December 10 rally: Govt, BNP at odds over venue
"The government to take tough actions if the party holds its rally at Nayapaltan with the aim of creating chaos."
The government and the BNP appear to be on a collision course over the venue of the latter's much-talked about December 10 Dhaka rally as neither would budge on its stance.
The opposition party has been insisting it would hold the rally in front of its headquarters at Nayapaltan at any cost while the government and law enforcers have been saying the BNP would not be allowed to hold the rally anywhere but Suhrawardy Udyan.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police yesterday gave the BNP permission to hold the rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on 26 conditions.
Some of the conditions are no gathering outside the venue; supporters can go to the venue no earlier than two hours before the start of the rally; no sticks and rods can be carried by supporters; no anti-state statements or activities; no processions to join the rally; and no inciteful speech or leaflets.
The DMP said the rally organisers would be held responsible in case of deterioration of law and order.
The BNP, however, is defiant.
"I got a letter from DMP. But we will hold our rally in front of the Nayapaltan office," Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, senior joint secretary general of the party, told The Daily Star.
The BNP has been holding a series of rallies in its organisational cities to protest price hike of essentials and fuel and to press home the demand for its chief Khaleda Zia's permanent release from jail.
The December 10 rally is supposed to wrap up the series.
"We will hold our rally in front of the Nayapaltan office."
The country's politics started emitting heat after some BNP leaders said they would unseat the government on the day of the rally while some Awami League leaders said they would not allow the BNP to hold any rally in Dhaka.
Amid such a situation, a BNP delegation met the DMP commissioner on November 15 and sought permission for a rally in front of its office.
Sources in the police said the law enforcers, not keen on giving permission for the rally at Nayapaltan, asked the BNP for alternative venues.
The BNP then proposed Suhrawardy Udyan and Manik Mia Avenue.
The DMP commissioner rejected Manik Mia Avenue citing the thoroughfare is not used for political rallies anymore and that it is too close to the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban and the Gono Bhaban, the police sources said.
The permission for Suhrawardy Udyan was given following an intelligence report from the Special Branch of police, they added.
WHY SUHRWARDY UDYAN?
The ruling party wants the BNP to hold its rally at Suhrawardy Udyan as the venue is fenced and there would be no escape for BNP men if they get involved in any untoward incident, party sources said.
The AL also thinks the BNP can fill the Nayapaltan venue with just 50,000 people and then boast about overflowing crowds. It will be a lot more difficult to fill Suhrawardy Udyan and the AL thinks it will give the ruling party the opportunity to say afterwards that the BNP does not have the public support.
Law enforcement sources said that if a rally at Nayapaltan had more than 50,000 people, it would spill over to adjacent Motijheel, Rajarbagh and Arambagh areas, which would be impossible for police to police.
"The BNP will have to abide by the rule of the land. As the party has been given permission for Suhrawardy Udyan, police will not allow it to hold the rally anywhere else in the city," DMP Commissioner Khandker Golam Faruq told The Daily Star.
Talking to reporters at his Secretariat office, Information and Broadcasting Minister Hasan Mahmud yesterday said the government would take tough actions if the party holds its rally at Nayapaltan with the aim of creating chaos.
"The BNP is getting Suhrawardy Udyan to hold its public meeting smoothly and without any hassles. Even the conference of Chhatra League has been rescheduled," said Hasan, also joint general secretary of AL.
The BNP discussed the issue at its standing committee meeting on Monday night, and all the members opined for negotiations with the government to hold the rally at Nayapaltan.
Party's senior leaders questioned the government's insistence on Suhrawardy Udyan. They said it was a strategy of the government to confine the rally to the park with an ill intension.
A BNP standing committee member, however, said Suhrawardy Udyan was not a large venue to hold such a massive rally as it has many establishments and structures inside.
"There are only two gates for entry and exit. There will be a strong presence of Chhatra League on Dhaka University campus. The BNP men wishing to join the rally will face obstacles at Shahbagh. If a chaotic situation is created, then who will take the responsibility?" he said.
At the standing committee meeting, party leaders said BNP activists feel comfortable in front of the party office. "If a chaotic situation arises, there are many alleys and streets for escape, which are not there at Suhrawardy Udyan," one of them said.
"Firstly, we did not want Suhrawardy Udyan. Secondly and most importantly, no movement can be dictated by a fascist and unelected government," Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, standing committee member of the party, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The meeting also discussed possible public sufferings if the rally was held at Nayapaltan.
The BNP leaders said December 10 is a weekend. "If the streets around Nayapaltan are closed, it will not create any major problems. Rather, Shahbagh and Purana Paltan are more busy and important areas."
According to the police, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has instructed them not to "hit" BNP leaders and activists, and AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader asked AL and pro-AL men not to go for any confrontation with the BNP.
Hasina, also AL president, during a meeting with her party colleagues on Sunday directed them to ensure that no transport strike is called ahead of the rally and that there are no obstacles to holding the rally.
AL insiders, however, said its city unit leaders will be in their areas to prevent any unwanted incident.
BNP policymakers believed that whatever the government is saying is nothing but an eyewash. Rather, the government will do everything to stop people from joining the rally.
Regarding the preparations, a high official of DMP, told this newspaper yesterday, "The venue will be totally cordoned-off by police in plainclothes and in uniform. There will be a special deployment throughout the capital."
The dog squad and the SWAT team will be on standby, the official added.