Arson: foul play of outsiders | The Daily Star
12:55 AM, December 01, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:55 AM, December 01, 2013

Arson: foul play of outsiders

Local influential people played key role

Friday's fire at Standard Group's factory complex in Gazipur was a clear case of arson by workers from neighbouring factories and some influential locals.
It all started on November 13, when a meeting was held at Baluchar, a neighbourhood near the factory, on how to organise demonstrations for higher wages.
The workers of Standard Group, one of the most compliant companies, stayed away from the meeting. More importantly, it was the only company at Konabari, Gazipur, that continued production during the wave of labour unrest which swept the garment industrial zones on the outskirts of Dhaka city.
It was a demonstration of confidence in their employer on the part of the Standard Group workers, but the workers of nearby factories -- and some influential people of the locality – looked upon it as a breach of worker solidarity. It was unclear, though, why influential sections of people of Konabari got involved in the matter concerning the garment workers of the area.
They even put pressure on the Standard Group workers to join them in their act of rebellion, but in vain. Incensed, they beat up some workers of the Standard Group, just outside the factory premises.
In retaliation, the following day some angry workers of the Standard Group vandalised a number of shops owned by the meddling local influential people opposite the factory.
“That was the beginning of all our troubles. You could say a war broke out after the incident,” Rakibul Hassan, a pattern master at the Standard Group, told The Daily Star. Hassan is one of the 18 that The Daily Star spoke to at length to get to the roots of the matter.
When the situation took a turn for the worse, the management of the Standard Group decided to suspend production at its two units in Konabari from November 17 to November 20.
Production resumed as normal on November 21, according to Hossain Mohammad Ripon, a quality inspector at the factory.
“It was business as usual for us. Looking back, you could say it was the calm before the storm,” he added.
Then, all of a sudden, in the early hours of Friday, a large number of agitated people stormed the factory complex and burnt everything inside to ashes. The attack came on the heels of rumours spread through a loudspeaker at a local mosque that two workers of the Standard Group had been killed by police, said Melal Hossain, another quality inspector.
They had snatched diesel meant for the electric generators of the factory to make the flames spread faster, he said.
At the beginning of the of the attack, the attackers were chanting "action, action … direct action" and "our demands must be met", but oddly they did not mention what their demands were, added Hossain.
Meanwhile, police arrived and blocked the way into the factory. Fire fighters from Kaliakoir and Gazipur rushed to the spot immediately, but they were denied entry into the factory premises, said Kabir Hossain, a fire fighter.
The police dispersed the vigilantes and let the fire fighters in to bring the fire under control.
Mosharraf Hussain, managing director of the Standard Group, however, refuted reports of a clash between his factory's workers and those of neighbouring factories and local people as the reason behind the fire incident.
“There was a clash a few days ago, but it is not the main reason for setting the factory on fire. Some vested quarters and some workers from nearby factories are involved in the incident. Unfortunately, I am the victim of all this,” he said.

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