Sporadic clashes mark strikeStaff Correspondent
Sporadic clashes between pickets and police, attacks on vehicles, arrest of opposition activists and anti-hartal demonstrations by ruling party men marked the first day of the BNP-led alliance’s fresh back-to-back shutdowns on Sunday.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led 18-party alliance enforced the nationwide dawn-to-dusk strike after its deadline to produce the missing BNP organising secretary, M Ilias Ali, was over on Saturday. It will also enforce a daylong strike today.
Violence marked the strike in Jessore, Tangail, Rajshahi, Feni, Bagerhat, Barisal, Dinajpur and at places in the capital as police charged batons to disperse pickets who retaliated by hurling stones at the law enforcers. Pickets also vandalised dozens of vehicles and blasted crude bombs on the streets.
The fire service and civil defence control room said unidentified people had set fire to a bus parked at Gulistan at about 8:00pm while another bus was torched in front of the Falcon Hall near the Prime Minister Office.
The BNP at a post-strike briefing said at least 455 party activists were arrested by police and 512 sustained injuries in attacks by police and ruling party ‘goons’. The party said a mobile court in Tangail had convicted 10 activists of committing violence and sentenced them to various jail terms.
The police said they had arrested 17 people from different parts of the capital during the strike.
Hit-and-run attacks and blasts of crude bombs ruled the capital during the strike causing panic in different neighbourhoods. Two crude bombs exploded in front of the ministry of home affairs at Bangladesh Secretariat. One of them went off inside the secretary compound and the other on the pavement outside the boundary wall causing panic among public servants.
Police hardly allowed picketing of streets and kept the BNP’s central office
cordoned. Defying the
strict police measures, pickets set fire to a bus in Mirpur and vandalised a number of vehicles across the city. Border Guard Bangladesh personnel also patrolled the streets.
At daybreak, police picked up around 10 BNP activists, including its joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi when they reached the party’s central office but later released them. Two bombs also went off near the office at that time.
The police also picked up Labour Party president Mustafizur Rahman Iran from in front of BNP’s Naya Paltan office when he went there to express his solidarity with the strike.
The law enforcers barred 10 opposition lawmakers from bringing out a procession in the Jatiya Sangsad complex around 9:30am. Later, they held a rally at the eastern end of the tunnel.
BNP lawmakers AM Mahbub Uddin Khokon Shahid Uddin Chowdhury Annie and Syeda Asifa Ashrafi Papia spoke at the rally.
Five crude bombs exploded at Tolarbagh in Mirpur around 7:30am, two on North-South Road in Nazirabazar area around 8:30am and five more went off at Mahakhali. Pickets vandalised several vehicles, including an ambulance, near BAF Shaheen College.
Activists of BNP-backed Chhatra Dal attacked vehicles at Mugdapara and smashed their windows. They also hurled a number of bombs. In Jatrabari crossing, pickets stoned and damaged five or six trucks.
Leaders and activists of Awami League were also on the streets looking for strike enforcers and chased pickets at places.
Activists of Chhatra Dal tried to bring out processions near Central Shaheed Minar and Kantaban crossing but police dispersed them. Activists of the AL-backed Chhatra League guarded the entrances to the Dhaka University campus.
Road links between the capital and outlying districts was disrupted during the strike as buses and trucks stayed off the roads. No intercity buses left the three terminals in Dhaka but train service was unaffected and river transports plied their routes. All flights on international routes operated.
A few CNG-run three wheelers plied the city streets during the morning hours.
Rickshaws dominated the major thoroughfares of the city like other days of strike.
All educational institutions, business establishments, most shops and markets remained closed in the capital.
The government offices functioned as usual and a number of banks, including some foreign banks, operated during the strike hours. Transactions at Dhaka Stock Exchange took place amid the strike.
Loading and unloading at Chittagong and Mongla ports was normal but transportation of goods remained suspended during the strike. Chittagong Port Authority secretary Sayed Farhad Uddin Ahmed said loading and unloading of goods continued at 11 vessels at the port jetties adding that 10 other vessels were waiting at the outer anchorage for berth.
Reports from Jessore said police had charged into a BNP procession in the town in the morning leaving at least 12 activists injured. The office of Manirampur unit BNP was ransacked allegedly by Chhatra League activists on Saturday night and the attack left five activists injured.
In Rajshahi city, 10 people were injured as pickets and police chased each other after the police stopped a procession. Police also picked up 30 BNP men from their houses on Saturday night.
In Narayanganj, at least five opposition activists, including district BNP president Taimur Alam, were injured when police charged into an opposition rally in the DIT commercial area.
In Tangail town, police arrested seven people on charge of violence at Registripara and a mobile court sentenced four to various jail terms.
Juba League activists in Feni town attacked a procession of Juba Dal that left 20 injured.
Nine BNP activists were arrested in Barisal town for vandalism during the strike hours.
The strike passed off almost peacefully in Sylhet city largely because of strong presence of police, RAB and BGB. No pickets were seen in the divisional headquarters during the strike.
In Rangpur, police arrested Juba Dal activist Nadim on charge of picketing at Ghorapir Mazar of the town and a mobile court jailed him for one and a half months.
In Natore, opposition activists torched a bus in front of Chakrampur cinema in the district town during the strike.
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