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People suffer in besieged city

Police join a ruling party activist in beating up a youth suspecting him to be an opposition activist in the city Monday. Photo: The Daily Star

PEOPLE suffered heavily as police and workers of ruling Awami League and its front organisations are barring them from entering the city with an opposition-sponsored mass rally scheduled to begin in hours.

With hundreds of opposition activists thronging BNP central office for the afternoon rally, reports of clashes and chase-counter chases between the opposition and ruling part activists came from Moghbazar, Matsya Bhaban, Science Laboratory, Segun Bagicha and Elephant Road.

Many city dwellers phoned The Daily Star to inform that activists of AL’s front bodies like Bangladesh Chhatra League, Jubo League and Sromik League were stopping them at different points in the city and warning them not to do join the opposition rally.

Like the hartal days, Monday also saw all shopping malls, most shops and many offices closed.

Pro-AL workers in red shirts did not let passengers to get down at Sadarghat when they reached there in two launches from Shariatpur and Patuakhali. They also beat up boatmen ferrying people in between Sadarghat and Keraniganj.

Our correspondents visiting different parts of the city and areas on the outskirts reported that the police and AL men are only letting some of those carrying their office identity cards to travel to their offices in the city after much requests.

Besides obstruction at different entry points, people are subjected to extensive checking and harassment at watch-posts installed at different points of the city in the name of security.

A man called from Begunbari to say that youths belonging to the ruling party were going door to door and beating up if they found any unknown faces.

A journalist of an English newspaper told The Daily Star that around 20-25 youths stopped him as he came out of his house in Kalabagan and inquired where he was heading towards. “They freed me after questioning for quite some time,” he added.

“Has curfew been slapped on the city?” an NGO worker reacted at Gabtoli after he had managed to convince the police that he does not have any intention to participate in the opposition’s rally.

On January 9, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia from a Chittagong rally announced a mass rally for March 12 to mount pressure on the government to restore the caretaker government system for the next parliamentary election.

The government meantime “vowed to resist any bid by the BNP to create anarchy” in the name of rally and cut off the city from rest of the country so that people cannot join the opposition programme.

The Dhaka dwellers started the day amid fears of violence ahead of the opposition rally.

The bustling capital turned unusually calm with the absence of passenger buses, thin presence of private cars and other vehicles.

Being uncertain what might happen during the day, many people would not go outside their houses, they said on Sunday. Many city hotels and guesthouses remain closed.

Many guardians said they would not send their children to schools Monday though school authorities have not officially closed their schools on this occasion.

Unprecedented highhandedness of the law enforcers and intelligence men caused immense sufferings to people and bred panic and confusion since Sunday.

SADARGHAT

‘Lal Bahini’, pro-AL workers in red shirts, was not letting any launch to anchor since the morning, our correspondent reported.

When MV Redsun-2 and Tarika-7 from Shariatpur and Patuakhali reached Sadarghat around 5:30am, the Red Shirts did not let them anchor at the jetty. The two launches, after passing some time in the river, left Sadarghat to offload the passengers somewhere else.

A bustling Sadarghat wore a barren look following the restriction. A few launches were seen to leave Sadarghat.

Our correspondent reported allegation that the ‘Lal Bahini’ beat 10 boatmen in Keraniganj while they tried to carry people for Sadarghat.

SAVAR

Police restricted all types of vehicles from entering the capital in Savar since the morning.

A police team led by Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, additional superintendent of police of Savar Circle, was seen carrying out search stopping the vehicles.

No passenger buses were seen plying the highway since the morning.

The law enforcers did not allow those not having their official identity cards to enter the city.

Whenever they were seeing any human hauler or CNG-run three-wheelers carrying more than one passenger, police were forcing the passengers out fearing that they are going to join opposition rally.

The police later stopped all types of vehicles including CNG-run three wheelers, private cars and human haulers, causing acute public sufferings.

In some spots, on the outskirts of the city, law enforcers were seen allowing only a person to travel in each vehicle and forcing the others to get off.

On queries, the law enforcers said they suspected that the people might have carried explosives to create anarchy centring the rally.

In Aminbazar, Gabtoli, Mazar Road, Technical Intersection, Darussalam, Kalyanpur, Shyamoli, College Gate, Asad Gate, scenes of frantic ‘search’ were also viewed.

The leaders and activists of ruling AL and its associate organisations also took part in the ‘search’ in Mirpur.

SM Hanif, AL general secretary of Mirpur, was seen to search all the vehicles plying the roads in sections 11 and 12 of Mirpur.

They even stopped the motorcycles and searched their luggage.

When asked, the AL leader said, they came to the street to follow a central committee order of the party and were now helping police in their work.

The ruling party men also brought out a procession in the area around 8:30am in support of their vow to resist the oppositions’ anarchy centring the rally.

TONGI

Another prime doorway to the capital, Tongi assumed a deserted look as police restricted vehicular movements there.

A heavily manned police check point was set up at Abdullahpur. The law enforcers including riot police were seen to check each and every passenger of vehicles plying the road.

They also searched the bodies of the passengers in the area.

No passenger busses were seen plying on the road till 11:00am when this report was filed.

Only a few pick-up vans and microbuses of different companies, private cars, CNG-run three wheelers and motorbikes were seen to ply in the area.

The office goers were seen to wait for hours for public transport to travel to their destinations mainly Farmgate, Shahbagh, Paltan, Gulistan and Motijheel areas.

Altafur Rahman, a manager of Jibon Bima Corporation, told our correspondent that he decided to return home waiting for vehicles there for over an hour.

“The government has stopped road communications without any official decision or declaring March 12 as a holiday. In this situation what will we do?” he said.

Dr Momena Akhtar, a senior medical officer of Birdem sub-centre in Rampura, who was waiting at the point for over 30 minutes for a vehicle to go to her office said, “I even got vehicles to travel in hartal days. But today I am depriving of this opportunity; even the CNG is not available.”

During his visit, our correspondent found that the law enforcers forced the passengers of two private cars to get off the cars and took them to their custody.

On queries, Parvez, a police sergeant, told The Daily Star that he did not know whey vehicles were seized.

SAYEDABAD

No long-route buses were seen to enter and left the bus terminal.

A few human hauler and CNG-run three wheelers were seen to ply in the area.

KAMALAPUR RAILWAY STATION

The train movements remain quite normal in Kamalapur Railway Station.

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Spectator

I welcome you all to my blog, a place where I share reports, articles and images of events taking place in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world, which I think may be of interest to others. Please drop a few words if you feel like.
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