30 hurt in violence
The eve of today's Bhola-3 parliamentary by-poll was marked by violence in the constituency, while law enforcers barred a group of BNP leaders led by Standing Committee Member Moudud Ahmed from entering the electoral area.
The situation turned volatile yesterday evening as two polling agents of the BNP candidate were hacked, two election offices of the ruling Awami League were ransacked, several shops and houses were looted, and the motorcade of AL Chief Election Coordinator Tofail Ahmed was intercepted in Lalmohan upazila.
A sense of fear was palpable in the whole constituency as attacks and clashes took place at least at 11 places in Lalmohan and Tajumuddin all through the day, injuring about 30 persons.
The two polling agents of the BNP candidate were hacked at Western Para near Lalmohan Bazar by their rivals around 5:00pm. Their appointment letters were also snatched by the attackers.
Protesting the attack, the BNP camp brought out a march, and ransacked several vehicles near BNP candidate Maj (retd) Hafizuddin Ahmed's residence, spreading the tension to adjacent areas.
The protesters ransacked two election camps of AL candidate Nurunnabi Chowdhury Shawon.
Shopkeepers put their shutters down as chase and counter chase between the supporters of BNP candidate and police took place sending bystanders running for cover.
Tofail Ahmed told The Daily Star that the BNP activists stopped his motorcade near Hafiz's residence and threw brickbats at his car.
Jubo Leaue leader Kamrul Islam alleged that the BNP activists attacked and looted his shop at Lalmohan Bazar.
BNP, however, denied the allegations. "Awami League cadres attacked a residence of a BNP activist near Lalmohan Bazar, in which a little boy was injured, and that caused the tension," claimed Joint Convener of Lalmohan upazila BNP Marshal Himu, also a cousin of Hafiz.
Meanwhile at Tajumuddin Bazar two BNP activists were beaten up by rival AL activists in the evening.
In the early hours of the day eight AL activists were injured in an attack by BNP activists at Dalal Bazar in Lalmohan.
Several other people including a woman were wounded in a clash in Phool Bagicha of Lalmohan later in the morning.
Rapid Action Battalion Commanding Officer Lt Col Monirul Haque however told The Daily Star around 8:00pm that the situation was brought under control. "We have deployed the required number of our forces as per the directive of the Election Commission," he said.
AL and BNP blamed each other for the attacks, and for disrupting election environment at the last moment.
Hafiz, also a former minister, accused AL of creating a reign of terror in the constituency.
"About 1,000 cadres and outsiders of Awami League are now roaming around freely in Lalmohan and Tajumuddin terrorising the voters. But my party's central leaders were not allowed to come here," he complained at a media briefing.
Ruling out the allegations, AL's Tofail Ahmed said the by-election will be held in a peaceful atmosphere.
The administration deployed large numbers of police, Rab, and Armed Police Battalion personnel in the constituency. They were seen patrolling the electoral area. Check-posts were also set up at strategic points. An uneasy clam was prevailing in the constituency.
A group of BNP leaders led by Moudud Ahmed were barred by the law enforcers from entering the constituency in the morning. They were intercepted at Kunjerhat.
Rab CO Lt Col Monirul Haque told reporters at Kunjerhat that they were just implementing the EC decision of not allowing any outsider into the constituency during the period of the election.
The BNP leaders later returned to Bhola around 9:30pm.
The chief election commissioner, and leaders of both parties including the two candidates at a meeting on Tuesday decided that no central leader or lawmaker of any political party, and no outsider would be allowed into the constituency past Thursday midnight until the poll is over.
But BNP candidate Hafiz later withdrew his acquiescence with the decision, and urged the commission to allow his party's central leaders into the constituency to observe the election, but the EC rejected the request outright.