Violence marks 1st day of oppn’s 36-hour hartal; 1 dead

The first day of the countrywide 36-hour hartal, enforced by the BNP-led 18-party alliance, was marked by the killing of a truck driver, vandalism and crude bomb blasts on Tuesday.

The shutdown will continue until 6 pm on Wednesday. The opposition alliance enforced the countrywide shutdown at 6am today (Tuesday) to realise its various demands, including the release of its arrested leaders and activists.

However, the Bogra district BNP enforced an extended 48-hour hartal in the district from 6pm on Monday to push for the same demand. Truck driver Khokon Miah, 35, son of Jainal Abedin of Matidali Biman crossing in Bogra Sadar upazila, was injured when a group of pickets showered brick chips on the truck near Barpur Bridge around 5am. He was taken to Bogra Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Medical College Hospital where he died after admission.

Eight crude bombs were exploded at different places of the capital during the hartal hours while a small boy was injured when two crude bombs went off near Awami League office on Bangabandhu Avenue. Besides, police arrested three pickets in the city.

Home Ministry sources said 17 vehicles were vandalised and four others torched at different places across the country.

Addressing a press briefing at the party’s Nayapaltan central office, BNP chairperson’s adviser Shamsuzzaman Dudu said the hartal was being observed across the country with the spontaneous participation of people.

He claimed that police arrested over 206 opposition activists across the country during the hartal hours on Wednesday, while more than 322 injured in attacks by law enforcers and ‘ruling party cadres’. “Besides, some 800 BNP men were implicated in false cases and five others sentenced to six months’ imprisonment by a mobile court.”

In the capital, two crude bombs went off near Awami League central office on Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital around 11:30 am, injuring a small boy, police and witnesses said.

Police detained a man from the spot as he allegedly tossed the bombs from the rooftop of Agrani Bank Building adjacent to the ruling party office. The bombs were blasted at a time when leaders and activists of the ruling party were gathering before the party office after an anti-hartal procession.

Besides, eight crude bombs were also exploded at five places in the city. Islami Chhatra Shibir activists brought out a procession at Dakkhin Banasree in the city around 5:30am. A bus was torched by the Shibir men at that time.

Hartal supporters brought out processions at 10 other places of the city, but police dispersed the processionists. Police also dispersed a procession, brought out by BNP, and arrested a picket from near BRAC University at Mohakhali. Police held another picket along with three bottles of petrol from Khilkhet in the city around 7:30am.

Huge law enforcers were seen posted in front of the BNP’s Nayapaltan central office in the morning. Police intercepted BNP chairperson’s adviser Shamsuzzaman Dudu when he tried to enter the party office around 8.15 am. However, police allowed him to enter the office later.

Dudu alleged that the government wants to hang onto power by keeping BNP leaders and activists in jail and said that the government has turned the country into a virtual jail.

Educational institutions remained closed, but government and non-government offices were open, though the attendance was thin. Rickshaws and auto-rickshaws dominated the city streets because of lesser presence of motorised vehicles.

Mohakhali and Gabtoli bus terminals were found closed as no long-distance buses left Dhaka for their different destinations outside the capital.

Huge law enforcers were guarding the city streets to maintain the law and order. BNP MPs brought out a procession in support of the hartal on the Parliament premises around 9 am and held a rally over there.

At the rally, they alleged that the government is arresting BNP leaders and activists in “false” cases and warned that their movement would not be resisted through filing case and making arrest.

Meanwhile, anti-hartal processions were brought out by associate bodies and organisations of Awami League rejecting the hartal.

Bangabandhu Sangskritik Jote and Dhaka division Sramik League brought out processions in front of National Press Club while Ulema League, Jubo League brought out another procession in front of Bangabandhu Avenue in the city.

At noon, Awami League supporters brought out an anti-hartal procession at Jatrabari, Zigatola and Hazaribagh. Stray incidents of vandalism, arrest, crude bomb blast and torching of vehicles marked the first day of the opposition alliance-enforced hartal.

According to reports reaching the UNB news desk, around 115 vehicles were vandalised and seven others torched in different districts during the hartal hours.

Besides, 49 crude bombs were blasted and 37 people were injured in clashes between hartal supporters and ruling party men and police. Police arrested 72 people on the eve of hartal and during hartal hours.

The districts are Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, Narayanganj, Rangpur, Gazipur, Khulana, Laxmipur, Natore, Siranganj, Joypurhat, Moulvibazar, Dinajpur, Jessore, Satkhira, Habiganj, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Gopalganj and Chandpur.

BNP joint secretary general Salahuddin Ahmed announced the shutdown programme from a press conference at BNP’s Nayapaltan central office on Sunday afternoon. He was later taken into custody on Monday night.

The hartal call came soon after three Dhaka courts on Sunday sent 10 senior BNP leaders, including its acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, to jail in seven cases filed over March 1 violence.