Eviction drive sparks clash
Several hundred transport workers went berserk and fought pitched battles with police during an eviction drive against illegal structures at the capital's Tejgaon Truck Terminal yesterday.
This happened when Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Annisul Huq himself was leading the drive, which began around 1:00pm.
In the face of the rowdy protest, the drive had to be abandoned and the mayor had to take shelter at the nearby office of Bangladesh Truck and Covered Van Drivers Union.
He remained virtually confined there for about three hours till around 5:00pm and was later escorted out of the office by police and Rab members.
At least three people suffered pellet injuries, as police opened fire on the agitating workers who responded by throwing brick chips. A traffic cop was hit by bricks and was seen bleeding.
The workers assaulted several journalists, including The Daily Star photographer Anisur Rahman and bdnews24.com photographer Tanvir Ahmed. Two city corporation employees were also attacked.
Tanvir's camera was smashed and he was taken to Samorita Hospital for treatment. Media vehicles of Channel i and Ekushey Television, and two pickups of the city corporation were vandalised.
The agitating workers put trucks and covered vans at several points on Karwan Bazar-Sat Rasta Link Road in front of the terminal, obstructing vehicular movements for about four hours.
They also burned tyres on the road and chanted slogans against the mayor, witnesses said.
While the violent protest continued on the streets, Annisul was holding talks with transport leaders inside the office of Bangladesh Truck and Covered Van Drivers Union.
Coming out of the office around 4:50pm, he vowed to continue the eviction drive in line with his pledge to make Dhaka a better city.
“We will not quit. We will continue the eviction drive to ease people's sufferings in the area,” he told reporters.
The drive was meant to create more space inside the terminal so that truckers do not need to park vehicles on the road, he added.
On November 8, after a meeting with transport owners and leaders at the terminal, Annisul asked the truck owners to clear the illegal structures from the terminal by November 27.
Over the last few days, a significant portion of the terminal has been cleared of illegal establishments. Even the owners had been helping the city authorities, locals said.
The terminal was built about six decades ago, they said, adding that the Bangladesh Railway owns most of the terminal land.
The terminal is meant for parking vehicles, but over time, some people set up various illegal structures, including shops, markets, garages and workshops.
Earlier this month, Annisul said, “The railway did not lease its land to anyone. Those structures at the terminal are illegal.”
As much of the terminal space has been occupied by grabbers, many vehicles are parked on the nearby road, obstructing traffic.
Rustam Ali Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Truck Covered Van Owners Association, said most of the places are occupied by shops and restaurants, which has reduced parking space.
Now, 200 to 250 trucks can be parked there. After demolition of the illegal structures, there will be room for 700 to 800 vehicles, he said.
At one point of yesterday's drive, a bulldozer of the city corporation smashed a covered van parked inside the terminal, workers alleged, saying that this prompted them to take to the streets.
Later, they started hurling bricks at the bulldozers.
In response, police opened fire and also baton-charged the crowd in efforts to bring the situation under control, said Abu Bakar, an employee of a workshop at the terminal.
The injured -- Badruddoza, 51, Jasimuddin, 40, and Masum, 25 -- were taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
They sustained pallet injuries in different parts of their bodies, sources said.
Jasimuddin told this correspondent that he was just watching the eviction drive when a bullet hit him.
Contacted, Biplob Sarker, deputy commissioner (Tejgaon division) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said cops fired three blank shots to disperse the demonstrators.
According to him, it is unlikely that anyone was injured in police firing; rather the brick chips hurled by the protesters might cause injuries to some.