks and harassment at check points set up at different points in and outside the capital.
In the capital, sporadic clashes took place between the opposition and ruling party activists at several places, including Moghbazar, Matsya Bhaban crossing, Science Laboratory, Segun Bagicha and Elephant Road when opposition activists were going to attend the rally at Naya Paltan in small processions.
Many office goers said the police and the AL, Chhatra League, Juba League and Sramik League activists had stopped and frisked them at different places in and outside the city. Only the persons carrying their office identity cards were allowed to proceed.
‘They stopped me and asked me many questions,’ Zahirul Haq, a government employee, said.
‘They checked my identity card,’ he added.
The situation seemed as if hartal was being observed in the city and in its surroundings as there was no public transport. A small number of auto-rickshaws, rickshaws and cars plied the roads.
Most of the schools, markets, shops, private offices and restaurants were closed.
The Dhaka march programme of the BNP-led alliance to press for restoration of the caretaker government system culminated in a grand rally at Naya Paltan addressed by the opposition leader Khaleda Zia on the day.
The government and the Awami League almost sealed off the city from the rest of the country on the pretext of security.
Riot police, Rapid Action Battalion and Border Guard Bangladesh personnel were deployed at major city points and intersections.
The police stopped all types of vehicles, including CNG-run auto-rickshaws, cars and human haulers and searched them, causing suffering to passengers.
They stopped motorcyclists, frisked them and searched their bags.
Office goers waited for hours at Uttara, Khilkhet, Mohakhali, Gulshan, Badda, Kanchpur, Jatrabari, Mirpur and Mohammadpur for transport.
Highways wore a deserted look as no long-distance buses left Gabtali, Mohakhali and Sayedabad terminals.
No buses left Gabtali and Aminbazar and Mirpur, from where some 1,500 buses leave for outlying districts every day.
All ticket counters at the terminals remained shut while the ruling party men were seen guarding the areas and stopping people from entering the city. Hundreds of people walked to their destinations.
The Dhaka district police set up check points at the entry points to Dhaka, including Aminbazar bridge. Human haulers were not allowed to enter the city.
The police and AL activists were seen frisking and questioning people at check points set up every half a kilometre from Aminbazar to Kalyanpur.
The Rapid Action Battalion and Border Guard Bangladesh patrolled the city streets all day.
At Sadarghat, Sawarighat and Keraniganj, the police and AL men intercepted city-bound people.
The Keraniganj police were seen patrolling the Buriganga river and its canals.
The police intercepted small boats trying to ferry people to Dhaka, seized their oars and left them in the mid-river, some boatmen alleged.
No ferry anchored at the Dhaka river port at Sadarghat, while only two ferries left the port with a few passengers in 12 hours until 2:00pm Monday.
Tongi, another entry point to the capital, also wore a desolate look.
Eight ambulances carrying corpses remained stranded at Mawa Ghat for several hours as the government restricted operation of ferries.
Only three ferries from Patuakhali, Barisal and Sariatpur had anchored there, the river port sources said.
AL activists in red shirts did not let passengers enter the city after they reached Sadarghat. They also beat boatmen ferrying people between Sadarghat and Keraniganj.
A good number of BNP activists, however, reached the capital by train without much obstruction as train service remained almost normal.
The AL and BCL activists were seen guarding most of the strategic points in the capital. At some places they attacked processions heading towards Naya Paltan to attend the BNP’s rally.
BCL activists led by central general secretary Siddique Nazmul Alam attacked Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal men near the Institute of Engineers at around 11:30am. Two gunshots were heard but none was injured in the incident, a witness said.
Shahbagh police station officer-in-charge Serajul Islam, however, said that he had no information of shooting.
Clashes broke out between police and activists of Juba Dal, the youth front of BNP, near Bata intersection at Elephant Road, after law enforcers intercepted their procession around midday.
Juba Dal activists hurled stones at the police during the clashes. Soon activists of Chhatra League and Juba League arrived on the scene and chased the Juba Dal men away.
Some BNP leaders and activists, Ruhul Kuddus Talukdar Dulu and his wife, were injured when police intercepted a procession at Moghbazar, reported private TV channel ATN Bangla.
BCL men chased Juba Dal activists near the Institute of Engineers in the morning.
Activists and supporters of BNP and its allies started streaming in the rally venue at Naya Paltan in small groups since morning.
The crowd attending the rally spilled over to AGB Colony at Motijheel and Kakrail.
TV viewers at different places in the city alleged that they could not watch Ekushey Television, Bangla Vision and Islamic TV programmes from around 3:00pm Monday as the private satellite channels were blacked out without notice, according to authorities of the channels.
While talking to reporters at his office on Monday, the state minister for home affairs, Shamsul Haque Tuku, however, blamed the opposition BNP for the sufferings of the people.
The Awami League joint general secretary Mahbub Ul Alam Hanif told reporters that the ruling party and the government had not barred opposition activists from entering the city.
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