Vol. 4 Num 327 Fri. April 30, 2004  
Front Page

Hartal ends silently

The dawn-to-dusk countrywide hartal called by the main opposition Awami League (AL) disrupted life for the second consecutive day yesterday and sporadic violence marked the shutdown in the capital.

The second round of hartal, called to press the AL demands for resignation of the BNP-led coalition government by today and snap polls, ended almost peacefully elsewhere in the country.

The general strike shut most businesses, educational institutions and offices, hampered cargo handling at Chittagong port and largely emptied streets of vehicles. Train and air services were however normal.

In Dhaka, movement of vehicles and rickshaws during yesterday's hartal increased compared to that during the previous day's hartal.

Picketing for hartal was not seen in most areas as police took a tough line on pickets and opposition leaders and activists. About 8,000 law enforcers deployed on the capital's streets foiled the AL's bid to hold rallies and bring out processions during the shutdown.

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) led by Hasanul Haq Inu also called a simultaneous hartal demanding immediate resignation of the government and snap polls.

Police barricaded the roads around the AL central office at Bangabandhu Avenue throughout the day putting up barbed wire fences to prevent party activists and hartal supporters from gathering there.

The AL, Jubo League and Shechchhasebak League brought out three separate processions within the barricaded area. AL leaders Tofail Ahmed, Motia Chowdhury, Mohammad Hanif and Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya took part in the AL procession.

Pickets blasted several home-made bombs in Motijheel and Gulistan areas and set fire to a BRTC double-decker bus at Amtoli in Mohakhali area during the hartal hours.

Police chased Mohila Awami League leaders and activists at Paltan crossing as they gathered there to bring out a procession at about 1:00pm. Some 20 leaders and activists then took shelter in the nearby House Building and Finance Corporation (HBFC) office.

AL Joint Secretary Obaidul Kader, Organising Secretary Akhtaruzzaman and central leaders Asaduzzaman Noor and Dr Mostafa Jalal Mohiuddin brought out a small procession from Shapla Square. But police intercepted the procession on Bijoy Nagar Road and picked up a Chhatra League activist, prompting the leaders to hold a rally there.

As the procession started again, police intercepted it at Paltan crossing and picked up Chhatra League leader Russell.

Police also dispersed a JSD-Inu procession.

The AL lawmakers led a procession from Manik Mian Avenue to Dhanmondi amid heavy police deployment in the area and returned to Russell Square to stage a sit-in there. Party leaders including Mohammad Nasim, Abdus Shahid and Jahagir Kabir Nanok addressed the gathering.

DAILY LABOURER'S HARTAL DAY: With no work in hand, a wayside tailor sleeps out the second round of Awami League's two-day hartal in front of Eden College yesterday. PHOTO: Anisur Rahman