Commuters tangled in snarls as chaos reigns in city streetsStaff Correspondent
Karail slum dwellers, DU students block roads
Chaos reigned in most of the city streets for several hours after slum dwellers and a group of Dhaka University students blocked roads at Mohakhali and Shahbagh intersections in the morning rush hours on Thursday.
Thousands of people, including students, HSC examinees and office-goers remained stranded for hours in the blazing sun as the roadblocks triggered tailbacks in many roads in the city.
Many HSC examinees could not reach their examination halls in time due to the blockades and traffic congestions. The HSC English first paper exam was held on the day.
About a thousand slum dwellers blocked Wireless Gate section of Mohakhali- Gulshan Circle-1 link road at about 9:00am, an hour after the government resumed demolition of the sprawling Karail slum.
The protesters gathered at Amtali intersection at Mohakhali and Chairmanbari in Banani and set up roadblocks disrupting traffic on the busy Airport Road, Mohakhali flyover, Banani, Jahangir Gate, Tejgaon and in surrounding areas.
Hundreds of cars, scooters, town service buses and staff buses of different public and private organisations remained stranded for hours. Several ambulances carrying patients were also tangled in the snarls.
Police also diverted traffic from different areas fearing attacks by the protesters.
Inter-district buses did not leave Mohakhali terminal during the trouble.
Several hundred slum dwellers carrying banners staged protests for hours against the eviction drive at Korail slum.
‘Where will we go now? We do not have lands at our villages,’ said slum resident Shanu, who works as a domestic help in a nearby neighbourhood.
Harun Sardar, a tea vendor and head of a nine-member family, said he was evicted on Wednesday from the slum where the family had lived at a rented shanty for nine years.
The slum dwellers demanded rehabilitation of the 300,000 people who had been living in the slum for last 30 years.
Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited launched the eviction drive on Wednesday with the help of a Dhaka district magistrate, police and Rapid Action Battalion following a High Court order to free the Gulshan Lake area from illegal occupation.
The authorities demolished around 2,000 structures— which included shanties, rickshaw garages, grocers, tea stalls, phone shops and salons—that sprang up on a stretch from Wireless Gate and T&T School field to Korail slum.
Executive magistrate Mohammad Selim Hossain led the team that conducted the drive on Thursday.
Traffic resumed in Mohakhali and Gulshan areas at around 12 noon after the slum dwellers lifted the blockade after about two hours and a half as the authorities assured them that the eviction drive would remain suspended until further notice, Gulshan’s additional deputy commissioner of police Nizam Ul Haque Molla said.
The Korail slum grew on 170 acres of land, including 40 acres of land belonging to Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited, 43 acres to Public Works Department and 47 acres to information and communication technology ministry.
About 3,000 illegal structures at the slum occupying Gulshan Lake were demolished.
On April 2, the Rajdhani Unnayn Kartripakkha launched a two-day drive to free portions of Gulshan Lake bank and demolished about 300 shanties.
On January 25, 2012 the High Court ordered the authorities concerned to demarcate the Gulshan Lake and restore it to its original size by evicting the land grabbers and encroachers.
In a separate incident, a group of students of Dhaka University blocked traffic at Shahbagh intersection for about three hours from about 10:45am on the day in protest at the arson attacks on Hindu neighbourhoods in Satkhira.
The protesters, mainly resident students of DU Jagannath Hall, brought out a procession from the hall in the morning.
They marched down different roads on the campus and gathered at Shahbagh defying police attempts to keep them at bay.
The students set alight spent tyres on the road while staging protests.
They asked the government to punish the persons involved in the Satkhira attacks.
They also demanded action against the quarters trying to stoke communal tension, compensation to and rehabilitation of the victims of Satkhira arson attacks, security of all minorities across the country and a pro-active stance of the government over the issue.
Leaders of Progressive Students Alliance, a coalition of left-wing student organisations, joined the demonstration as a mark of solidarity with the protesters.
Police and Rapid Action Battalion guarded the area during the demonstration.
Traffic at Shahbagh, Matsya Bhaban, Science Laboratory, Elephant Road, Kakrail, Bangla Motor, Sonargaon and Farmgate intersections came to a halt due to the blockade.
Traffic, however, resumed at around 1:45pm when students ended their protest following requests from the DU vice-chancellor, AAMS Arefin Siddique, and police officials.
The VC expressed solidarity with the students and said the Satkhira incident was ‘unexpected’ and ‘shameful’ for the nation.
The Satkhira superintendent of police and officer-in-charge of Kaliganj police station had been closed for negligence in their duties.
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