Hassle for home-goers
Hundreds of city dwellers were left stranded on streets yesterday after pro-hartal pickets vandalised several buses forcing many of them to stay put in their garage.
At least seven buses and two other vehicles were torched in Dhaka on the eve of the BNP-Jamaat's 36-hour countrywide hartal. Pickets also ransacked several vehicles.
With buses becoming more scarce, people were seen waiting for hours at intersections.
Tofazzal Hossain, officer-in-charge of Motijheel Police Station, said a group of youths set fire to a staff bus of Bangladesh Bank near Culvert Road around 1:30pm while pickets set fire to a bus near Shapla Chattar around 2:30pm.
Ramna police said unidentified people set fire to a bus at Shantinagar around 3:35pm.
Four others were torched in Badda, Mirpur and Bakshibazar in the night. An auto rickshaw was set ablaze on Bijoy Sarani around 8:45pm.
No casualties were reported.
Meanwhile, in an unprecedented measure, mobile courts sentenced at least 52 pickets to imprisonment between one and three months for obstructing police in their duty and damaging property in the city.
Additional Deputy Commissioner Masudur Rahman of Dhaka Metropolitan Police said 16 pickets were given three-month imprisonment each in Ramna area.
Thirteen in Adabar, ten in Mohammadpur, and 13 others in Tejgaon, Mirpur, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Rampura, Sabujbagh and Shahbagh were given one month imprisonment.
Dhaka District Deputy Commissioner Mohibul Haque told The Daily Star that executive magistrates led the mobile courts which convicted the hooligans.
Replying to a query, the Dhaka DC said, "The magistrates delivered the verdicts considering the offences and not because of the upcoming hartal."
Hundreds of pickets were also rounded up by police for their alleged involvement in pre-hartal violence.
Top officials of the DC office and the police said the spot conviction of pickets by mobile courts is a new addition.
On Friday, main opposition BNP and its key ally Jamaat-e-Islami called for the hartal demanding continuation of caretaker government system and protesting the recommendations of the parliamentary special committee on constitutional amendment.
Addressing a press briefing at party's central office in the capital, BNP acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir alleged that over 100 opposition men were arrested until yesterday afternoon. He claimed that police started raiding homes of BNP men across the country.
He warned the government of reprisal if it tries to suppress opposition men during hartal.
Inspector General of Police Hassan Mahmood Khandaker told journalists that police have been directed to take tough actions against people creating anarchy during hartal.
Meanwhile, Dhaka Sarak Paribahan Samity in an emergency meeting decided to run buses in the capital and its adjacent areas during the hartal. Leaders of the association in a press release criticised the opposition for calling for another hartal when one was enforced only a week ago.
Joybangla Sangskritik Oikya Jote and Jatiya Rickshaw-Van Sramik League in separate press releases criticised BNP and its allies for putting people into suffering.