Over 400 were injured as police and ruling Awami League supporters attacked or obstructed road marches organised by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party in districts on Saturday to press home their demand for party chief Khaleda Zia’s unconditional release and her treatment abroad.
Habiganj, Barguna, Natore, Narayanganj, Manikganj, Patuakhali, Netrakona, Bhola, and Kushtia reported that BNP leaders and activists came under attack by police or ruling Awami League people during their road marches.
Addressing a press conference at the BNP’s Naya Paltan central office, the party’s senior joint secretary general, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, said that several thousand party leaders and activists were injured in the attacks.
Over 300 were injured as BNP leaders and activists clashed with police during the party's road march in Habiganj on Saturday afternoon. The BNP leaders and activists hurled brick chips targeting police while law enforcers opened fire, wounding several hundred BNP leaders and activists. The incident continued for about two hours.
Habiganj district unit BNP joint convener GK Gaus claimed that when they were returning home after a peaceful march, the police attacked them at the order of the additional superintendent of district police Khalilur Rahman and Sadar police station officer-in-charge Ajay Chandra Dev.
He said that Habiganj municipal unit BNP general secretary SM Abdul Awal was among those critically injured.
Locals said the police fired a number of rubber bullets and teargas shells after a clash broke out between the police and the BNP activists at about 5:00pm. The clash continued until 7:00pm.
Rajshahi at least 20 leaders and activists of the main opposition BNP were injured as the ruling Awami League supporters attacked them in Natore town on Saturday.
Natore district BNP was scheduled to hold a road march in front of the party’s district office in the Alaipur area at 9:00am demanding Khaleda’s release.
However, the party could not hold the road march until 12:20pm as the followers of AL lawmaker for Natore-2 constituency Shafiqul Islam took a position in front of the district BNP office and held demonstrations, witnesses said.
Shahidul Islam Bachchu, acting convener of district BNP, said that wearing black masks, a group of AL goons in a black microbus carried out a sudden attack on their party leaders and activists with sharp weapons and sticks in front of Natore Sugar Mill High School at 8:00am while they were heading towards the party office to join the road march.
He said that five of their leaders and activists, including Kafuria union parishad chairman and union BNP vice-president Abul Kalam Azad, union Juba Dal general secretary Kamal Hossain, and union Chhatra Dal president Tuhin Hossain, were injured in the attack.
Bachchu alleged that the AL supporters also attacked their party members at various entry points into the town, including the Halsa and Swarnapatti crossings, the rail station area, and in front of the power office, leaving at least 15 more injured.
He said that 13 of the injured leaders and activists were admitted to different hospitals, including Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, as they suffered fractures in their hands and legs, while the condition of Abul Kalam Azad was critical.
The BNP leader said that despite AL’s attacks on their party people, they began the road march in front of the party office at 12:20pm but had to shorten it due to police obstruction.
Police pushed BNP leaders and activists inside the party office while district BNP convening committee member Dewan Shahin was delivering his speech at a short rally following the road march, the party alleged.
Dewan Shahin told that he could not end his speech as the police forcibly pushed the party people inside the party office. He blamed AL lawmaker Shafiqul Islam and police inaction and partiality towards the ruling party for the attacks.
In Barguna, at least 50 leaders and activists were injured as police charged batons on BNP’s road march in front of the Municipality Market in the district town, alleged Nazrul Islam Molla, former president of the Barguna district unit of BNP.
In Narayanganj, at least 10 people were injured in a clash between the police and BNP activists in Kanchpur, Sonargaon, in the district on Saturday.
Locals said that police asked BNP activists to leave the road in the area, triggering an altercation, and at one stage, police charged the BNP activists with batons.
BNP leaders and activists started to hurl brickbats at police, prompting the security forces to fire teargas shells and rubber bullets to disperse them.
In Netrakona, a group of unidentified assailants detonated a bomb and vandalised an auto-rickshaw at the end of a rally organised by the BNP’s Netrakona district unit.
Law enforcers said they arrested at least six leaders and activists of the BNP and the party’s affiliated bodies and recovered some local weapons from the scene.
Regarding the arrest of BNP leaders and activists across the country, Mirza Fakhrul said that BNP leaders and activists could not stay at their homes, and the police continued to harass them.
‘This government has destroyed everything, right from the judiciary. We want the resignation of this government,’ he said.
Still, there is time. Don’t arrest BNP leaders and activists. Don’t raid their houses by employing police. Release Begum Khaleda Zia. Resign from power, accepting a one-point demand as early as possible,’ he said.
He said that Khaleda Zia was now receiving treatment at a hospital for serious ailments as the government was not allowing her to go abroad for advanced treatment, violating her human rights.
Fakhrul said that she had been convicted in ‘false’ cases and remained confined for the past five years only because of her fight for democracy.