Clashes broke out between followers of an Awami League councilor candidate and supporters of BNP mayor candidate Ishraque Hossain in Dhaka on Sunday, as the BNP men were allegedly chanting anti-Awami League slogans.
At least 26 people including three journalists were injured in the incident at Tikatuli in the capital city, just five days before the city corporation polls.
Ishraque Hossain sustained injuries in his leg and was immediately taken home by party men.
Earlier, on 21 January BNP’s DNCC (Dhaka North City Corporation) mayoral candidate Tabith Awal, too, was injured during his campaign in an attack allegedly led by Awami League backed councilor candidate Mujib Sarwar in city’s Gabtali.
According to witnesses, around 1:00pm, the BNP nominated DSCC mayor candidate and his supporters were returning to Ishraq’s Gopibagh house back from electioneering at Motijheel’s Madhumita cinema hall area.
The supporters were chanting slogans against Awami League while crossing the election camp of an Awami League nominated councilor candidate at Tikatuli, they said.
The councilor candidate’s men were infuriated and clashed with Ishraque’s supporters, as per the witnesses’ accounts.
Initially, both sides hurled stones at each other and then took up sticks, leading to violent clashes. Gunshots were heard and a number of vehicles were vandalised when panicked pedestrians ran indiscriminately to shield themselves. Vehicular movement was halted and shops closed down as the clashes lasted for about half an hour.
In a press conference following the incident, Ishraque said the ruling party men attacked their peaceful electioneering to foil the election. He alleged that followers of Awami-League nominated councilor at ward 39, Rokon Uddin Ahmed, had carried out the attacks and also had opened fire.
Ishraque complained that he had not been receiving any protection as a mayoral candidate and the police appeared on the scene only after the clashes were over. He said, several of the policemen were acting like ruling party cadres and added, Wari police station was slow to act despite a number of incidents taking place in the area.
Denying Ishraque’s allegations, Rokon Uddin Ahmed told Prothom Alo that the attack was initiated by BNP men as they were chanting provocative anti-Awami League slogans while crossing his election camp.
Fazle Noor Taposh, the Awami League nominated DSCC mayoral candidate, alleged Ishraque was responsible for the chase and counter-chase incident. “As far as I know, the fires were shot from the BNP candidate’s own gun,” he told the media during his campaign at Sabujbagh. “Such an unpleasant environment is unacceptable.”
After one and a half hours, election commission (EC) secretary Md. Alamgir told the media that the commission did not receive any news of the clash so far. He said, measures would be taken after inquiry if any complaint was filed with the returning officer.
Three journalists including Naya Diganta’s Iqbal Majumder, Somoy TV’s Ashraful Islam and Banglavision’s Ujjal Das were injured during the collision.
At least 12 activists and workers of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) sustained injuries in the clash including Gandaria thana Chhatra Dal president Jabed Hossain, Wari Thana Chhatra Dal general secretary Abdur Rahim, Swechchasebak Dal leader Mohammad Billal and Sutrapur thana Chhatra Dal leader Saikat Hassan.
Some 11 activists of ruling Bangladesh Awami League were also wounded including Wari thana Awami League organisational secretary Anisur Rahman, thana committee members Mobarak Hossain and Monir Hossain, ward Awami League leaders Amir Hossain and Sohrab Hossain, ward Sramik League leader Mohammad Younus, ward Jubo League president Md. Ramzan.
Regarding the police’s absence, Wari zone assistant police commissioner Hannanul Islam said police were not present during the electioneering at Tikatuli as they were informed that the campaigning was scheduled at 5:00pm, but it was actually carried out at 1:00pm.