Supporters of Ivy, Shamim Osman fight a fierce battle in Narayanganj
Narayanganj Correspondent, bdnews24.com
Narayanganj’s Chashara has turned into a battlefield as supporters of Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy and AKM Shamim Osman MP are fighting over the eviction of hawkers from pavements.
At one stage of the running battle, Ivy’s supporters formed a human shield to save her from the raining brickbats thrown by Shamim’s followers on Tuesday afternoon.
Over 100 people, mostly members of the ruling Awami League’s affiliates, were injured in the clashes.
The tension was still running high in the city in the evening after police dispersed the two sides by firing into the air and lobbing teargas shells.
Mayor Ivy blamed Shamim for the ‘attack’ while Shamim claimed there were ‘instigations’ behind the ‘turmoil’ over the hawkers being on pavements.
The Shamim-Ivy dispute goes back a long way in Narayanganj.
It had peaked for the last time when Shamim came out in the streets in support of hawkers as the city corporation launched a drive to evict the encroachers from pavements on Dec 25 last year.
The MP had also threatened Ivy with dire consequences if she did not allow the hawkers on the pavements. He announced to set up the evicted hawkers on the pavements again on Tuesday.
Amid heightened tension, Ivy and her followers marched from her Nagar Bhaban offices on Tuesday morning towards Chashara, an area known to be controlled by the influential Osman family.
Witnesses said followers of Ivy and Shamim started to pelt brickbats at each other in front of the Mukti General Hospital in the afternoon.
Ivy’s followers formed a human shield to save their leaders from the brickbats thrown by their rivals when the mayor fell on the street at one stage of the running battle, which continued for around half an hour from 4:30pm.
Many, including policemen and journalists, were seen going to the hospital to get medical attention for the injuries received in the clashes.
Traffic in the area came to a halt during the violence.
Later, Shamim took a position on the street in support of the hawkers while Ivy was at the Narayanganj Press Club.
Narayanganj Superintendent of Police Moinul Haque told reporters in the evening: “The situation is under control now. We will do everything necessary to keep it under control.”
Additional SP Mostafizur Rahman said they fired blank shots from shotguns and lobbed teargas canisters to disperse the clashing rivals.
Ivy told reporters at the Press Club that she was going to Chashara from the Nagar Bhaban on foot to speak to the hawkers about the “prime minister’s instruction to keep pavements free from encroachers”.
“I would speak about alternatives to setting up shops on pavements. But Shamim Osman attacked us without any reason,” she said.
The mayor also demanded withdrawal of the Narayanganj deputy commissioner and SP, alleging that police watched on when Shamim Osman’s people ‘attacked her supporters’.
Ivy’s supporters also alleged Shamim’s followers opened fire on them. They named one Niazul Islam as one of Shamim’s followers who carried guns during the clashes.
SP Mostafizur told reporters he was not aware of the allegations brought by Ivy and her supporters. “I’ll check those later,” he said.
Shamim, addressing the hawkers and his supporters in Chashara, said, “Some people want to destabilise Narayanganj, but we can’t allow them to continue.”
“I’ve seen that many BNP henchmen, including some accused of murders, have hit the streets. They are wielding guns from behind the mayor in a bid to destabilise Narayanganj. The mayor may be a fool. But I won’t do anything foolish,” he added.
About the hawkers, he said it was up to the district administration and police, not the city corporation, to decide whether to allow the hawkers on the pavements.
“The hawkers will be on the pavements until alternatives are arranged. I will be on their side. Let’s see who have the courage (to evict us),” he said.
“The administration and police played their roles. But if we have to take things in our hands, hundreds of thousands will hit the streets,” he added.
After the eviction drive launched on Dec 25 by the city corporation and police, the city corporation permitted the hawkers to sit on the pavements from 5pm to 9pm until Feb 27.