RMG Workers’ Demo: Two killed as violence erupts
A garment worker was killed after Gazipur Industrial Police personnel allegedly shot him from close range as RMG workers and law enforcers clashed in Gazipur and Ashulia yesterday.
During the clashes, fire broke out in ABM Fashion Ltd and Echotex Ltd in Gazipur and firemen recovered the charred body of an unidentified man from ABM Fashion factory yesterday evening.
Another worker suffered critical injuries after being shot in the head allegedly by Ashulia Industrial Police personnel.
It was the seven consecutive days of demonstrations by readymade garment workers demanding a minimum salary of Tk 23,000.
Rasel Hawlader, 26, of Jhalakathi was an electrician at Design Express Ltd in Gazipur and lived in a dorm in Bason area.
Abu Sufian, Rasel's colleague and roommate, said they were returning to their dorm after the factory was closed due to the demonstrations.
He said around 11:30am when they were in Maleker Bari area, they saw police firing at protesters. Police shot Rasel there, he said.
Rasel was rushed to a local hospital in Gazipur and later moved to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where doctors declared him dead around 3:30pm, said Inspector Bachchu Mia, in-charge of the DMCH police outpost.
He had countless pellet injuries on the right side of the chest, Sufian said.
Khandaker Mukhlesur Rahman Apu, commercial manager at the factory where Rasel worked, said, "Workers of several garment factories of the area were agitating for a hike in minimum wage so we closed our factory for the day and let the workers go. Rasel was going home when he was hit with pellets in his right arm. The police then caught him and shot him in the chest. He kept saying that he was not a protester and that he was a staffer of the factory, but they did not listen."
Agitating workers blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Tangail highways at different points in Gazipur.
They torched a pickup truck that was being used by the police near the Bhogra Bypass, which closed the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway to traffic for two hours.
Mosharraf Hossain, additional superintendent of industrial police in Gazipur, said the workers' protest began around 10:00am and they resorted to vandalism at places.
Police responded with teargas shells, rubber bullets, and spraying water from cannons, he said, adding that he did not know how Rasel died.
A platform of nine workers' rights bodies called "Mojuri Briddhite Garment Shramik Andolon" issued a statement decrying the killing of Rasel.
"Under such circumstances, it is in no way logical for the police to use rubber bullets on workers," said the statement.
In Ashulia, Nazrul Islam, 35, an employee of Envoy Fashion in Jamgara, was hit in the head with rubber bullets when he was crossing a road, said his coworker Md Hashem.
He said their factory was closed in the morning as workers of nearby factories were demonstrating.
"While crossing the road, Nazrul was hit in the head by the police's rubber bullets," he said.
Bachchu Mia said Nazrul was in critical condition at DMCH.
The clashes between RMG workers and law enforcers left 30 people, including two police personnel, injured in Ashulia industrial area yesterday.
Locals said around 7:30am, thousands of workers began demonstrating in Jamgara area, blocking the Tongi-Ashulia-EPZ road.
When the industrial police showed up to drive the workers away, they were pelted with brick chunks and the police responded with teargas canisters, rubber bullets, and water cannons, claimed witnesses.
The clash continued until 1:30pm. A total of 25 injured were treated at Ashulia Women and Children Hospital. Five had rubber bullet injuries.
Several workers told The Daily Star that they were demonstrating peacefully, but the industrial police swooped on them.
Sarwar Alam, superintendent of Ashulia Industrial Police-1, claimed that they did not use rubber bullets.
When the police attempted to remove the roadblocks, the workers threw brick chunks at law enforcers. A chase and counter-chase ensued between the workers and police personnel, he said.
Several workers also said a number of youths wielding cleavers beat up protesting workers at Padmar Mor when the workers took to the streets.
Mahmud Naser Johnny, additional superintendent of Ashulia Industrial Police-1 who was at Padmar Mor, told this newspaper that the workers of Dird Group factory, which is closed, gathered in front of the factory demanding arrears and vandalised nearby factories.
Dird Washing Ltd laid off around 300 workers on October 21.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Monnujan Sufian yesterday said the labour unrest was due to a section spreading confusing information regarding the minimum wage for garment workers.
Some now believe that the minimum wage has been set at Tk 10,400, but the fact is it is just the factory owners' proposal, she said.
At a press conference at the Secretariat, she said the wage board, set up to fix the wages, has time until November 30 to announce the minimum salary.
The workers will get their salaries under the new pay structure from January, Sufian said.