Hefajat mayhem on
Hefajat-e-Islam turned violent as it held demonstrations for a second straight day yesterday.
Five people, including a minor, were killed in two separate clashes in Brahmanbaria, according to doctors at a hospital in the district.
Witnesses said one of the chases was between Hefajat supporters and members of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), which was deployed across the country after Friday's protests took a violent turn.
While yesterday's demonstrations were in reaction to the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Hefajat also protested the deaths of five people on Friday.
The death toll in the last two days stood at 10 and at least one of them was a bystander. Besides, yesterday's victims included a 14-year-old boy.
Quoting witnesses, our correspondent in Brahmanbaria reported that the clash between Hefajat supporters and BGB personnel took place around 5:30pm on the Cumilla-Sylhet highway.
After the incident, three people were brought dead with gunshot wounds to Brahmanbaria General Hospital, according to Abdullah Al Mamun, a doctor at the hospital's emergency unit.
He said at least 16 others were also injured and they received treatment there.
Several locals said they saw a rally of Hefajat heading out of Budhol union area and reaching Nandanpur beside the highway around 5:30pm. There, the protesters' movement were intercepted by members of the police and the BGB, who had been stationed there.
The witnesses told our correspondent that the demonstrators, mostly madrasa students, outnumbered the members of the two forces, surrounded them and started hurling brick chunks at them.
In response, the BGB opened fire, the witnesses told our correspondent.
Asked about the three people killed in Brahmanbaria, BGB spokesperson Lt Col Faizur Rahman, however, said, "We heard that there was a clash but it was not with us, it was with the police."
Abdur Rahim, officer-in-charge of Brahmanbaria Sadar Police Station, said he was unaware of anyone being killed.
The dead included Zohor Alam, 40, a resident of Haria village of Brahmanbaria Sadar upazila and a workshop assistant, Sujon Miah, 20, of Moindo village of the district's Majlishpur union, and Badal Miah, 28, a migrant worker of Sunamganj's Dirai upazila.
Fourteen-year-old Zubair, another deceased, was shot in the abdomen, said doctor Abdullah of the hospital in the district.
He was brought to the hospital around 7:30pm from Kandipara area of Brahmanbaria town by a group of students of local Jamiya Yunusia Madrasa.
He later died.
The students told The Daily Star that Zubair was shot when pro-government supporters brought out a procession, led by parliamentarian and district Awami League President RAM Obaidul Muktadir Chowdhury.
The procession was organised to protest Hefajat mayhem on Friday. When the procession was crossing the madrasa area, students of the institution intercepted it, leading to a clash.
Zubair was shot there, the students told The Daily Star.
Another of the injured at the Brahmanbaria hospital died later, said the doctor.
Besides, Sarail Police Station in the district was attacked by Hefajat supporters around 5:00pm. The police fired 40 rubber bullets and 15 tear gas canisters to disperse the protesters, said Sub-inspector Kabir Hossain of the police station.
The Islamist group is enforcing a countrywide hartal today.
In Faridpur, 250-300 people attacked Bhanga Police Station around 2:15pm yesterday, injuring six police personnel, including two sub-inspectors and an assistant sub-inspector.
Locals told our correspondent that many gathered at the Eidgah ground near the police station after Zuhr prayers. They later joined a rally of madrasa students coming from Bhanga Biswa Road area and the two groups carried out the attack around 2:15pm.
The groups vandalised the main gate of the police station and damaged two motorbikes belonging to the police, said Md Alimujjaman, superintendent of police in Faridpur.
Police fired at least 45 rubber bullets to disperse the attackers and bring the situation under control, he said.
"We had been in touch with different madrasas, and they had given us the word that they would not do anything like this, but they attacked the police station all of a sudden.
"We came to know that the attackers are the activists of Hefajat-e-Islam and supporters of Pir Char Manai. All the injured police personnel were admitted to Bhanga Upazila Health Complex. Police will file a case soon," added the SP.
At Chattogram's Hathazari, the bastion of Hefajat, members of the outfit ran amok. They built a solid brick wall that blocked the Chattogram-Khagrachhari highway.
All traffic movement on the road had remained halted since the night before.
Police held discussions with Hefajat men at Hathazari Police Station throughout the day yesterday. The two groups sat six times before a truce was reached.
They talked about what to do with the bodies of the four killed in Hathazari on Friday.
Local MP Anisul Islam Mahmud and Chattogram Range DIG Anwar Hossain and District Superintendent of Police SM Rashidul Haque negotiated with Hefajat men.
"The [madrasa] students are furious and they want to take the bodies of the dead students back to the madrasa and hold a janaza there, but the administration had initially refused to allow us to do that. The administration wants the janaza to be held far away from the madrasa, at Jamatul Falah field in the city," Hefajat Joint Secretary General Nasiruddin Munir told The Daily Star.
Following the discussions, Hefajat accepted the terms of the police and allowed the final rites of the dead to be held away from the group's stronghold.
Among the dead on Friday was one bystander Waidul Islam Rumon. His elder brother Towhidul Islam Sumon said Rumon used to study in class-X at Raozan High School.
About two weeks ago, he went to Hathazari and took a job at a tailoring shop as the school was closed.
"On Friday evening, he was supposed to come home [Raozan]. After offering Juma prayers, he had lunch. When he was coming to his shop for work, he was killed on the way," Sumon told The Daily Star yesterday evening, adding that he was still waiting for his brother's body at Chattogram Medical College Hospital.
While the events unfolded, police had taken up position in front of Hathazari madrasa, along with Rab members and four platoons of BGB, led by three magistrates, reported our Chattogram correspondent.
A witness who had seen how the Hefajat protesters were killed on Friday, narrated the incident.
"Around 2:30pm, I saw a clash in the street, so I went to my roof. I saw the madrasa students attacking the police station. They kept throwing bricks at the police station for around five minutes. At first, the police retaliated with rubber bullets. But then around 2:38pm, the police docked their rifles through holes in the boundary wall of the police station and opened fire," said the witness, wishing not to be named.
At the capital, Islamist protesters brought out two processions yesterday. Around noon, Hefajat supporters demonstrated within the premises of Baitul Mukarram mosque, while supporters of Islami Andolon brought out a separate rally that started from the North gate of the mosque, and proceeded for half a kilometer before being suspended in front of Dainik Bangla intersection.
The demands being placed by Hefajat include, the withdrawal of the officer-in-charge of Hathazari Police Station, a promise that no cases will be lodged against the students, and assurance that the police who fired at the Hefajat supporters will be brought to justice.
In addition, at Malibagh yesterday, a bus was set on fire, and a car and CNG-run auto-rickshaws were vandalised.
In Sylhet, police detained 14 Islami Chhatra Shibir men during a rally protesting the deaths of those who were protesting Modi's Bangladesh visit.
The activists of Shibir, a pro-Jamaat-e-Islami student body, gathered and started a rally at Sylhet city's Nayasarak area yesterday afternoon.
When policemen reached the spot, the activists started throwing stones at the law enforcers, who charged truncheons to disperse the attackers, said Ajbahar Ali Sheikh, deputy commissioner (north) of Sylhet Metropolitan Police (SMP).
Police also seized 15 motorcycles from the spot along with some other materials meant for vandalism, he said, adding that legal steps was being taken in this regard.