A countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal was enforced yesterday by two left-leaning parties and an alliance apparently with the support of law enforcement agencies and pro-government transport organisations.
The shutdown passed off with no incident of vandalism, setting fire to vehicles, violent picketing and clashes with the law enforcers, which were common features of hartals enforced in the country in the past.
Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) and Gonotantrik Baam Morcha GBM), an alliance of seven left-leaning parties had earlier called the hartal to press home their demands for ban on religion-based political parties, speedy war crimes trial and punishment to the owner and staff concerned of Tazreen Fashions for deaths due to their gross negligence.
In the capital, movement of passenger buses and other vehicles was thin and inter-district bus services from the city remained suspended during the shutdown.
In a sharp contrast to practices during hartals called by the BNP-led opposition in the past, the state-run Bangladesh Road Transportation Corporation (BRTC) buses were not seen on the city roads during hartal hours yesterday.
And law enforcement agencies, especially members of police, were seen diverting traffic from different points where pro-hartal activists took position and staged demonstrations.
Police were also blocked some roads to help hartal supporters to organise their programmes at Mirpur-10 intersection, and in Shahbagh and Paltan areas.
Talking to journalists at his secretariat office yesterday, Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir thanked CPB and BSD for observing a “peaceful” hartal across the country.
The minister, however, said he did not know anything about police barricades on city roads.
On the other hand, organisers of the hartal thanked people for making it a "success". The shutdown yesterday set an example of peaceful movement for realising demands without any violence, they said at two rallies at the city's Purana Paltan crossing.
Contacted, BRTC insiders said they were instructed by the authorities to refrain from plying the buses yesterday. Pro-government transport and labour leaders also asked their fellow workers not to bring any buses on roads, a transport sector leader said.
Md Khan Kamal Uddin, deputy general manager (operation) of BRTC, said workers loyal to the CBA did not ply buses in support of the hartal. "We did not put pressure on them to run buses," he added.
Meanwhile, the main opposition BNP termed the hartal “funny".
“We have observed how the home minister's forces observed hartal,” Tariqul Islam, a BNP standing committee member, told journalists at the party central office at Nayapaltan.
CPB and BSD declared their next course of action including holding a rally on December 28 in front of the Jatiya Press Club with the same set of demands while GBM will hold a rally at the same venue on the same demands on Dec 24.
Earlier, 12 like-minded Islamist parties, mostly Jamaat-backed, had threatened to enforce a hartal on Thursday if the left-leaning parties did not withdraw their Tuesday's shutdown.