BNP sit-ins: Year’s first demo mostly peaceful
The BNP will hold rallies and demonstrate across the country on January 16 to drum up support for its 10-point demand and to protest the government move to hike power price.
The announcement came at the party's sit-in in the capital yesterday.
The programme passed off peacefully in Dhaka though the ruling Awami League leaders and activists took position in different parts of the city.
The four-hour programme, the BNP's first political programme this year, began at 10:00am in Dhaka and at 11:00am elsewhere in the country.
BNP leaders in Faridpur alleged their sit-in was attacked by police and Jubo League and Chhatra League men.
Police, however, said it was the BNP activists who threw brick chunks at them forcing them to retaliate with rubber bullets.
"The Awami League is in power thanks to police and bureaucrats … They are isolated from the people," Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of the party, said at the sit-in at Nayapaltan.
As part of the simultaneous programme led by the BNP, Ganatantra Mancha held a similar programme in front of the Jatiya Press Club, while 12-Party Alliance held one at Bijoy Nagar, Jatiyatabadi Samamona Jote at Purana Paltan, LDP in front of FDC, Ganatantrik Bam Oikya at the east end of Jatiya Press Club, and Gonoforum (Montu) at Arambagh.
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami did not join.
The south lane between Fakirapool and Nightingale intersection was off-limits to traffic as BNP activists swarmed the area. A large number of police personnel were present there with armoured vehicles and water cannons.
Speaking as the chief guest at the Nayapaltan sit-in, Fakhrul alleged that the ruling party activists and law enforcers attacked their peaceful sit-in in Faridpur.
He also called upon people from all walks of life to join their movement to force the "autocratic" government to quit, paving the way for a pro-people government and parliament through an acceptable election.
"Let us move towards that goal. We have to march forward uniting the people to restore our voting rights and democracy. Signs are there that noted citizens of the country are also coming forward," he said.
Fakhrul then announced the programme for January 16.
He said the programme would be observed in cities, districts towns, upazilas, and municipality headquarters.
"People of Bangladesh have woken up," he said.
He claimed that 600 BNP leaders and activists were in Keraniganj jail enduring unbearable sufferings. "One of our activists was killed here [Nayapaltan] on December 7. So far, 15 of our activists have been killed."
BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, who chaired the programme, said the government used to say that the BNP announces programmes to create chaos, but the BNP arranged 10 rallies and subsequently held other programmes peacefully.
"We will also hold all our programmes in the days to come in the same way, together with the people to oust the government," he said thanking the party leaders and activists.
BNP standing committee member Mirza Abbas said the government must go as the people have woken up.
"We don't want to remove this regime. We want to ensure that it falls through a credible election under a caretaker government," he said.
In Faridpur, the sit-in began at Ambika Maidan around 11:00am as per schedule and eyewitnesses said motorbike processions of Chhatra League and Jubo League men went passed the venue around 12:15pm.
The Chhatra League and Jubo League men were carrying sticks, and at some point, a cocktail exploded at the entrance to the venue.
The BNP men chased the Chhatra League and Jubo League men away and hurled brick chunks and sticks.
Witnesses said the BNP men then started throwing brick chips at policemen stationed on the east end of the ground. The police retaliated with rubber bullets.
Around 12:25pm, police stopped a BNP procession near the Government Rajendra College and the BNP men threw brick chunks at the police.
The police dispersed the procession.
BNP central leaders then rushed to the Ambika Maidan for safety but their programme was foiled.
The situation came under control around 1:00pm.
At a press briefing later on, BNP Vice-Chairman Ahmed Azam Khan alleged that the programme was peaceful until 12:30pm "when the supporters of the ruling party men attacked, and BNP leaders and activists resisted them. Later, members of the ruling party joined the police and fired indiscriminately on BNP leaders and workers. Many BNP members were injured"."
Shamim Haque, president of Faridpur Awami League, said, "No one from the Awami League obstructed any programme of the BNP."
Suman Ranjan Sarkar, additional superintendent of police (Sadar Circle), said the BNP was not supposed to bring out any procession. "But they brought out a procession and attacked police personnel. Police fired rubber bullets for safety."