Vol. 5 Num 823 Tue. September 19, 2006  
Front Page

Paltan overflows with people

The historic Paltan Maidan seemed too small as a mammoth crowd thronged to join yesterday's grand rally organised by the 14-party opposition combine.

The gathering stretched to Bangabandhu Avenue, Gulistan, Paltan intersection, Nawabpur, Baitul Mokarram, Rajuk Avenue and Shapla Chattar as thousands of people failing to find any space inside the Paltan Maidan gathered near the loudspeakers set up at different points in about one kilometre area circling the meeting venue.

"There is no alternative to the change of the government. How can poor people like us live when price of essentials is so high?" Shajahan Khondoker, an elderly farmer of Nilphamari, said as he was listening to the 14-party leaders' speech standing near Golap Shah Mazar at Gulistan.

As thousands of people marched towards the rally venue in processions, volunteers tasked with maintaining discipline found their task too difficult.

Soon the Paltan Maidan was filled and the volunteers instructed the rally-goers to stay in the adjoining areas.

It was the largest opposition gathering during this government's tenure, said a witness.

The whole area was vibrating with frequent anti-government slogans. "Khaleda-Nizami autocrat, leave Bangladesh at this moment", "Mother and son [Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman] together have ruined the country", "Sheikh Hasina march forward, the people are with you" and "We'll not eat rice at Tk 30 and will not vote for paddy sheaf" were a few popular ones that rocked the area yesterday.

The area assumed a festive look as processionists carried colourful banners, placards and posters with pictures of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Sheikh Hasina and local leaders, and beat drums and danced.

A large number of police, Armed Police Battalion and Ansar were posted at major intersections around Paltan Maidan.

Unlike September 6 and 12, when they mercilessly clubbed and kicked opposition leaders and workers, this time they were seen trying to maintain discipline in the processions.

Most of the city streets yesterday observed thin traffic as many private and public vehicles did not ply.

Traffic came to a halt in the areas around the rally venue and many had to walk a long way to reach other parts of the city.