More than 50 people, including two journalists, were injured as police attacked pickets, fired teargas shells and rubber bullets, sprayed hot water using water cannon and charged baton during the half-day general strike in the capital on Thursday.
Two journalists of private television channel ATN News were injured as police tortured them while they were performing their professional duty. They were later rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
At least five activists were picked up by Shahbagh police during the general strike sponsored by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports for 7-point demands, including, the cancellation of coal-based Rampal power plant near the Sunderbans.
Traffic movement on a number of city roads was thinner than the normal days.
At the beginning of the hartal hours at 6:00am, anti-Rampal campaigners brought out processions at different points of the city including Purana Paltan, Shahbagh, Bahadur Shah Park, Jatrabari, Khilgaon, Shantinagar, Azimpur, Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur and Mirpur areas.
Progressive Students’ Alliance, a combine of left leaning student organisations, brought out a procession from TSC area of Dhaka University at about 6:15am and tried to advance towards Shahbagh intersection after parading the campus. A huge contingent of police, deployed at Shahbagh, fired tear shells to disperse them.
Police also sprayed hot water at the protesters from a water canon near Public Library at Shahbagh at about 6:30am.
Protesters fanned out to the campus as white clouds of tear gas wafted between the TSC and Shahbagh.
Within few minutes, the protesters got reorganised and retaliated the police by throwing brick bats, triggering clashes with the police, witnesses said.
They said that police fired rubber bullets at the protesters during attacks since 9:30am.
More than 50 protesters, including student leaders Lucky Akhter, Zilani Shuvo, Nasir Uddin, Kibria Hossain, Umme Habiba Benozir, Kakon Biswas, Laboni Mondol,
Shakharov Hossain, were injured in police attacks, according to the students’ alliance coordinator Iqbal Kabir.
He said that at least 20 of the injured were rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
The student leader said that five protesters – Mizanur Rahman, Hasib Mohammad Ashiq, Mahatab and singers Ziaur Jewel and Topu – were picked up by Shahbagh police during the general strike.
Shahbagh police station Officer-in-Charge Abu Bokor Siddique admitted that they fired 70 tear gas shells to disperse the protestors. ‘The protesters tried to block Shahbagh crossing. We asked them to withdraw but they paid no heed to our words.’
Later at a protest rally, Pragitisheel Chhatra Jote coordinator Iqbal Kabir called strike at all educational institutions in Dhaka for January 30. He also announced that they would hold protest rallies at all educational institutions across the country on January 30.
No untoward incident was, however, reported from other parts of the city.
Central leaders of the national committee blocked road at Paltan at about around 10:15am and demonstrated against Rampal power plant.
Later, a rally was held in front of the National Press Club at about noon where national committee member secretary Anu Muhammad announced countrywide protests for January 28 protesting at the police attacks.
He said that the committee would block highways across the country on February 25.
On March 11, a grand rally will be held in Khulna city where people from coastal districts will participate to press home the seven-point demands, Anu announced.
He thanked Dhaka city dwellers for their support to anti-Rampal campaign.
Political leaders including Khalequzzaman, Syed Abu Zafar Ahmed, Tipu Biswas, Moshrefa Mishu, Saiful Haque, Shuvrangshu Chakrabarty, Zonayed Saki, Mosharraf Hossain Nannu, among others, addressed the rally.
Socialist Party of Bangladesh general secretary Khalequzzaman said that the anti-Rampal campaigners were not against development rather they were protesting against corruption in the name of development.
Communist Party of Bangladesh general secretary Syed Abu Zafar Ahmed demanded resignation of the home minister for provoking the police attacks on peaceful demonstration.
Ganasnghati Andolan chief coordinator Zonayed Saki said that the government’s oppressive attitude towards peaceful pickets proved that it had no ethical ground to justify the Rampal power plant.
Reports received from Narayanganj, Khulna, Rajshahi and Chittagong said that the anti-Rampal campaigners held processions and rallies protesting at the police attacks on protesters in Dhaka.
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