Two killed as violence rules 2nd day’s strikeStaff Correspondent
Two people were killed as police opened fire after violence broke out in Bishwanath of Sylhet while fighting between lawmen and demonstrators left around 800 injured across the country during Monday’s nationwide shutdown enforced by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance.
The BNP-led alliance has called a third daylong nation wide strike at a stretch for today in protest against the killing of two of their activists and demanding return of Elias Ali who had disappeared on the night of April 17 along with his driver Ansar Ali.
The acting BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir while announcing today’s shutdown claimed that the two people killed in police firing at Bishwanath were activists of BNP.
He condemned the government’s ‘brutality’ on the opposition and its staging of a ‘drama’ in the name of trying to rescue Elias. He said more than 795 people were injured across the country in attacks by police and the ruling party ‘goons’. Police arrested 371 leaders and activists, including BNP vice-chairman Selima Rahman, Fakhrul said.
Police in Dhaka hardly allowed picketing of streets and broke of a number of processions. Police also barred BNP lawmakers from bringing out a procession in the Jatiya Sangsad complex. The central office of BNP remained cordoned off by police all day. Pickets hurled crude bombs across the city in hit-and-run attacks, set fire to three vehicles and damaged a number of vehicles.
Reports of violence came from Chittagong, Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Bogra and Khagrachari where police charged batons and fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters.
The opposition-enforced shutdown badly affected the livelihoods of the poor who earn their living from day to day. Prices of almost all essential commodities sharply increased in the city because of the strike, multiplying the sufferings of low- and fixed-income groups.
Police in Bishwanath opened fire after several thousand people from 15 villages of the upazila, part of the electoral constituency of Elias, set fire to the upazila parishad complex, including the bungalow of the upazila nirbahi officer, a number of offices, vehicles and seven motorbikes parked at the roadsides.
The demonstrators were heading for Bishwanath police station apparently to lay siege to it. As they reached the upazila parishad complex, police obstructed them triggering fierce clashes, witnesses said.
Over 100 people, including 20 policemen sustained injuries in the clashes. The Sylhet superintendent of police, Sakhawat Hossain, said an unidentified youth with bullet wounds was found on the upazila complex. Doctors pronounced bullet-hit Monwar Miah, 30, dead after he was taken to Osmani Medical Collge Hospital.
Sakhawat said police had fired rubber bullets and tear gas on a ten-thousand strong mob after they attacked the upazila complex and attempted to besiege the police station. But locals and witnesses said police had fired more than 300 rounds of live bullet and tear gas shells.
Three policemen, including Bishwanath police officer-in-charge Chan Miah, and 15 activists of BNP and its fronts were taken to Osmani Medical College Hospital in critical condition.
The acting Bishwanath UNO, Kalam Hossain, told New Age that the mob had set fire to his bungalow and offices on the upazila council compound leaving upazila fishery officer Nirmal Bhowmik and two other employees injured.
In Dhaka, law enforcers did not allow any picketing of the streets prompting opposition activists to go for hit-and-run attacks. Almost all modes of vehicles, except rickshaws and CNG-run auto-rickshaws, stayed off the streets fearing vandalism.
Police arrested BNP vice-chirman Selima Rahman when she was leading a small procession of 18 activists of Jatiyatabadi Mahila Dal in Mohakhali area. A Dhaka court on Monday evening sent 10 people, including Selima Rahman, to jail after the Gulshan police produced them in the court showing them arrested under section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Bikash Kumar Saha passed the order.
Police foiled a procession of Jatiyatabadi Ainjibi Forum at the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court. They also stopped another procession led by BNP standing committee member ASM Hannan Shah at Amtali of Mohakhali.
Police also foiled an attempt by the activists of Labour Party, a component of the BNP-led 18-party alliance, to take out a procession in front of Notre Dame College.
No activities of the components of the BNP-led 18-Party Alliance other than the Labour Party was seen in the capital.
All educational institutions, businesses, most shops and markets in the city remained closed. But the government offices functioned as usual.
Several hundred buses remained parked idle at the three intercity bus terminals during the strike hours and no buses left Dhaka.
Train service was normal as 39 trains reached Dhaka and 35 left Kamalapur, said Nripendra Chanra Das, station master at Kamalapur railway station. Flights at Shahjalal International Airport operated as per schedule.
Passengers reaching Dhaka got stranded at the airport for lack of transports. Azizul Huq, who came home after five years, had to wait for three hours to hire an ambulance to go to Bhairab at double fare.
All launches left Sadarghat terminal as per schedule with a small number of passengers, said Mahfuzur Rahman, traffic inspector of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority.
Reports from Chittagong said that at least 10 persons, including three policemen, were injured in clashes between lawmen and pickets in the port city. Police arrested 21 persons, including female ward councillor Monwara Begum and Raujan municipality mayor Abdullah Al Hasan, at different parts of the city during the strike hours.
In Rajshahi, former mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu and former lawmaker Nadim Mostafa sustained injures along with 30 leaders and activists as police charged batons and fired rubber bullets and tear gas shells to disperse processions.
Four female activists of BNP were injured as they fell from a two-storied building after being chased by police at Thakurgaon town where police charged batons on protesters. The activists – Fatema, Sapna, 26, Iti, and Mahfuja, were admitted to Thakurgaon General Hospital.
In Sylhet city, police opened fire on three activists of Chhatra Dal on a motorbike in the morning as they did not stop. The injured bikers managed to flee, witnesses said.
Police also arrested 24 activists of BNP in Chapainawabganj and 15 in Noakhali during the strike hours.
New Age Patuakhali correspondent reported that at least 12 people were injured when Awami League activists attacked a pro-hartal procession at Amtala bazaar in Dashmina.
Narsingdi correspondent said at least 12 people were injured, including district BNP president Khairul Kabir Khokan, when police charged into a pro-hartal rally in the town.
Pickets set a truck on fire near Bhatpara on Narsingdi-Tongi road.
Bogra correspondent reported that at least 25 people were injured as police charged batons on opposition activists at different places of the district. Police also arrested five BNP activists, including district Juba Dal general secretary Arafatur Rahman.
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