DHAKA: About 100 people, including politicians and journalists, were injured, most of them with bullet wounds, after gun-totting law enforcers fired a volley of tear gas and rubber bullets on scheduled protest rallies by opposition BNP and Jamaat in city’s Naya Paltan and Bijoynagar areas Wednesday afternoon.
The crowded downtown areas were rocked by innumerable gun shots and cracker blasts instantly foiling the rallies and sending panicked protesters, local residents and commuters to rush for shelter and shopkeepers to down their shutters.
During the nearly hour-long noisy violence police swung into action indiscriminately firing shots towards BNP leaders and activists attending their protest rally in front of Naya Paltan party office. The BNP activists who dispersed in the face of police attack quickly regrouped and tried to fight back with stone chips and later setting a few vehicles on fire.
BNP Standing Committee member Nazrul Islam Khan, its Dhaka city unit member secretary Abdus Salam and joint secretary general Amanullah Aman were among senior party leaders who were injured in police action and firing.
At least five photo journalists, including Nayem Ahmed Julhas of The Independent, who were covering the BNP rally, were injured mostly from rubber bullets and were treated at the Emergency section of Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Scores of injured BNP leaders and workers who were rushed inside the party office and nearby buildings during the police action were later brought out and taken in ambulances to nearby hospitals for treatment, witness said.
Both BNP and Jamaat later separately called for nationwide day-long hartal on Thursday to protest Wednesday ‘police atrocities.’
The trouble at Naya Paltan prompted violence in nearby Purana Paltan, Bijoynagar and Baitul Mukarram areas where Jamaat was scheduled to hold a protest rally. The rally was foiled by police who also chased away Jamaat-Shibir activists from holding processions by firing shots and teargas shells.
Witnesses also said a crude bomb exploded at the Nightingale crossing near the Naya Paltan BNP office at around 4:30 pm when the BNP rally was in progress to protest the earlier arrest of its leaders and activists and also against police repression on them.
The loud blast prompted police to move towards the rally firing volleys of shots, leaving many people injured and forcing BNP leaders and activists to abandon the rally and rush for shelter. The law enforcers there also lobbed several teargas shells.
BNP on Tuesday announced to hold protest rallies nationwide on Wednesday to protest police action and arrest of their leaders and workers during Tuesday’s violence-marred day-long hartal.
As part of the programme, leaders and activists of the party and its different front and associate bodies started gathering in front of the party’s Naya Paltan central office at about 1:30 pm on Wednesday.
Source: The Independent