All he wanted to see polls in his school
All he wanted was to see and enjoy the festivity of voting.
Upon his insistence, his uncle took him to the Madhurchar Government Primary School polling station in Keraniganj's Hazratpur union yesterday morning. But within an hour, his uncle had to take him home, dead.
Shuvo Kazi Srabon, a fourth-grader at the school, was hit by a stray bullet fired by supporters of the Awami League candidate, said Salal Kazi, uncle of the 10-year-old.
At least seven others, including 90-year-old Khadija Begum, suffered bullet injuries as the AL men fired 15 to 20 bullets before leaving the centre, said police and Ansar members.
Overcome by guilt and shock, Salal was crying inconsolably after the incident.
“The polling centre wore a festive look and everything was going fine. A large number of voters queued up before the polling booths. The house of BNP candidate Nurul Haq Ripon was not far from the centre,” Salal told this correspondent at Srabon's house at Dhalikandi.
“Around 9:20am, a group of 30 to 40 Awami League men led by local leader Rana Mollah went there and got locked in an altercation with voters over casting votes.”
At one stage, both the AL men and the voters threw brick chips at each other. Then the ruling party men started firing shots indiscriminately.
“Soon after the shooting, I found my nephew lying on the ground in a pool of blood,” he said.
Srabon was rushed to Sikdar Medical College Hospital where doctors declared him dead, said a weeping Salal.
“Why the government holds such violent polls that took away my innocent boy's life?” asked the victim's father Halim Kazi.
Halim, a CNG-run auto-rickshaw driver, lamented: “What kind of politics is this and what for? How long will we have to wait to see the end of such violence?”
Suborna, the boy's mother, said Srabon wanted to go to the voting centre with her but she refused to take him.
“When I came back home [from the polling centre], he got angry with me. That's why his uncle took him to the centre. I also gave him Tk 10 as he wanted to eat something.”
Akkas, a voter, claimed that soon after the AL men arrived in the polling centre, they started asking voters to cast their votes in favour of AL candidate Anwar Hossain. They also threatened voters with dire consequence if they did not do so.
Talking to this correspondent, an elderly man seeking anonymity said, “As the centre was very close to the BNP candidate's home, supporters of the AL candidate feared that the voters might vote for the BNP-backed chairman. That's why they [AL men] threatened the voters.”
At one stage, the group in the presence of law enforcement agencies entered the voting booths to check whether voters were casting votes in favour of the AL candidate, witnesses said.
“They [AL men] also took photos of voters on their mobile phones,” Akkas added.
Several voters protested the ruling party activists and after a few minutes, both the voters and the AL candidate's supporters hurled brick chunks at each other. Rana Mollah, a close aide of Anwar Hossain, was injured as a piece of brick hit his forehead, witnesses added.
As other voters joined in, the AL men started firing shots indiscriminately. They also blasted several homemade bombs and left, said Forhad.
Neither Anwar Hossain nor Rana Mollah could be contacted for their comments.
The BNP-nominated candidate boycotted yesterday's polls.