Vol. 4 Num 293 Wed. March 24, 2004  
Front Page

Old Dhaka becomes violent over Jubo Dal, League clash
Traders observe strike to protest crime, police frame-up

Ten people were injured, including former Awami League lawmaker Haji Selim, in a violent exchange between activists of Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal and Awami Jubo League over occupation of a place for rally at Lalbagh yesterday.

The confrontation took place amid a daylong strike called in a large area of Old Dhaka by over 40 local business bodies protesting a police raid on the business establishment of a local AL leader at Nalgola and subsequent ransacking of it allegedly by Jubo Dal cadre Monday.

Shops stretching from Lalbagh to Islampur were kept shut yesterday and a human-chain was formed on Chawk Circular Road as part of the strike, which also condemned the rampant extortion, threats and murders in the area.

The skirmish between the activists of youth wings of ruling BNP and main opposition AL erupted after Haji Selim, along with some local businessmen, dismantled a stage made for a Jubo Dal rally at Imamganj crossroads at midday. The Dal earlier announced to hold the meeting in the afternoon at that place, in front of the local branch of One Bank.

A large number of businessmen and locals, including Haji Selim, had gathered there on a dais saying they too were going to hold a rally at the same time and place as the Jubo Dal one. Selim said he was there to support the strike as a businessman himself and sat with other trade association leaders.

At around 4pm, Jubo Dal members and supporters assembled at the crossroads with a number of small processions, chased away Selim and the businessmen and occupied their dais.

The AL leader however returned after 20 minutes with a group of people identified as Jubo League members and made a counter-attack. A hand-to-hand scuffle between the two groups ensued, in which Selim got injured.

Overwhelmed by their opponents, League members took shelter at a nearby building, which the Dal activists stormed with brickbats.

At that point, a large contingent of police, which so far had been waiting passively on the sidelines, fired three tear gas shells and arrested three League activists. Some of the Dal activists took shelter at Lalbagh Police Station and the rest of the crowd dispersed. Explosion of bombs and gunshots were heard at that time.

Local BNP lawmaker Nasiruddin Pintu then arrived at the scene accompanied by Kala Khokon, Humayun Kabir, Dablu and other local ruling party activists. Some members of Pintu's group fired blank shots to disperse a crowd that had begun slowly to gather again in the area.

The Jubo Dal at last held its rally, where Pintu verbally abused the AL and Haji Selim. The meeting ended at around 6pm.

Earlier in the day, business leaders of different old city areas including Nalgola, Islampur, Imamganj, Radhunigola, Shaheedbagh, Chawkbazar, Mughaltuli, Champatala, Sowarighat, Urdu Road, Talpatti and Polythenepatti condemned the Monday's attempted arrest of Golam Mohammad and the ransacking of his scrap metal warehouse by Jubo Dal cadre. Police attempted to nab Golam, president of BSCIC Banik Samity and AL Nolgola unit, over alleged possession of a revolver and bullets.

"They [police] framed him! They pushed every one away while searching his office and put him in a separate room. They went straight to the desk, reached down and announced they found a gun!" said a visibly furious Haji Nur Mohammad, elder brother of Golam.

An intelligence man, privately, confirmed Nur Mohammad's claim to The Daily Star Monday night.

Nur said, "We didn't invite all these other businesspeople to come. They came as they wanted to show solidarity and to protest against such injustice."

The businessmen in the morning formed a human-chain on Chawk Circular Road, covering their faces with black cloth to condemn the ongoing extortion, murders and other crimes.

"We, the businessmen, don't shut down our shops readily. But when our fellow traders are being murdered and day by day extortion and threats are becoming unbearable, we have to take to the streets," explained Badshah Miah, a businessman of Nolgola.

"We ask the government to stop this. We pray to the FBCCI and its president and organisations like Amnesty International to come to our assistance -- we want them to ensure our security," he added.

Extortion has unnerved the business community in the area and, although participating in the strike, a large number of traders were reluctant to speak out in fear of repercussions.

"Jubo Dal activists, namely Kamal, Tuhin and Shahin, have been running extortion rackets in the area under the protection of the local BNP MP, Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu, for a year now," said Selim, a businessman of Nalgola, who could brave future repercussions.

Some traders said Kamal and Tuhin were threatening a number of businessmen for months and had started to become more and more audacious in the past few months.

The three Dal activists abducted a local businessman, named Wajed, a week ago and tortured him until his family paid a ransom of Tk 50 thousand, locals added.

The notorious three are also blamed for shooting a businessman, Quayum, in the leg for failing to pay them, other than Shahin, owner of a clinic who was beaten up 25 days ago, and Sayem, a local youth who was repeatedly stabbed for disobeying Kamal's order to join his gang.

"Police, the MP, they're all parts of a nexus that rules this area," alleged Nuruddullah, a businessman from Imamganj, adding, "Since Golam Mohammad's shop is on the land adjacent to a Juba Dal club and a hindrance to their anti-social activities there, they had to frame him."

A visit to the Jubo Dal club, located at Nalgola, found it ransacked. Mamun, a Dal member present at the club, insisted, "Awami League activists did this."

He also claimed, "Kamal is one of the nicest people in the area. He's the power that has stopped extortion in the area."

Traders wearing black scarves on the face stage a sit-in on the road in front of Chawkbazar Shahi Mosque in the old city during yesterday's strike called by more than 40 traders' organisations protesting rampant extortion and murder. PHOTO: STAR