Islamic book shops burnt
Hefajat-e Islam activists, teamed up with Jamaat-Shibir men, set ablaze dozens of shops selling Islamic books -- among many other makeshift stalls -- on footpaths around Baitul Mukarram Mosque yesterday evening.
"They are enemies of Allah! They are enemies of the Prophet! How can they set the Holy Qur'an on fire?" cried a bookshop owner trying to douse the blaze after the attackers left the scene.
The attackers set fire to everything they could by the roadside between Purana Paltan intersection and Dainik Bangla intersection. They put up concrete obstructions to bar the law enforcers from reaching the scene.
Firefighters, with the help of the police, brought the flames under control around 9:00pm, when shop owners frantically rushed back to salvage the remains of their livelihoods.
Police, taking position at Purana Paltan intersection, repeatedly fired rubber bullets as the demonstrators attempted to advance and attack them.
Even though the vendors were frightened, they remained there to save their belongings -- despite whatever consequences might have befallen them.
"I will not leave my shop even if I am shot dead," said Abdul Moin, who was selling T-shirts at the entry point of the north side of the mosque. His business has been well enough to run his family for the past 17 years, and the shop contained goods worth around Tk 1 lakh.
"The shop is my only resort. My family depends on it. Everything will be finished if it is set on fire," he said in a choked voice.
More than one hundred vendors like Moin were desperately trying to save their sole belongings from the onslaught of violence.
Shafique, a bags vendor, repeatedly requested the Hefajat men not to damage his shop.
"It is my only livelihood. Hurt me but please spare my stall," he pleaded a group of Hefajat men attacking his shop. They took his wooden stools and torched them.
Just after the clash, the attackers went berserk and torched more than 30 vehicles. They turned more violent in the evening as they vandalised, torched and pillaged the roadside stalls from Paltan to Dainik Bangla, Bijoynagar to Nightingale Mor and GPO to Stadium Market areas.