Chhatra League activists scuffled with demonstrators in front of the Central Shaheed Minar yesterday to foil a cycle procession, protesting the government's decision to set up Rampal Power Plant near the Sundarbans.
Police later used water cannons to stop the protesters from moving towards Doel Chattar. The series of scuffles left some 25 demonstrators injured.
Witnesses said over 100 cyclists gathered on the premises of the Central Shaheed Minar around 10:30am. Soon a group of BCL activists allegedly from Dhaka University reached there and formed a human chain in favour of the power plant, blocking the protesters' way.
Scuffles broke out between the BCL men and demonstrators as they tried to start the cycle procession.
Abu Bakar Siddique, officer-in-charge of Shahbagh Police Station, said the BCL men and anti-power plant campaigners organised two programmes at the same time. But neither side had police permission.
Zakaria Hossain, an organiser of the procession and also a DU student, said Chhatra League activists assaulted some demonstrators during the dust-up, leaving 25 people injured.
Mohammad Imran, general secretary of Mohsin Hall unit BCL at DU, claimed they carried a banner of general students.
“We are in favour of development and the power plant. That's why we staged the demonstration,” he added.
Prof Anu Muhammad, member secretary of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, termed the assault on protestors “an attempt to foil people's movement”.
The economist, who was expected to flag off the cycle rally, condemned the attack by the pro-Awami League student body.
The procession was scheduled to reach the Jatiya Press Club through city streets in Dhaka University, Azimpur, Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur and Karwan Bazar areas.
'RED CARD TO RAMPAL'
As the demonstrators made a dash for the road towards Doel Chattar around 12:30pm, police fired water cannons to disperse them.
However, some 60 cyclists managed to break through police barriers in front of Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
OC Abu Bakar said police tried to block the procession as the cyclists took a different route up to the Press Club instead of the Azimpur-Dhanmondi route.
The protest programme ended in front of the Jatiya Press Club after the demonstrators showed “red card” to the power plant and to the government.
Samantha Sharmin, a protester and also a DU student, said: “They [BCL activists] haven't been able to stop us. We have pulled a win over them.”
Although the coal-fired power plant has drawn concerns from different quarters, including the Unesco, the government is going ahead with its implementation. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has assured that the plant would cause no damage to the Sundarbans.
The National Committee has called for a “March to Dhaka” on November 24 if the government does not cancel the controversial project.