Radical Islamists yesterday kept marching towards Dhaka from different parts of the country, defying blockades and hartal amid a tense situation.
Infuriated by what they say is obstructions by the government, Hefajat-e Islam, organiser of today's long march, is set to announce the next course of action to realise its 13-point demand.
As part of their programme, Hefajat followers coming from outside the capital by bus, minibus and trucks will gather at Motijheel this morning to join a rally.
Those staying in Dhaka will head to the venue soon after Fajr prayers. A large number of Hefajat activists have already arrived in the capital from different districts.
In Chittagong, activists of the Hefajat held a rally at Wasa Intersection after the Juma prayers as they failed to get transports to take part in the long march.
However, those who managed to get transport were on their way to the capital. Vehicles carrying several hundred Hefajat activists from Chittagong reached Comilla in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, Gonojagoron Mancha and 23 pro-liberation organisations were enforcing hartal and blockade.
The Shahbagh youths took position last night at five entry points of the capital and will remain there until 4:00pm today.
This afternoon, they will also hold a public rally at Shahbagh, now called Projonmo Chattar, around two kilometres from Hefajat's rally venue.
Activists of the 23 organisations who have been enforcing the 24-hour hartal since last evening kept their presence at 20 points in the city.
At a press conference around 10:00pm yesterday, their leaders said pro-hartal activists would bring out a procession from Dhaka University TSC around 9:00am today and take position at 40 points across the capital.
Ruling Awami League men were also instructed to remain vigilant at different parts to assist the law enforcers to thwart any attempt of subversive activities as the government claims to have information that pro-Jamaat and militant elements have already infiltrated Hefajat and might create anarchy.
Many activists of BNP-Jamaat-led 18-party alliance that has already extended support to the long march to cash in on people's religious sentiments may join Hefajat's rally.
In some districts, the opposition men helped the marchers with vehicles.
Top leaders of more than a dozen Islamist parties have been relentlessly working to make the long march a success.
Even Ershad-led Jatiya Party, a key component of the AL-led ruling alliance, lent its support to the long march and announced to provide drinking water to marchers.
The government has beefed up security measures in Dhaka, Chittagong and other parts of the country.
BGB personnel were deployed in Hathazari and Sitakunda upazilas of Chittagong yesterday morning and at 8:00pm in Dhaka. A large number of police and Rab will also remain vigilant.
City dwellers have been living on their nerves centring the long march and its counter programmes.
People's fear of possible violence centring the long march came true as Hefajat men were locked in a clash with ruling AL men in Kamrangirchar in the city last afternoon, compelling police to open fire leaving an AL man killed and 10 injured.
Hefajat activists also vandalised ticket counters at Brahmanbaria railway station, fought running battles with police at Daulatdia Ferryghat and blocked roads in Noakhali yesterday.
In this situation, people are anxious about what will happen at the end of the day -- whether the long marchers will opt for nonstop hartal.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
Hefajat activists also demonstrated in different districts of the country, failing to travel to Dhaka for lack of transports.
In Brahmanbaria, Hefajat men vandalised the ticket counter of the railway station as they failed to get tickets. They also threatened to forcibly stop the scheduled train, railway sources said.
In Noakhali, the activists blocked the Noakhali-Begumganj intersection and Noakhali-Dhaka and Noakhali-Chittagong highways for one hour as their rented transport did not arrive on time.
In Sylhet, the bus service was suspended on Dhaka-Sylhet highway since yesterday morning, as the transport owners decided not to operate in fear of vandalism.
Meanwhile, about 500 people held a protest rally in front of the Sylhet Osmani Shishu Park and staged a sit-in at the city's court point area as they did not get transport for Dhaka.
In Feni, Jubo League leader Nazrul Islam Miazi allegedly helped the Hefajat activists hire six buses to attend the long march.
Nazrul, however, dismissed the allegation as baseless.