Published: Saturday, April 6, 2013

Port city dwellers worried over hartal

Subversive and violent activities during and on the eve of recent hartals are terrorising Chittagong residents, especially those in the city, leaving them fearful of their lives and property every day.
In the 17 hartal days observed in February and March, pickets exploded some 200 cocktails, torched 40 and vandalised over 200 vehicles and destroyed many more business establishments and government installations, said police and transport organisation sources.
Targeted attacks left at least 20 people injured including students, pedestrians, vehicle drivers and police, said Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) and Chittagong Medical College Hospital sources.
The attacks centred around Alangkar, AK Khan, Bahaddarhat, Muradpur, Chawkbazar, Momin Road, Kadamtali, Tin Puler Matha, Sadarghat, Ashraf Ali Road, Rahattarpul and Oxygen areas.
These crowded areas are attack hotspots for panic can be spread easily and regular life can be instantly hindered, CMP Additional Commissioner (crime) Banaz Kumar Majumdar told The Daily Star recently.
The wave of hartals, imposed by the opposition parties, ensued a February 5 life sentence on Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah.
On the last hartal on April 2, 20 cocktails were exploded at different points injuring two pedestrians — Rabeya Sultana, 20, a Chittagong Government College student and Lal Mohan Dhar, 72, a retired Karnaphuli Paper Mill official.
A class IX student, Antu Barua, sustained eye injuries from cocktail splinters on the March 28 hartal. Md Sujon, a private medical college student, lost his sight in another explosion on the eve of the March 12 hartal.
A battery-run three-wheeler driver, Md Musa, severely burnt when pickets torched his vehicle on the March 25 hartal, is now fighting for life at Dhaka Medical College Hospital’s burn unit.
On how hartals are affecting him, hawker Abul Hossain said, with no work, his income had gone down. “Running my family has become even harder,” he said.
Kanu Chowdhury, a shop owner, said he keeps his shop closed for it was easy for pickets to vandalise roadside shops such as his. A housewife, Fatema Tuz Zohora, said she was afraid of letting her two daughters go to school or coaching.
Claims that a halt in everyday activities indicated hartal success is propaganda as people kept indoors in fear, said Chittagong University Vice-Chancellor Prof Anwarul Azim Arif.
Assistant Prof Syed Sajjad Kabir of CU psychology department said such violence was having a negative impact on people, especially young minds, hampering development of their beliefs, tolerance, and social bonding.
In the long term, these minds would become self-centred, devoid of civic responsibilities and intending to move abroad, he said.
Panchlaish Police Station Officer-in-Charge Pradip Kumar Das said arrest numbers indicated that Jamaat-Shibir men were mostly involved in the violence.
Islami Chhatra Shibir, Chittagong city (North) unit Secretary Nurul Alam refuted the allegation.
BNP Chittagong city unit President Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury recently claimed that the ruling Awami League and its “terrorist” groups, aided by law enforcers, were attacking the opposition and masses and blaming it on BNP.
On the preventive steps being taken, Banaz of CMP said physical and mental retraining on riot and mob control had begun since March.