People burst into protest following a cocktail blast near the Gonojagoron Mancha on Press Club premises in Chittagong yesterday. Photo: Star
Amid threats from radical Islamists and imposition of Section 144 by police in Chittagong, the Gonojagoron Mancha protesters yesterday postponed their today's rally in the port city.
Section 144 prohibits gathering of more than five people.
Meanwhile, three cocktails were exploded near the Gonojagoron Mancha before the Chittagong Press Club around 8:25pm, sending a wave of panic in the area. Many people were seen running for shelter at the time, reports our Chittagong correspondent.
Police detained one person from the spot as suspect, said Kusum Dewan, additional deputy commissioner of CMP.
The Gonojagoron Mancha organisers were holding a press conference at the Press Club when the cocktails went off, but nobody was hurt in the incident.
As tension ran high centring over today's rally and counter-rally called by the Gonojagoron Mancha and radical Islamists at the same venue, the Chittagong Metropolitan Police yesterday imposed Section 144 in all parts of the city from 6:00am till midnight today, modifying their earlier decision to impose it only in parts of the city.
CMP Commissioner Safiqul Islam said the decision was made considering the law and order of the city.
“Respecting the law and considering public security, we have decided to postpone the rally," said Mafizur Rahman and Sharif Chouhan, two key organisers of the movement in Chittagong, in a statement.
In protest at last night's cocktail blasts, they will demonstrate at 3:00pm tomorrow.
In a separate statement, Gonojagoron Mancha Spokesperson Imran H Sarker condemned the blasts and said that despite repeated attempts the Jamaat-Shibir had failed to derail "our nonviolent movement".
The Shahbagh protesters on March 8 announced to hold a grand rally before Chittagong Press Club to press home their six-point demand, including capital punishment to all war criminals and banning Jamaat-Shibir.
On Monday, Hefazate Islam Bangladesh, a Qaumi madrasa-based Islamist organisation, declared a counter-rally at the same venue, protesting the Gonojagoron Mancha rally and the “anti-Islam activities of atheist bloggers.”
Earlier on Saturday, it had called a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Chittagong for today. The Islamist party, however, postponed the hartal around 10:00pm yesterday after the Gonojagoron Mancha rally was postponed.
MA Salam, administrator of Chittagong district administration, on Monday met Shah Ahmed Shafi, ameer of Hefazate Islam, and asked him to call off the hartal.
After the meeting, Salam had told The Daily Star, “He [Ahmed Shafi] told us they also want the trial of war criminals and that they too dislike Jamaat's politics. Also, they have no conflict with other bloggers except for some five to six 'atheist' bloggers.”
On imposition of Section 144, Salam yesterday said: “Who will take the responsibility should any clashes erupt and casualties happen?"
Earlier in the afternoon, the Gonojagoron Mancha organisers at a press conference said their movement was nonviolent and one of "humanity against brutality".
“Our movement is not against any religion, including Islam”, Mafizur Rahman told the press conference at the Chittagong Press Club.
Asked about Hefazate Islam's threat of resisting Gonojagoron Mancha Spokesperson Imran H Sarker, Mafizur said: “One Muslim cannot declare another Muslim a non-Muslim.”
A team representing the Shahbagh protesters is due to go to Chittagong tomorrow for a dialogue with Ahmed Shafi, chief of the Hefazate Islam.
Meanwhile, the Islamist party continued its demonstrations against the Shahbagh protesters in the port city yesterday. They brought out a procession in support of today's hartal (now-postponed) that was called to foil the Gonojagoron Mancha grand rally.
SECTION 144 PROTESTED
Some eminent citizens, however, criticised the decision to impose Section 144.
Prof Anupam Sen, vice-chancellor of Premier University in Chittagong, told this paper that police should have protected the Gonojagoron Mancha from any threats and should have allowed protesters to hold the pre-announced rally.
“All the programmes organised by the Gonojagoron Mancha throughout the country were nonviolent and hence the administration should protect them,” he said.