The war of words between the two main political camps of Bangladesh over the BNP’s planned Dec 10 rally in Dhaka has turned violent, with a supporter of the opposition party dead in clashes with police, bdnews24.com reports.
The BNP called district-level protests for Thursday after the detention of several central leaders and hundreds of activists following the violence that started on Wednesday afternoon when police tried to disperse the supporters who gathered outside the party office in Naya Paltan to prepare for the rally.
With the venue for the programme still not confirmed, police said the BNP planned a violent blockade instead of a rally as the law enforcers claimed to have recovered crude bombs, rice, water, lentils and firewood in and outside the party office in a raid after the clashes.
As many as 10 prison vans packed with opposition activists left the party office in the evening with sounds of sporadic firing from tear gas launchers and shotguns still being heard in the area.
At Dhaka Medical College Hospital, at least 20 people came with injuries received during the clashes. One of them, Md Mokbul, a 32-year-old BNP supporter and artisan of shoes and clothing, died. Two others were admitted with shotgun pellets in their bodies while the rest left after getting first-aid.
Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir staged a sit-in outside the party office after being barred by the law enforcers from entering the headquarters, from where police claimed to have recovered crude bombs.
He alleged the clashes and the subsequent raid were parts of a plan to foil their rally. “I think such brutal and tragic incidents cannot occur in a civilised country.
“Such a drive on the office of a political party,” he continued, “is similar to the breach of human rights and aims to destroy democracy.”
BNP PLANNED BLOCKADE: POLICE
Harunor Rashid, chief of Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Detective Branch, said police’s bomb squad burst 15 crude bombs in a controlled environment.
Biplob Kumar Sarker, a joint commissioner of DMP, said they were forced to raid the BNP office after crude bombs were hurled from inside, injuring several policemen.
Harunor said police found 160 sacks of rice in a covered van outside the BNP office and 275,000 bottles of water inside.
“They planned to stage a blockade in Naya Paltan ahead of the rally and they started a sit-in for this [blockade],” he said.
He also said they would check if the detainees have any prior case or arrest warrant against them before making a decision on them.
‘SITUATION MAY WORSEN’
After the UK, the US alerted its citizens to possible violence surrounding the Dec 10 rally, saying it is concerned about reports of intimidation and political violence ahead of the next general election.
Earlier, 14 countries and the European Union said they want to see free and fair polls in Bangladesh. They issued a joint statement on Tuesday ahead of Dec 10 Human Rights Day, highlighting “the fundamental role democracy plays in protecting human rights and promoting development”.
“Such a death before Human Rights Day will lead to more untoward incidents. It’ll definitely disturb peace in the political arena,” said Najmul Ahsan Kalimullah, an election observer.
Condemning the violent clashes, he said: “Two sides have come head to head. The situation may worsen anytime.”
Kalimullah, who is also a teacher of public administration, said it was the ruling Awami League’s duty to overcome the situation because “they are holding the steering” while the BNP and its allies also have to work responsibly.
Professor Serajul Islam Choudhury, an observer and analyst of Bangladesh’s politics, said, "Our style of politics is the bourgeois style.
“The people are victims of struggle and dispute for power between the politicians. There’s no public participation in this game.”
He stressed mutual tolerance to avoid such violence in politics amid the ongoing global economic crisis, but added he feared this would never happen.
“It’s a crisis. We are in a political panic. People are worried. A politics of social change was needed instead of bourgeois politics. We can't get out of this cycle."