12:00 AM, December 31, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:57 AM, December 31, 2018

Voting in Lalmonirhat-3: First 3 hours peaceful, then come AL men

The first three hours were peaceful, even festive at times as people came in to cast their vote at the polling centres in the Lalmonirhat 3 constituency since early morning.

The presence of female voters was notable, all queuing up in front of polling centres around sadar upazila waiting for their turn.

Polling agents of BNP and Jatiya Party candidates Asadul Habib Dulu and Golam Mohammed Quader respectively were there.

But the scenario started changing radically from 11:00am as Awami League (AL) activists began to arrive. They started calling out to voters, telling them to leave while forcing out BNP agents. No BNP worker or leader returned fearing attacks.

In some centres even police carried out such acts, snatching voter lists from BNP agents.

A correspondent of The Daily Star was present in a polling centre set up inside Lalmonirhat Government High School.

The presiding officer there, Rakibuzzaman, had locked himself inside a classroom after suspending voting around 12:30pm while some 300-400 AL men clamoured inside the school.

A judicial magistrate arrived half an hour later and coaxed him out. A visibly shaken Rakibuzzaman informed that the voting boxes, stamps and ballot papers had been taken away by the AL men. The judicial magistrate then left.

“Voting has been suspended in consultation with the UNO (upazila nirbahi officer) as the situation here was tense,” Rakibuzzaman replied on request for a comment.

On what happened to the voting materials, he abruptly turned around and again locked himself inside the classroom.

By 1:00pm the scenario had turned grim in most of the upazila's 89 polling centres: either voting was suspended or they were occupied by the AL men.

A correspondent of The Daily Star witnessed a local AL leader, Sumon Khan, and his men take over the Khochabari Primary School centre around 11:00am. They forced all others out within half an hour.

Villagers of Kulaghat came rushing to the correspondent during a visit to inform that AL men wielding sticks had chased them away from a voting centre in the local high school. They said normalcy returned when the army arrived.

Villagers of Shakoa staged agitations on a road after police created panic by chasing away voters, some even to their doorsteps, from the Shakoa Taj Mahmud High School centre.

BNP's Rajpur union publication secretary, Tojammel Haque, 62, died in Rangpur Medical College Hospital around 2:00pm on suffering injuries during a clash between AL and BNP men at Paglarhat Government Primary School in the initial hours.

Voting at the centre was suspended for some time.

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