They resorted to violence, intimidation | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 28, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:21 AM, January 28, 2021

They resorted to violence, intimidation

Three The Daily Star correspondents visited six centres of the Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) polls, housed in two schools in the port city.

Two were stationed at two centres in Shahidnagar City Corporation Girls' High School from 8:00am to 3:15pm while the other journalist visited four centres at Bakalia Government High School between 8.00am and 3.30pm. The voting ended at 4:00pm.

While on duty, the three DS reporters saw how the polling was marred by sporadic incidents of violence, intimidation and "capture" of centres by ruling Awami League men.

Polling at the Shahidnagar school's two centres in Lalkhan Bazar progressed amid sporadic incidents of violence and chaos.

Besides, widespread irregularities in the voting and gathering by ruling party men in a show of strength cast a sense of intimidation and panic in voters' minds.

One of the two centres was designated for 2,176 female voters while the other was for 4,120 male voters.

Supporters of AL-backed councillor candidate for ward-14 Abul Hasnat Md Belal and the party's rebel councillor candidate for the ward, Abul Fazal Kabir Ahmed, locked in a clash outside the centres immediately after the voting opened at 8:00am.

Wielding sticks and iron rods, supporters of the two groups clashed, with pauses, till around 2:00pm. They also threw brick chips at each other.

At least 15 people were injured in the incident.

Apart from this, ruling party men, around 10:00am, swooped with sticks and brickbats on the supporters of Monuara Begum Moni, a BNP-supported female councillor candidate from the reserved seat for women.

Moni's supporters launched a counter attack around 10:30am, leading to a clash, which continued till 1:30pm.

At least 10 people were injured in the incident.

Around noon, AL supporters attacked Moni's house and election office, which was near the voting centres, she told The Daily Star. This newspaper, however, could not verify this claim.

Moni, who has been elected a councillor thrice, sat in front of the polling centres in protest from 1:45pm to 3:00pm, flanked by her supporters and in the presence of law enforcers. She announced a polls boycott around 2:00pm.

Talking to The Daily Star, at least 10 voters at the two centres, housed in the school, alleged that their votes were cast by AL men.

The correspondent, who was stationed at the centres till 3:15pm, too found many AL men casting votes themselves in the name of helping the original voters.

Asked, Bashir Hossain, presiding officer of the polling centre for women, said he was not aware of such polls irregularities and that nobody informed him about it.

The DS reporter was barred from entering the polling booths multiple times by AL men, who were roaming inside.

Shahin Akther, a supporter of AF Kabir Manik, an independent candidate in the same ward, alleged that they were barred from entering the polling centres.

Amid the sporadic clashes, voter turnout was very thin at the two centres.

At the female voting centre, only 99 out of 2,176 votes were cast till 3:00pm.

BAKALIA GOVERNMENT HIGH SCHOOL

The polling atmosphere at Bakalia Government High School was almost peaceful since the four centres there had been "captured" by ruling party men even before the voting kicked off, according to the DS reporter stationed there.

The centres had a total of 10,536 voters.

The ruling party men drove out all the polling agents of the BNP-nominated mayoral candidate Dr Shahadat Hossain as well as of a BNP-supported ward councillor candidate AKM Ariful Islam Duke.

As the polling formally started at 8:00am, over one hundred AL men adorned with badges of the AL-supported councillor candidate Shahidul Alam stood in a queue obstructing entrance of other voters.

AL men were seen gathering in and around the centres, guiding voters to the polling booths and even entering the secret voting rooms along with the voters in violation of the electoral rules.

In many cases, the ruling party men themselves pressed the EVM button and cast votes for the candidates of their choice, depriving the voters of exercising the right, the voters told The Daily Star.

A housewife, who came along with her baby girl, said, "When I entered the secret polling room, a group of youths came from nowhere and forced me into pressing a button."

Until 3.30pm, only 627 votes out of the total 5,147 were cast at the two centres for male voters. Only 215 votes were cast at the two centres for female voters against a total number of 5,389 voters. 

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