Vol. 5 Num 91 Wed. August 25, 2004  
Front Page

Country crippled in hartal
Rail links collapse; cops club CPB leader Selim; today's hartal curtailed to 1pm

At least 100 people were injured in sporadic clashes on the first day of the opposition general strike yesterday that crippled life and disrupted train travels between Dhaka and other districts amid scenes of protest against Saturday's grenade attacks.

Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) General Secretary Mujahidul Islam Selim was among the injured who battled the police and anti-hartal activists of the ruling BNP-led alliance.

The strike was called by the main opposition Awami League (AL) after deadly grenade attacks on a political rally on Bangabandhu Avenue killed at least 19 people and wounded about 200 others.

The left 11-Party and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal threw their weight behind the AL in the general strike called also to protest an assassination attempt on AL President Sheikh Hasina, who was addressing Saturday's rally.

In the wake of frequent attacks on railway establishments in parts of the country, Bangladesh Railway suspended rail services between Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Sylhet until 1:00pm today.

Incensed by the death of AL's Women's Affairs Secretary Ivy Rahman, the opposition activists ransacked at least two rail stations such as Brahmanbaria and Akhaura, an important rail junction.

The activists forced rail officials in Khulna, Rajshahi and Lalmanirhat to leave control rooms, delaying train travels.

The second round of hartal was curtailed to 1:00pm for an easy funeral of Ivy, who died from fatal wounds at the Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka, intensifying the countrywide protest.

No long-haul buses left terminals in the capital, nor did any reach Dhaka from other districts. Launches and steamers were anchored at Sadarghat.

Shops, schools, businesses, private offices, stock exchanges and major seaports closed and traffic thinned out, as fears of a repeat of clashes stalked the country.

The 37th hartal was the most spontaneous since the AL was voted out of office in October 2001, as people representing a broad spectrum of society united in protest against the August 21 deadly attacks.


The police clubbed a CPB procession grievously injuring Mujahidul Islam Selim, who was admitted to a private clinic for treatment of her dislocated right shoulder joint.

Former home minister Mohammad Nasim also suffered injuries in a scuffle with the police when he and other leaders tried to snatch two party workers from the law-enforcers.

Scenes of hundreds of stone-throwing pickets chasing policemen in riot gear and the law-enforcers beating the opposition activists with batons dominated Dhaka at the height of the hartal.

The police picked up at least 98 people and about 7,000 police, Armed Police Battalion and paramilitary personnel were posted to important installations and strategic points to maintain law and order in the city reeling from violent protest for the last four days.

At least six leaders of Awami Olama League were picked up when they were reciting the Quran near the AL headquarters on Bangabandhu Avenue in memory of the people who died in the grisly grenade blasts.

Shortly before 11:00 in the morning, law-enforcers dragged at least seven main opposition women leaders including former lawmaker Sagufta Yasmin Emily into a police van leaving some of them partially stripped.

Police scuffled with the leaders and activists of Jubo Mahila League at Russell Square and teargassed the demonstrators who threw stones at them after being obstructed to march on Mirpur Road in support of the hartal.

Opposition lawmakers under the Awami League Parliamentary Party brought out a procession from the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban area at about 11:00am and staged a sit-in near Russell Square for over two hours.


Bhairab, the birthplace of Ivy, was one of the flash points during the hartal as angry AL supporters tried to ransack the railway station there. Opposition activists on Sunday set ablaze two railway compartments in Bhairab after the weekend grenade attacks.

Authorities deployed eight magistrates and contingents of police and Paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) to disperse a mob at Akhaura station.

A group of activists broke windowpanes of the new railway station in Brahmanbaria and damaged the station guardroom, according to our Brahmanbaria correspondent.

Arsonists set fire to the district education office before the police with the help of education officials doused the flames, firemen said. Some angry workers attacked the local office of leading non-governmental organisation BRAC in Brahmanbaria.

Attacks on railway establishments were also reported in Rajshahi, Khulna and Iswardi, railway officials said.

Movement of trains was disrupted in Sylhet during the hartal, our staff correspondent from Sylhet reports. The inter-city Jayantika Express bound for Dhaka was stopped at Langla for about 15 minutes and again at Noapara for two hours.

Chittagong-bound Paharika express was kept waiting at Maijgaon for about 20 minutes. Pickets put barricades there at about 11:40am to stop the train from the northeastern district. The police reached the spot and clubbed the AL activists injuring five of them.

Pickets damaged some vehicles, including trucks on Chittagong-Dhaka Highway, our Staff Correspondent from Chittagong quoted the police and witnesses as saying.

Delivery of goods in and out of Chittagong Port was hampered during hartal, although cargo handling inside jetties was unstopped, officials said.

A group of pro-hartal lawyers attacked the Magistrate's Court in Bogra and damaged furniture forcing the court to shut, reports our correspondent from Bogra.

At least 10 pro-hartal activists and leaders, including AL district unit Vice-President Ching Keu Roaza, were injured when the army used batons to stop a procession at about 11:30am, our correspondent from Rangamati says.

Army officials picked up at least five pickets from a procession and freed them at the district's sadar hospital after torture, AL leader Kalpa Ranjan Chakma alleged.

The army made a furious chase when a group of AL leaders went to the office of Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) to request him to close his office, prompting UNO Mohammed Mohiuddin to ask the army to club the pro-hartal procession, AL leaders alleged.

Some unidentified youth spread panic in the southwestern city damaging furniture, doors and windowpanes of Khulna Zila Parishad, Rupali Bank, Rupali Insurance, City Post Office and the railway station master's office, according to our staff correspondent from Khulna.

They stormed the office of the Press Information Department and set important documents on fire. They also burnt the official jeep of the deputy postmaster general.

The angry activists with sticks and petrol cans in hand stormed the offices of district food controller at noon and burnt documents.

Chief Executive Officer of Khulna Zila Parishad Kumar Paul was injured in an attack when a group of demonstrators went on the rampage in his office on KD Ghose Road.

At least 15 people were injured in Patuakhali town and Dashmina upazila headquarters in clashes between pro- and anti-hartal activists. At least seven shops were vandalised there.

In Natore, at least 10 people, including four train passengers, were injured in a clash between pickets and law-enforcers at Abdulpur railway junction. Pickets blocked the way of at least 14 local mail and express trains at the station.

The hartal was observed in Rajshahi amid stray incidents, tight security and picketing, our correspondent from the northwestern district says.

At least four people were injured when BNP activists attacked an AL procession at Kawria Bandar in Hizla upazila in Barisal, says our Barisal correspondent.

Police club and hitch Bangladesh Mohila Awami League members onto police vans at Zero Point in the city after blocking their procession during yesterday's hartal. PHOTO: Syed Zakir Hossain