BNP activists have clashed with police in their first street battle with law-enforcement agencies since Bangladesh started its countdown to the election set for Dec 30. Police said it was an unprovoked clash and the BNP tried to turn it to its own advantage, while an opposition leader claimed that the government was behind the attack.
The clashes bring back the memories of old violent days in the run-up to the national elections.
On the third day of the partys nomination form sale at the partys headquarters in Naya Paltan, the BNP supporters pelted the police with brickbats and ended up in violent clashes with them.
BNP supporters set fire to two police cars and one armoured vehicle in the Naya Paltan area. Police used teargas to control violence.
Paltan Police Station chief Mahmud Hossain said: "The BNP leaders and activists were haphazardly spread out in front of the party office. The police requested them to maintain order. But they clashed with the police without any provocation.”
Police later moved back to the Nightingale bend of Kakrail. Traffic came to a halt on the roads leading to the BNP headquarters. Clashes triggered panic in the area.
FOUL PLAY BY GOVT?
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has said the government is out to spoil the election atmosphere.
He strongly condemned the incident and blamed the law enforcement agencies for the attack.
The Oikya Front leader urged the government to bring back a favourable atmosphere for the election.
His deputy, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, also hit out at the government.
“The police shot our brothers without any provocation; they beat and used teargas against them,” alleged BNPs Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
“I believe the police attacked us at the governments bidding, at the suggestion of the head of government,” Rizvi alleged.
“But we will not destroy peace. I strongly condemn the police attack that came without any provocation.”
CALL FOR CALM
Rizvi said, “The acting chairman and the secretary general of our party have advised you to stay peacefully on the footpath. Do not go back to the streets. Make sure that there are no traffic obstructions. No-one should walk on the streets.”
“Do not fall into a trap, regardless of the level of provocation by the government. Stay on the footpath and help out with the nomination form sale. Stay still like the Himalaya mountains.”
Referring to the police, he said, “Why have you kicked over the beehive? You think that the nationalistic force will go underground out of fear. No, we will not. From every drop of blood will emerge thousands of nationalistic forces. You cannot contain us with your batons and teargas.”
"I want to request the law enforcement agencies not to participate in any wrongdoing. You are the children of this country, you are our relatives. In trying to protect the interests of a party, do not carry out activities that destroy peace and threaten democracy.”
In his instant reactions, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader has alleged that the BNPs attack on police was designed to subvert the planned election.
BNP supporters led by Mirza Abbas attacked the police without any provocation, Quader alleged at a news conference at the partys Dhanmondi office.
“They plotted the attack. The BNP has been hatching a conspiracy to foil the election. As part of that conspiracy, they attacked the police. "
The AL leader said conspiracies will not be able to stop the polls.
Additional Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Monirul Islam portrayed the incident as the BNPs attempt to cash in on a violent episode just before the election.
The BNP leaders and activists did not follow the polices request to maintain order while collecting nomination forms, Monirul said.
Violence broke out when the supporters of BNP leaders Mirza Abbas and Akhtaruzzaman came to the party headquarters to collect nomination forms, a witness told bdnews24.com.
The leaders and activists pelted police with brickbats when they tried to control the situation, said Monirul.
They attacked two police cars and an APC van before torching the vehicles, he said.
“Police serve the state; so do not treat police as an opponent.”
The senior police officer urged the BNP leaders and activists to collect the nomination forms in an orderly manner.
HELMETED ATTACKERS NOT OF BNP: RIZVI
The BNP leader alleged that the ruling Awami League tried to damage his partys reputation by using “helmeted attackers”.
“I want you to recall how helmeted people went to supress the road safety and quota reforms protests. The same people were active here today,” he told a press conference in the evening.
“Let me clear this one: They are the agent provocateurs. The same blame game has occurred again. They (the ruling party) carried out arson attacks but passed the blame on the opponents during different movements in the past,” he said.
Rizvi said he saw from the second floor of the party offices that the “helmeted attackers” tried to torch motorcycles parked on the street, but the partys supports prevented the assault.
He criticised the Election Commission for ordering the police to stop processions during nomination submission or collection after the Awami Leagues nomination form sale ended.
He alleged Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda and some top officials of the commission were working in favour of the government.
“Streets were blocked around the Awami League office for four to five days. Clashes erupted every day. Even two people were killed at Adabor. But the CEC and other commissioners did not order the police to stop those,” the BNP leader pointed out.
“And now they have gone mad after seeing the huge gatherings of people at Naya Paltan,” he added.
ATTACKERS WILL BE IDENTIFIED
Police have already started investigating the clashes, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said while visiting the law enforcers injured in the clashes at the Rajarbagh Police Lines hospital.
Video footages of the clashes will be used to identify the attackers, he said.
A total of 23 law enforcers, including five police officers and two Ansar members, were injured in the clashes, according to the minister.
Inspector General of Police Mohammad Javed Patwary and Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia were also present.
“We showed a great deal of patience. We had to send additional forces to rescue some of our colleagues besieged by them,” Mia told the minister.
The DMP chief also blamed Mirza Abbas for the clashes.
“We had told him not to bring people. But he did not listen. The chaos started after he led the procession to the area,” he said.