At least 50 people were injured as Bangladesh Chhatra League activists and police foiled a cycle procession on Friday protesting against the proposed coal-fired Rampal power plant at Rampal in Bagerhat near the Sunderbans.
Police also detained 12 protesters from the Dhaka University campus and Tejgaon on way to the Central Shaheed Minar to join the procession while the activists of the ruling Awami League-backed student body beat up cyclists at places on the campus and near Dhaka College when they were going to join the rally.
The cycle procession organised by Save Sunderbans was scheduled for 10:00am to start from Central Shaheed Minar to National Press club via at Azimpur, New Market, City College, Jigatala, Mohammadpur, Asad Gate, Manik Mia Avenue, Farmgate, Karwanbazar, Shahbagh, Dhaka University Campus, Curzon Hall and High Court.
Witnesses said that some 150 cyclists reached the Shaheed Minar.
At about 10:00am, some 500 Chhatra League activists, led by its Dhaka University unit president Abid Al Hasan and general secretary Motaher Hossain Prince, cordoned off the Shaheed Minar area so that the protesters against Rampal power plant could not bring out the procession, the witnesses said.
Chhatra League activists were holding pro-Rampal placards, and Abid claimed that they were not Chhatra League activists but general students who support Rampal power plant.
‘We are here to hold a human chain for Rampal power plant,’ he replied to a New Age query.
Several incidents of scuffle between Chhatra League activists and protesters took place from 10:00am to noon, when police stayed nonchalant.
Expressing solidarity with the protesters, National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Recourses, Power and Ports member-secretary Anu Muhammad, joined the pre-procession rally at the Shaheed Minar.
At about noon, the cyclists led by Anu Muhammad moved forward defying the cordon and reached Doyel Chattar on the campus, where police dispersed the protesters using water cannons.
The protesters later held a brief rally in front of the Press Club, where Anu Muhammad condemned the attacks by Chhatra League and police.
Procession coordinator Samanta Shermeen alleged that police and Chhatra League activists chased away the cyclists who wanted to join the procession.
‘They allowed us neither to come out of Shaheed Minar nor to enter the Shaheed Minar premises,’ she alleged.
At a press conference at Topkhana Road in the afternoon, Samanta alleged that Chhatra League activists beat up Dhaka University Islamic history student Hasib Mohammad Ashik. Hasib was rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital with his fractured right hand.
Ramna police zone assistant commissioner Shibli Noman said that police foiled the procession as they did not take permission to march on the road.
‘We did not use offensive water cannon,’ he claimed, adding that two of the protesters were detained.
Samanta alleged that police arrested 10 cyclists at Tejgaon on their way to the procession.
Tejgaon police denied the allegation.
The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Recourses, Power and Ports, in a statement in the evening, condemned the attack on the protesters.
The youths were to express their opinion through the cycle procession against Rampal power plant, but the goons of Chhatra League and police attacked them cowardly, the committee said.