At least 40 people, including cops, were injured in a series of clashes between the activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal and police in front of the National Press Club after police foiled a protest rally yesterday morning.
Chhatra Dal, the student wing of BNP, was to hold the rally in front of the Press Club at 10:30am to protest the authorities' decision to revoke the gallantry award of late president Ziaur Rahman, and to demand the repeal of the Digital Security Act and an investigation into the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed in custody.
Nearly 500 leaders and activists gathered there but police barred them from taking to the streets, saying the party didn't take any permission to hold the programme.
The clash erupted around 11:00am when a group of Chhatra Dal leaders and activists tried to come out of the press club premises and sat on the road. Police charged baton on them, witnesses said.
Chhatra Dal men then took position inside the press club and hurled brick chips at police, leading to a series of clashes that lasted for about 40 minutes.
At one point, police entered the press club premises to drive them away. Some JCD men then came out of the press club and chased the policemen with sticks and brick chips. They also vandalised a police box in front of press club.
Police were seen firing tear gas shells targeting the press club. They charged baton on any protesters in their path.
During the clashes, there was heavy traffic congestion on the road as vehicular movement was halted for hours.
At least 40 people, including 30 JCD men, eight policemen and a TV cameraperson, were injured in the clashes and took treatment at different hospitals.
Of them, 25, including three policemen, took treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Sheikh Mamun, ATN Bangla senior cameraperson, was injured on his head.
Police detained nine Chhatra Dal men -- two from in front of the press club, two from the emergency unit and five others from outside the emergency unit at the DMCH.
However, Shahnewaz, a joint secretary of JCD, told The Daily Star that 16 of their activists were also detained at Shahbagh, Ramna, Paltan and Motijheel police stations.
"On Saturday, we announced that we would be holding a rally. But coming here in the morning, we saw 300-400 policemen," the JCD leader said.
Eventually, the protest was foiled before it could begin.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was supposed to join the rally. Besides, Dhaka Metropolitan South BNP President Habib-un-Nabi Khan Sohel was present at the spot.
BNP spokesperson Imran Saleh Prince said 30 of their leaders and activists were injured in the clash, claiming some of their activists were missing.
"Our leaders and lawyers were not allowed to enter Shahbagh Police Station to know about the detainees," he said.
BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, at a programme at the press club, condemned the attack on JCD activists and alleged that the government was gagging people's voice using the police.
Sazzadur Rahman, deputy commissioner Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Ramna division), told reporters that the DMP commissioner's permission is needed to hold such programme at any place in Dhaka city but Chhatra Dal did not take any permission.
"They took to the streets with 400-500 activists from inside the press club without permission and attacked the police. Bricks were thrown from inside the press club. Seven to eight policemen were injured in the incident."
He claimed the attack on police was pre-planned.
"Legal action will be taken in this regard. Some people have been taken into custody," he said.
On May 6 last year, RAB arrested Mushtaq, 53, from his Dhaka home for "spreading rumours and carrying out anti-government activities". He took to social media to write about the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sued under the Digital Security Act, he had been in Kashimpur High-Security Jail-3 in Gazipur since August 20.
On Thursday evening, he lost consciousness and was taken to Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College and Hospital, where doctors declared him dead.
PROTEST AT SHAHBAGH
Speakers at a protest rally yesterday demanded a probe into the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed to find out real reasons behind the death.
Besides, they demanded the release of those arrested under the DSA so far and those who were detained during the recent protests against the death of Mushtaq.
The rally was organised under the banner "Jaan O Jobaner Shadhinota Chai, Digital Nirapotta Ain Mani Na" in front of the National Museum in the capital's Shahbagh.
Addressing the rally, Prof Anu Muhammad of Jahangirnagar University alleged the government formulated the act to give protection to corrupt people and looters.
Economist Prof MM Akash said as per information from Mushtaq's wife, the writer had no physical ailment about a week before his death.
It is important to find out the reasons behind his death through a probe, said Akash.