Vol. 5 Num 705 Wed. May 24, 2006  
Front Page

Black Tuesday for industry
RMG labour violence spreads to Dhaka; 1 killed; over 250 factories vandalised, scores torched; 200 vehicles ransacked; 100 injured

One person was killed and at least 100 people were injured while over 250 factories and 200 vehicles were ransacked yesterday, as garment workers in tens of thousands rampaged through the city and its suburbs to press home their 11-point demand.

Swapan, 30, a worker of China Garments at Boardbazar in Gazipur, succumbed to his injuries at Dhaka Medical College Hospital at 12:35am today. He was injured as his co-workers beat him up at the factory at 2:30pm yesterday, his cousin Selim told reporters at the hospital.

The workers ran amok on streets, ransacking and setting fire to garment plants, other industrial units, and vehicles, besides some business establishments and a few houses along the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway.

The violence that errupted Monday in Savar and Gazipur aggravated and fanned out to Uttara, Mirpur, Kafrul, Tejgaon, and Old Dhaka.

The riot freezed vehicular traffic from about 8am to 1pm on a number of city thoroughfares including the Farmgate-Mirpur and Farmgate-Uttara roads, Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, and those in Mohakhali and Gulshan areas, trapping thousands of commuters.

Besides, the road link of the capital with the northern region via Mymensingh remained snapped for the first half of the day.

Twenty policemen were among the injured in yesterday's riots and arson. And at least 500 garment plants put up the shutters.

A large number of police, Rab and Ansar contingents have been deployed in the city areas having high concentration of garments factories.

A leader of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said 300 garment factories including 21 of Dhaka EPZ in Savar were damaged in the two-day chaos and vandalism, causing a loss of no less than Tk 400 crore to the garment businesses.

The BGMEA filed a case with Ashulia Police Station yesterday accusing six garment workers of instigating the riot and rampage. The police arrested over 100 garment workers in Gazipur, Savar, and Sripur in this connection.

About 50 factories and 30 vehicles including one belonging to the fire service were vandalised or burnt in Savar yesterday.

The workers agitating to realise 11 demands including better wage and payment of arrears set four more garment factories ablaze for continuing with production yesterday. Two factories were burnt in the area the day before.

The violence broke out at Chitrashile in Gazirchat at 9am with frenzied workers setting fire to Little Star Knitting Industry Ltd. The demonstrators said the factory management forced its workers to work night shift Monday and did not show any "sympathy for or respect to" their demands.

Over 50 people including some policemen were injured in sporadic clashes between police and thousand of workers during the four-hour bedlam from 9:00am. Police lobbed 10 to 15 teargas shells and charged baton to disperse the demonstrating workers.

The mobs of workers also beat up five journalists and put up barricades on Dhaka-Aricha and Dhaka-Tongi-Ashulia-EPZ highways disrupting traffic movement. All shops and offices on both sides of the highways remained closed.

When the workers put Little Star Knitting Industry on fire, law enforcers including Rab lobbed teargas canisters at 10:30am to dispre them, triggering a series of chases and counter-chases.

A fire service vehicle was set ablaze when it attempted to extinguish the fire of the factory. Workers assaulted a reporter of Bangladesh Television and Manikganj correspondent of the daily Prothom Alo received head injury.

At 9:15am, the agitators ransacked an underconstruction factory of Mascot Group and set fire to some of its parts, as security guards locked in an altercation with them over continuing with production.

Three of the guards -- Saiful Islam, Abdur Rahim and Shib Shankar -- were stabbed, while a private university student was injured here. The demonstrators also set fire to the guards' shelter and office.

As police took position at all intersections leading to the highways, workers in groups vandalised at least 10 vehicles. They pelted brickbats at the law enforcers, who charged baton and lobbed teargas shells in return.

At 10:00am, the workers set fire to P&D Attires at Jamgora after the guards on duty fired two blank shots to prevent workers from entering the factory.

At 11:30am, a band of 40 to 50 unidentified workers wearing green helmets and black T-shirts set fire to Universe Knitting Industries Ltd at Jamgora, locals and law enforcers said. Some workers also looted various goods from the factory.

Garment workers also attacked and injured daily Ittefaq Senior Photo-journalist Mohammad Alam and Mahabub Matin of Chanel i. They also beat up daily Jugantor Photo-journalist Aminul Islam and snatched his camera and cellphone.

Three fire-fighting units led by Selim Nawaz Bhuyian reached the scene at noon and started working to douse the roaring flames. A large contingent of police was deployed in the area, while Rab patrol cars patrolled the highway.

The agitating workers also ransacked the factories in Ashulia Road, Shimoltola, Zirabo, and adjacent areas. The factories damaged include Shine Embroidery, Five Brothers Designwear, Nile Knitwear, Continental Garments, Pickard, Active Composite, Irish Garment, Southern Garments, Annyesha Style, a factory of Sharmin Group, Designtex, and Leatherex Footwear.

All activities in Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) came to a halt on Monday after the EPZ authorities called a two-day shutdown.

A large number of police, armed police, and Rab were deployed in and around DEPZ and on Dhaka-Aricha highway beside the EPZ. Rab members were closely guarding the DEPZ maingates and allowed no one including the journalists to enter the area. Almost every factory set up a notice at its entrance reading "factory closed".

Several thousand garments workers yesterday vandalised vehicles and roadside establishments from one end to the other end of Tongi upazila and kept the Tongi-Gazipur road blocked for several hours.

More than a thousand workers gathered in Tongi College Gate area at about 8:00am and launched the mayhem, witnesses said.

Chanting slogans against the garment factory owners, they ransacked scores of vehicles plying the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway, creating panic among the commuters and markets in the adjacent areas.

The angry mob set six vehicles of Nippon Garments Industries Ltd on and vandalised machinery of TLRA Holdings Ltd in Tongi.

The mangement of some factories alleged some "external terrorists" broke into their factories at about 9:00am and started the rampage.

Police and Rab members later charged batons to clear the highway and took control of it at about noon.

Duty Officer Jinat at Tongi Police Station admitted the widescale vandalism but could not give details about any casualties. "Only two garment factories and several owners of vehicles reported attacks on them to the police station," she told The Daily Star.

In Gazipur, workers vandalised a number of garment plants, over a hundred vehicles and looted some shops and houses, our correspondent reports.

Police arrested Garments Workers Oikya Forum President Moshrefa Mishu at Chandina intersection.

Five left-leaning parties had called a hartal in the district yesterday, protesting the killing of a garment worker at Sripur. Police arrested more than 100 workers during picketing.

Our Mymensingh corespondent reports the road communication between Dhaka and Mymenshingh remained suspended from early morning yesterday.

Around 500 workers baricaded the Mymensingh Road near Rajlaxmi Shopping Complex, Amir Complex, and Abdullahpur at about 9:00am, disrupting traffic until 1:00pm.

Police charged batons on them at about 10:00am.

During the clash with the police and Rab, the workers vandalised vehicles and some shops of the shoppoing complexes. They also set fire to a vehicle at Abdullahpur bus stand.

Hundreds of vehicles got stuck in the airport area causing trouble to thousands of commuters.

Officer-in-Charge Akhtaruz-zaman of Uttara Police Station told The Daily Star that the communication became normal after 1:00pm.

At least 50 workers were injured in Uttara and Tongi but no one was held, said police sources.

Agitating workers partially damaged more than 40 garment units and 10 cars including a Volvo double-decker. During the three-hour long clashes on the Begum Rokeya Sarani and at sections one and six of Mirpur and Pallabi, 15 people were injured.

Around 4,000 workers took part in the procession at 9:30am chanting slogans for increasing their wages. The furious workers threw brickbats at the glass walls of roadside establishments including banks, Chinese restaurants, community centres and other business units.

Witnesses said, the workers of SQ Sweaters Ltd, another unit of SQ Fashion of Maona Sripur, declared a programme on Monday evening protesting the incidents at Savar and Gazipur.

At 8:30am, the workers of SQ Sweaters at Sheorapara brought out a procession and started heading towards Pallabi where they met another group of workers. The procession went to different factories calling the workers out to join them.

The management of different factories shut down their factories within 11:00am for indefinite time.

The traffic movement from Mirpur section 12 to Agargaon remained stalled from the morning to 1:00pm.

Some garment workers brought out a procession at Tejgaon and called the workers of different garment factories. They threw brickbats and started vandalising cars.

They also tried to involve the workers of Samah Razor Blade Factory in the movement but failed. The agitating workers then committed an arson on the factory. They also set fire to eight cars parked on its premises.

Another car was burnt in front of the National Shooting Complex at Gulshan at noon.

Police, Rab, and Ansars were deployed in the area at noon to bring the situation under control.

Torched Little Star (Diamond) Spinning Mill at Savar in roaring flames along with piles of threads on the factory premises yesterday. PHOTO: SK Enamul Haq