An Awami League (AL) activist was killed and 50 others were injured, including one critically, when a police van drove through a group of 14-party coalition activists at Karwan Bazar in the capital on the second day of the countrywide programme of an indefinite blockade by the coalition yesterday.
The activists reigned over the streets across the country to enforce the blockade yesterday to press home their 11-point charter of demands.
The killing, reminiscent of a similar killing of two Dhaka University students at Fulbaria in February 1983, happened a few minutes after police had doused the demonstrators mercilessly with hot water using a water cannon, and beat them up while they were holding a rally peacefully blocking the street at Saarc Fountain intersection.
Police fired teargas shells and also allegedly fired live ammunition as the demonstrators clashed with the law enforcers there, turning the important business hub of the city into a battlefield.
In another clash between demonstrators and police at Tarabo in Narayanganj, police fired teargas shells to disperse a mob, which vandalised vehicles on Kanchpur-Narsingdi road, leaving 20 people injured.
AL-led 14-party activists disrupted road and rail communications by stopping buses and trains and by uprooting railway sleepers at different train stations across the country. At least 50 people were injured when a passenger train was derailed due to uprooting of 126 feet of railway tracks in Gafargaon upazila of Mymensingh.
No other major incident of violence occurred in the rest of the capital, and similar reports came from elsewhere in the country while normal life and business activities remained disrupted.
Activities at all courts across the country including the Supreme Court also remained suspended for the second consecutive day yesterday.
Business at Chittagong and Mongla ports and all land ports also remained virtually suspended for the second consecutive day.
Delivery of goods, and container handling inside Chittagong port remained suspended causing 54 vessels, including 23 carrying containers, to sit idle at different jetties and at the outer anchorage of the port.
Residents of the capital woke up to find the entire city blockaded and its streets free of everyday traffic jam yesterday as 14-party activists took to the streets to enforce the blockade.
Blocking the city streets at different points, the activists were singing patriotic songs at intervals of speeches by their leaders to keep the tempo up standing on makeshift podiums.
As the blockade was going ahead peacefully in the capital, unlike other traditional violent political demonstrations, suddenly Karwan Bazar erupted into violence around 11:30am.
Led by AL leader HBM Iqbal, 14-party activists were holding a rally at Saarc Fountain intersection blocking the busy street. The leaders were delivering speeches from a truck used as a makeshift stage.
All of a sudden, a police truck fitted with a water cannon started jetting hot water from the direction of Panthapath on the activists who were singing songs at intervals of the speeches without provoking any violence.
Members of police and Armed Police Battalion started to club the demonstrators mercilessly prompting the demonstrators to retaliate with brickbats.
Dispersed, the demonstrators attacked the law enforcers while police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets to scare the demonstrators away.
As the whole area turned into a battlefield, a police truck from the direction of Farmgate drove through the activists at Saarc Fountain and sped away towards Bangla Motor critically injuring two blockade supporters, one of whom was identified as Waziullah, 40, AL publicity secretary of unit 2 of the party under ward no 37.
Enraged by the incident, the demonstrators set fire to a police van in front of TK Bhaban there.
As the situation gradually calmed down, police took the injured two to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where doctors declared Waziullah dead.
AL leader HBM Iqbal was taken to Samorita Hospital with injuries.
Leaders of 14-party coalition alleged that police deliberately drove the van through the crowd to create a situation for army deployment.
“It was a totally peaceful rally until police doused us with water, clubbed us and fired teargas canisters at us,” said Delwar Hossain, a folk singer who was singing songs on the podium. Several others echoed Delwar.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday evening, Deputy Commissioner (Tejgaon) Kohinoor Mian admitted to ordering the police to turn water cannon on the demonstrators. “I gave the order to disperse the demonstrators for clearing the busy street after the demonstrators had refused to free the street despite repeated requests,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) authorities formed a three-member committee headed by Deputy Commissioner (Motor and Transport) Faruq Ahmed to investigate yesterday’s violence at Karwan Bazar and the incident of driving a police van through the crowd.
“Punitive measures will be taken against those responsible for the incident as per the recommendations of the inquiry committee,” said a news release issued from the public relations section of the Detective Branch of police.
The release claimed that the two demonstrators were injured when a police truck unintentionally hit them while it was being driven to a safer place towards Bangla Motor from Farmgate area after being attacked during chase and counter chase between police and ‘illegal public’.
A case was lodged with Tejgaon police station in this connection, the release added.
In Mirpur, law enforcers and demonstrators locked in a clash at Mirpur-10 roundabout when police charged batons and chased some demonstrators who were vandalising an auto-rickshaw there at 11:00am. The demonstrators threw stones at the law enforcers.
Normalcy was restored in a few minutes after intervention by 14-party leaders and top police officials.
Demonstrators broke windshields of some auto-rickshaws also on Dhaka-Chittagong highway.
In Savar, hundreds of activists gathered at different points. They vandalised 15 vehicles at Savar Bazar bus stop.
In Narayanganj, at least 20 people were injured when 14-party activists clashed with police on Dhaka-Sylhet highway at Tarabo point under Rupganj upazila around 11:00am.
As police obstructed an AL procession at Tarabo, the pickets threw brickbats, breaking the windshield of the vehicle of Police Superintendent Shahabuddin Khan.
Police clubbed the pickets, lobbed 20 teargas canisters and sprayed 70 rubber bullets, leaving 20 people injured.
In Mymensingh, at least 50 passengers were injured when three compartments along with the engine of Seven-up, a Bahadurabad Ghat bound passenger train from Dhaka, derailed and fell into a roadside ditch at Golabari village between Mashakhali and Kawridh railway stations at 2:15am yesterday.
The train derailed as 126 feet of railway tracks had been uprooted at Golabari, railway sources said.
Fifteen of the injured were rushed to Gafargaon Upazila Health Complex for treatment.
Rescue trains from Dhaka and Mymensingh reached the spot at 8:00am and reinstalled the damaged railway tracks and train compartments at 1:30pm.
In Netrakona, 11 people were injured in two incidents. At Gotora on NetrokonaKalmakanda road, pickets threw stones leaving five injured while six people were wounded as a passenger bus was torched at Razur Bazar.
In Brahmanbaria, pickets threw stones at the Bhoirab bound Balla local train at Poyertala outer signal of Brahmanbaria Railway Station. At about 10:00am, they stopped Dhaka bound Mahanagar Express. Later, all the services were cancelled.
Meanwhile, Akhaura land port remained paralysed.
In Rajshahi, demonstrators stopped Titumir and Modhumoti intercity trains at Arani of Bagha upazila. Goods-laden trucks remained stranded at Sona Mosque land port.
In Sylhet, activists forced Dhaka bound Joyontika Express train to a halt at Longla Station of Kulaura upazila. They vandalised the train until police brought the situation under control.
In Khagrachhari, pickets vandalised a vehicle of a pharmaceutical company at Alutila and beat up the staff. They also vandalised a truck at Bhaibonchhara and later set fire to an effigy of the chief election commissioner.
The blockade programme was observed peacefully in other parts of the country, report our correspondents.
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