New Market clashes: Police role questioned
The clash in the New Market area began around 11:30pm on April 18 following an argument between staffers of two fast food shops. It ended around 3:45am the next day after hours of massive police intervention that left a student badly injured.
The clash resumed around 11:00am, when the students tried to stop the shopkeepers from opening their shops. This time there was no police presence, witnesses told The Daily Star.
In the next two hours, the clash spread to Chandrima Super Market area amid hardly any police move. The students and shopkeepers got locked into pitched battles using local weapons like sticks, iron rods and machetes.
Around 12:54pm, Nahid, a courier service deliveryman came under a brutal attack in front of Nur Jahan Super Market, and passed away at night. Morsalin, an injured shop employee, died two days later.
Police came back to the New Market intersection after 1:00pm on April 19. A team took position near New Market and another at Chandrmia Super Market.
For the next two hours, police first tried to disperse the students firing tear shells. But the situation did not improve as the shopkeepers standing beside police were throwing brick chips at students.
Finally, after 2:45pm, police shifted their target to shopkeepers and dispersed them from the scene by charging batons, locals and eyewitnesses said.
The whole area, from Chandrima Super Market to New Market intersection, went under police control after 4:00pm and the clash came to an end.
The witnesses said had police discharged duties properly and professionally, the situation might not have turned so violent. The cops most of the time tried to stop the students, not the shopkeepers, they added.
Asked about the allegation, a high official of Ramna Division of police said they sent two patrol teams with around seven to eight policemen within 15 minutes on information that some students attacked the gate No 4 of New Market around 11:30pm on April 18.
They managed to control the situation but some shopkeepers threw bricks at the students inside the market. Then hundreds of students started coming out of the college and some of them attacked the gold market, officials told The Daily Star.
It was around 12:45am on April 18 when police first fired tear shells to stop the students from attacking the gold market. It was actually the beginning of a bigger clash, they added.
"We were tough and dispersed students by firing tear shells at night. In the morning [of April 19], we first observed the situation and then took action. Students across the country could join the protest if we had tried to stop Dhaka college students in the morning," one official explained.
Contacted, Sazzadur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Raman division of police, said they first observed the situation and took action "as per our strategy".
Police "strategy" for crime or violence in the area is however frequently questioned, with a very influential ruling party leader being singled out as patron of culprits in off-the-record discussions with traders, students and police.