Supporters of BNP mayor candidate for Dhaka South City Corporation and those of an Awami League-backed councillor candidate clashed during campaigning in the capital’s Wari yesterday afternoon.
The clash that continued for over half an hour left at least 15 people, including two journalists, injured.
BNP’s DSCC mayor candidate Ishraque Hossain blamed the ruling party activists for the incident and said that the attack was made to ruin the election atmosphere. But AL supporters alleged that their rivals were chanting provocative slogans against them, leading to the clash.
Witnesses said the clash ensued minutes after Ishraque was leading a campaign procession near Central Women’s College around 1:00pm.
A procession by supporters of AL-backed local councillor candidate Rokon Uddin Ahmed took position on a nearby street and Ishraque’s procession was passing them.
Both sides started shouting provocative slogans against each other. At one stage, they hurled brick chunks, they said.
Several gunshots were heard during the clash. A number of vehicles were also vandalised. Police went to the spot and brought the situation under control half an hour later, witnesses added.
At least 10 people took first aid at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, sources said.
Shah Iftekher Ahmed, deputy commissioner (Wari division) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said they recovered seven bullet shells from the spot after they dispersed the feuding groups.
No one was arrested.
Talking to reporters, Ishraque alleged that his supporters came under attack when they were campaigning peacefully.
He also alleged that when they were passing an election camp of an AL-supported councillor contender for reserve seat for women, some started throwing brick chunks from an under-construction building in the area.
“I learnt that they [AL activists] were beating up one of my supporters. As I went to rescue him, they hurled brick chunks at me. At one point, I also heard gunshots,” he claimed.
“Whenever our activists came under attack, we wrote to the Election Commission. But it did not take any action,” Ishraque alleged at a press conference at his Gopibagh home.
About the role of police, the mayor candidate said police went to the spot after the clash ended.
He added that some policemen were helping them and giving them protection. “But a section of them is acting as ruling party cadres.”
Asked whether he was feeling insecure, Ishraque said, “Of course not. I’m the son of a valiant freedom fighter. I’m not afraid of the sound of bullets … I’m ready to sacrifice my life. I will not quit the race … .”
Replying to a query, he said, “I will file a case in this connection as I’m respectful to the law.”
AL-backed councillor candidate Rokon could not be contacted for comment.
Injured Sohrab Hossain, AL joint secretary of ward-39, said they were conducting electioneering peacefully and the BNP men, led by Ishraque, attacked them.
Most of the 10 who took treatment at DMCH are AL activists. They were wounded as BNP men beat them up and threw brick chunks at them, Sohrab, who is loyal to Rokon, claimed.
Md Alamgir, senior secretary of the EC, said action would be taken after investigation over the incidents of violence during electioneering.
On January 21, Tabith Awal, BNP’s mayor candidate for Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), and his followers came under attack while campaigning in the capital’s Gabtoli area.
BNP leaders alleged the attackers were supporters of a local ward councillor candidate backed by the ruling Awami League. AL leaders, however, denied their involvement in the incident.
A case was filed in this connection with Wari Police Station, a police official said.