Vol. 5 Num 92 Thu. August 26, 2004  
Front Page

Arrests, cop actions on pickets mark hartal

Police action on peaceful processions and widespread arrests of opposition activists yesterday marked the last day of a two-day nationwide hartal called by 13 opposition political parties protesting grenade attack on an Awami League (AL) rally in Dhaka.

Law-enforcers picked up about 250 opposition activists and injured at least 26 others during the largely seven-hour hartal that closed schools, businesses, stock exchanges, took most traffic off the road and stopped cargo handling at seaports, virtually crippling life.

The main opposition AL, 11 left parties and the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Inu) reduced yesterday's hartal, originally planned for 12 hours, to seven hours to enable people attend the namaz-e-janaza and burial of slain AL leader Ivy Rahman. But the Chittagong AL enforced the strike for 12 hours.

Ivy died from her wounds at the Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka early Tuesday fighting for her life for three days after suffering grievous injuries in Saturday's grenade attack on the AL rally on Bangabandhu Avenue.

Fearing mob attacks on trains like on Tuesday, railway authorities did not run any train on busy Dhaka-Chittagong, Dhaka-Sylhet and Sylhet-Chittagong routes during hartal yesterday, officials said.

In Dhaka, police charged baton to disperse a procession of women AL leaders and activists on their way to Russell Square from Dhanmondi Road No. 32, injuring five activists.

Police also picked up Nazma Akhker, president of Awami Juba Mohila League, the young women's front of the AL, from the scene.

At 10.45am, AL lawmakers led by Chief Whip Abdus Shahid, KM Jahangir, Shahjahan Khan, Dr Abdur Razzak, Panchanon Biswas and Jahid Ahsan Russell brought out a procession from the Sangsad Bhaban.

Police blocked the procession at Russell Square where the lawmakers and party activists sat on the street and staged a rally.

Dhaka City AL at a press release claimed the leaders and activists of each ward brought out processions despite 'police clubbing and blanket arrests'.

The unit held a Qurankhwani at the AL headquarters for Ivy and 18 others killed in the grenade attacks.

The Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) staged a rally in front of its headquarters at Purana Paltan where party President Manjurul Ahsan Khan accused the government of harbouring terrorists and criminals.

He demanded the arrest of Jamaat-e-Islami lawmaker Delwar Hossain Saidee, accusing him of masterminding the knife attack on prominent writer Humayun Azad and bomb attacks on Hazrat Shahjalal Shrine in Sylhet.

He called upon all left and pro-liberation organisations to join hands and launch a movement against anti-liberation and fundamentalist forces.

The CPB also brought out a procession from the party headquarters and paraded through different city roads braving police resistance.

The JSD brought out a procession from its Bangabandhu Avenue office and paraded through different city areas.

In the prime port city of Chittagong, the hartal until 6:00pm passed off almost peacefully.

The Chittagong unit of the AL stuck to the earlier hartal schedule saying five-hour relaxation was meant for Dhaka only.

In Rajshahi, pro-hartal pickets attacked railway's Western Zone office in the morning and ransacked several rooms for working during hartal.

In Satkhira, at least 15 people including district AL convener Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Sadar upazila AL president Shawkat Hossain were injured in a clash with police near the AL office.

In Narayanganj, police used baton on a procession of Bangladesh Chhatra League, student front of the AL, at Terminal Ghat and picked up five from the scene.

The AL and 11-party held separate rallies on No. 2 Rail Gate, but police resisted them from bringing out a procession.

The law-enforcers picked up 62 opposition leaders and activists in overnight raids and also during hartal in Narayanganj yesterday.

In Khulna, police picked up 125 opposition leaders and workers including president and secretaries of different ward units of the AL and resisted all attempts of opposition activists to bring out procession.

In Brahmanbaria, angry AL pickets attacked the district information office, ransacked some rooms and tore down the portrait of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia during the hartal. They also swooped on the municipal building and ransacked some rooms.

UNB adds: Police picked up 50 hartal activists from different parts of Feni and did not allow AL and its front organisations to hold any programme. Witnesses said the law-enforcers dispersed pro-hartal activists when they tried to bring out processions at Master Para and on the College Road and Station Road.

Police beat up President of Awami Juba Mahila League Nazma Akhter on Road No.32 in Dhanmondi as she was leading a procession of her organisation during yesterday's hartal. PHOTO: SK Enamul Haq