Police on Saturday foiled Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s black flag demonstration in two cities of Dhaka by using water cannon and charging batons on demonstrators.
BNP claimed more than 150 leaders and activists, including joint secretary general Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal and assistant climate secretary Mustafizur Rahman Babul, were arrested and about 230, including organising secretary Fazlul Hoque Milon, were injured in the police action during its black flag demonstration held in front of the party’s central office at Naya Paltan in Dhaka.
BNP senior joint secretary general, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi at a news briefing at the party central office announced that protest programme would be held at thanas in Dhaka city, at district headquarters and metropolitan cities across the country.
The black flag demonstration was announced in protest against denial of police permission for holding the party’s rally at Suhrawardy Udyan or Naya Paltan in Dhaka on Thursday for release of Khaleda from jail.
Centrally the black flag demonstration was scheduled for one hour from 11:00am in front of BNP central office.
The demonstration was also scheduled in thanas of the city.
Witnesses said leaders and activists started to assemble in front of the BNP central office at 9:00am to join the black flag demonstration.
Additional police in plainclothes were deployed in front of the party central office and its surrounding areas, armored personal carrier and water cannon vehicle and prisoner van were placed near BNP central office.
Police started arrest from different points of entry to BNP central office before the black flag demonstration, the party leaders said.
Leaders and activists started the demonstration holding black flags along with some senior leaders including BNP chairperson’s adviser Zainul Abdin Farrooque around 9:30am and chanted slogans for release of Khaleda and against the government.
Around 10:30am police chased the demonstrators inside the party central office and charged batons.
The agitating leaders and activists, including women, came out of the office and held demonstration holding black flags.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was seen arrived at the venue at about 10:40am.
About 10:50am police sprayed coloured water from water cannons to disperse the demonstrators but many were seen continuing demonstration after getting drenched in water.
Even secretary general Fakhrul Islam got wet with the colored water.
Witnesses said at one stage demonstrators threw sandals and shoes and sticks of black flags to police and water cannon vehicles.
Around 11:10am police again chased and charged baton on the demonstrators and pushed them inside the party central office and the party activists locked main collapsible gate of the office. Ultimately BNP’s black flag demonstration was foiled.
Around 12:20pm plain clothes arrested Moazzem Hossain Alal from the front of the party office when he came out after a news briefing.
Mustafizur Rahman Babul was also picked up from the same spot at about 11:15am.
Mirza Fakhrul strongly protested at and condemned the police attacks on the ‘peaceful’ black flag demonstration.
Addressing a news briefing at BNP central office at Nayapaltan at around 12:10pm, he asked the government to stop attack and repression, otherwise the government would have to bear the responsibility.
He categorically said the party’s peaceful programme for democracy and release of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia would continue.
The secretary general alleged that police without any provocation unleashed the attack, charged baton and sprayed coloured water on demonstrators to foil the programme.
The BNP leader also alleged that teargas shells were fired inside the party office as the activists took shelter there from police attack, leaving many of them injured.
Fakhrul, demanded unconditional release of all the party leaders and activists.
Asked for comment, home minister Asaduzzaman reiterated that the government would not hold back BNP from holding any non-violent political programme.
Additional deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Motijheel zone) Shibli Noman told New Age that DMP imposed restriction on holding rally in the capital (since February 6) and that was still in effect.
The BNP had no permission for staging demonstration, he said.
They party activists blocked the road (for their programme) where police dispersed them using water cannons, the police official added.
On February 8, Khaleda Zia was sentenced for five years’ in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
She is being kept at erstwhile Dhaka Central Jail at Nazimuddin Road in the Old Town of Dhaka.
Fakhrul said the ministers were trying to create a confrontational situation through issuing provocation and unleashing such repression.
He said police massively arrested leaders and activists from the programme and dragged them to vehicle, saying police attacked on women leaders and activists in cruel way and male cops arrested the women.
Responding to a question, he said why they should seek police permission when they did not block road, bring out procession and hold rally.
BNP leaders including Moudud Ahmed, Mirza Abbas, Abdul Moyeen Khan, Nazrul Islam Khan, Abdul Awal Mintoo, Zainul Abdin Farrooque, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, among others, were present at the briefing.
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