Vol. 5 Num 833 Fri. September 29, 2006  
Front Page

City bursts into violence to protest power cuts
Desco offices vandalised; Rab vehicle torched; 100 injured as protesters clash with law enforcers across country; Desa seeks special security

Thousands of people infuriated by severe power crisis set fire to power distribution offices in some parts of the capital, including the Desco headquarters at Mirpur, and elsewhere in the country, and staged demonstrations yesterday.

Pitched battles between the demonstrators and police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) left around 100 injured across the country.

The demonstrators burnt and vandalised vehicles on the streets in the capital, including a Rab pick-up van at Keraniganj, and window panes of wayside commercial buildings and garment factories.

Witnesses said the police fired several blank shots in a bid to restore law and order in Mirpur area but to no effect. At one stage, the law enforcers were seen begging for their lives to the angry demonstrators at Mirpur and Keraniganj and left for safer places.

Vehicular traffic from Mirpur to other parts of the capital remained completely halted from early morning until 4:00pm, causing suffering to commuters, office-goers and school children and their guardians as they found no mode of transport to reach their destinations. Thousands of people were seen walking to their places of work.

Road communications between the capital and a few districts including Chittagong and Sylhet also remained snapped as thousands of demonstrators barricaded the Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Mawa highways at Shanir Akhra, Jatrabari and Sayedabad from early morning.

Most parts of Mirpur-12 remained plunged in darkness as of 8:00pm last night since the Dhaka Electricity Supply Company (Desco) sub-offices could not restore power supply in the area with their equipment damaged by the demonstrators.

Sources said thousands of locals started gathering at different points of Mirpur, Pallabi and Kafrul after Tarabi prayers Wednesday night as the whole area had been without power since evening.

They started assembling near the Desco head office at Mirpur-13 around 1:00am and asked the Desco officials to resume power supply.

The locals turned violent around 1:15am and set fire to the Desco office and seven pick-up vans on the office compound. The fire also burnt some furniture and air conditioners of the office.

Meanwhile, a few hundred locals from the Bihari Camp and Mirpur-7 attacked the Desco sub-office at Mirpur-11.

Later, the agitating locals took to the streets and thousands of others joined them before long.

By the morning yesterday, thousands of people had taken position on the roads at Pallabi, Mirpur-10, Kazipara, Sheorapara and Mirpur-2. They burnt tyres on the streets.

During the agitation, the angry people burnt 13 pick-up vans of Desco, one minibus, two motorbikes and a CNG-autorickshaw in the areas. They also vandalised windshields of over 100 running vehicles and pelted stones at the wayside buildings and garment factories.

Life in Mirpur area became chaotic with people not being able to go to their destinations and schools, garment factories and other shops and offices remaining closed.

Several hundred policemen and Rab personnel went to the area in the morning in a bid to contain the situation. The police fired rubber bullets and teargas shells and sprayed water to quell the agitated people while the demonstrators indiscriminately pelted brickbats at the law enforcers.

At one stage, the agitating people encircled several hundred policemen at Mirpur-10 with the law enforcers apparently giving up as they ran out of ammunition.

The locals entered and vandalised a Desco sub-office at Mirpur-11 around 11:00am but no law enforcers dared to step forward to prevent the angry crowd.

The lawless situation continued until evening when the demonstrating people left the roads amid heavy downpour.

Police virtually had no control over the mob in the areas under Shyampur, Demra and Jatrabari police stations after its dwellers took to the streets Wednesday night.

The people yearning for electricity of Jatrabari, Shanir Akhra, Dholaipar and Postogola barricaded the Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Sylhet highways and several other roads in the adjacent areas.

The agitators set fire to three vehicles and a local power office and vandalised around 10 vehicles leaving several transport employees injured. The angry mob also chopped down trees and set up barricades on roads with them.

During the rampage, no law enforcers were seen in those areas. When asked, a police official in a vehicle next to Jatrabari Police Station said, "We don't have the permission to take any actions."

Even though a mob was vandalising vehicles near a filling station next to the Jatrabari Police Station around 4:00pm, several police sergeants were seen taking shelter inside houses, leaving their motorbikes on the road.

Thousands of commuters and people entering and leaving the city suffered immensely due to the road blockades and they had to walk several miles to get a vehicle. Some had to sit inside their bus for hours, sources said.

The angry people also tore down banners, billboards, posters of local lawmaker Salauddin and another BNP leader Nabiullah Nabi.

Meanwhile, Demra, Shyampur Pani O Bidyut Sangram Parishad, which agitated for better utility services on May, threatened to go for tougher agitation programmes if the government failed to implement their 10-point demand by October 5. Convenor of the Parishad Mosleh Uddin Masud said they would organise a rally on October 8 if their demands were not met by October 5. He said they would go for programmes like strike and indefinite hartal.

The Demra, Shyampur Pani O Bidyut Sangram Parishad withdrew their blockade minutes before the iftar after announcing their ultimatum.

Following a power cut at around 12:30am yesterday, hundreds of people vandalised a Palli Bidyut office at Zinzira leaving at least 50 including law enforcers injured.

Rab and police tried to bring the situation under control around 4:00am but the angry mob surrounded the law enforcers and burned down a Rab vehicle. Witnesses said law enforcers, after reinforcements arrived, tried to disperse the mob which led to chases and counter chases.

Keraniganj police said around 10 policemen were injured and the agitators snatched a wireless set from a policeman. Five people have been picked from the spot.

Meanwhile, a mob protesting against power cuts set ablaze a double-decker bus near Suritola Primary School in old Dhaka, UNB reports.

Witnesses said the mob while holding the street protest burned the bus down around 8:20pm yesterday.

UNB adds: Hundreds of people in old Dhaka last night took to the streets, protesting power outages.

They set fire to a BRTC bus and a police car near Suritola Primary School at about 8:20pm.

Witnesses said the mob held demonstrations against recurring load shedding in the area.

Police exercised utmost restraint in the face of violent protests.

Agitation continued till filing the report at 10:00pm.

Twenty people were injured in police action on the demonstrators who laid a siege to Palli Bidyut Samity Office-1 at Savar on Wednesday night, demanding uninterrupted power supply, reports UNB.

As the locals incensed over prolonged power cuts attempted to ransack the office at about 10:00pm, police charged baton on them.

People went on the rampage at PDB offices, sub stations and Palli Bidyut offices at places in Sylhet Wednesday night, reports our correspondent.

After a three-hour outage in one-third of the city area, about 200 people brought out processions from the city's Kazitola and Barutkhana and went to PDB's Sylhet Division-II office at about 9:20pm.

They vandalised the office and set fire to two motorbikes while some employees were trapped inside.

The situation eased after police and officials went there.

Villagers from Kumargaon, Sheikhpara, Tukerbazar and Chorugaon went on a rampage at 20MW power station at Kumargaon on the city suburb after the Tarabi prayers as the area ran without power for three hours during the day time and plunged into darkness after the Iftar.

The demonstrators left the area about an hour later when the officials assured them of taking steps for resumption of power supply.

As South Surma, Subidbazar, Mirer Maidan, Kewapara, Kolapara, and Sagordighirpar areas remained without power from 7:00pm to 2:00am yesterday, people held a protest rally at night.

About 2,000 people of Golapganj upazila obstructed traffic on Sylhet-Zakiganj road after the Tarabi prayers on Wednesday and vandalised Palli Bidyut Samity zone office. They set a pickup and a motorbike on fire.

People plagued by power outages vandalised the upazila Palli Bidyut Samity office after the Tarabih prayers on Wednesday night, the DGM of Palli Bidyut Samity in Beanibazar upazila said.

About 5,000 people affected by power disruption vandalised Desa power substation at Mondolpara early yesterday and locked in clashes with police.

After power supply was stopped from the 17MW substation on Wednesday midnight, people of Deobhog, Baburail, Jollarpar, Paikpara, Tanbazar, Neemtola and DIT commercial area took to the streets and asked the locals over loudspeakers to join them, our correspondents report.

Joined by many more, the demonstrators attacked the substation and vandalised 7/8 vehicles.

Tension gripped the area as police charged batons on them.

Following frequent power outages for seven to twelve hours every day in the port city, the Consumers Right Protection Committee (CRPC) yesterday gave an ultimatum to the government for smooth power supply, reports our correspondent.

In case of failure, they warned of a violent movement even during the holy month of Ramadan.

The CRPC Chairman Khorshed Alam Sujan presided over the meeting that was addressed by Shahriar Khaled, Jasmine Sultana Paru, Mohammad Mohiuddin, Sirajul Islam and Momena Akter Nayan.

Several thousand textile workers yesterday blockaded the Dhaka-Chittagong railway at Amirganj Rail Station in Raipura upazila for four hours demanding uninterrupted power supply, UNB reports.

The aggrieved workers put roadblocks on the rail line at 6:45am, disrupting train communications on the route.

Upakul Express, Parabat, Mohanagar, Egaro Sindhur, Titas and Surma Mail remained stranded in and outside the station, causing immense suffering to thousands of passengers.

The workers withdrew the blockades at 11:00am after Narsingdi Deputy Commissioner Firoz Salahuddin and police officials assured them of uninterrupted power supply.

"The textile mills experience 8/9 hours of load-shedding every day which causes low production. As a result, we are being deprived of salary which is proportional to production," said labour leader Ruhul Amin.

A worker was killed in police firing when the demonstrators attacked Palli Bidyut Office-2 at Choala in the town on September 14.

Locals ransacked Jhaodanga Palli Bidyut office in the district yesterday protesting frequent load shedding during the last three days, reports UNB.

The angry people broke the windowpanes of the office and ransacked furniture and documents during the two-hour siege programme.

Palli Bidyut DGM Mahbub Ali said some 31,000 subscribers of Sadar and Kalaroa upazilas need 31MW power every day, but are getting barely 2MW over the last few days.

Aggrieved people attacked the power office in the town on Wednesday night and vandalised a pick up van, doors and windowpanes and furniture of the office during the attack that began at 9:00pm. Police arrested one Tanmoy during the incident.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in front of Palli Bidyut offices at Louhajang and Sirajdikhan upazilas yesterday morning demanding smooth power supply, reports a correspondent.

The demonstrators also kept Palli Bidyut Samity DGM Tapan Kumar Das confined for several hours.

UNB adds: In the wake of attacks by power-hungry people, the field-level officials of Dhaka Electric Supply Authority (Desa) yesterday urged the government to arrange special security for their offices.

They strongly appealed for declaring all power outlets key-point installations and deployment of adequate security for their safety.

The officials raised the demand at a meeting with Desa Chairman Brig General Nazrul Hasan at Desa headquarters in the city.

Electricity-starved people burn tyres and throw brickbats at law enforces at Mirpur-10 intersection in the capital yesterday blocking the road for hours. PHOTO: Amran Hossain