DHAKA - At least three people were killed while scores injured in incidents of violence triggered by Monday’s general strike enforced by the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party which paralysed life across the nation.
The Jamaat-e-Islami declared the latest strike to protest against the death last Friday of four of its activists in police shooting in the southeastern city of Cox’s Bazaar.
In the early hours of the strike which started at 6:00 am local time, incidents of clash, arson, vandalism, chase and counter-chase and detention were reported in parts of capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country.
Thousands of anti-riot police and ruling party men were deployed in the streets of Bangladesh’s capital city. Riot police shot rubber bullets and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse protesters who attempted to block roads and bring out procession along the major city streets disrupting traffic.
The first death was reported Monday morning from capital Dhaka’s downtown Badda area where a man was killed while several others sustained injuries as the mini-bus carrying them overturned after pro-hartal activists chased it.
Another person died and three were injured in Comilla district, some 96 km east of capital Dhaka, as cops opened fire on Jamaat men when the latter attacked them. Jamaat claimed the victim was its activist but a police spokesman was not available for comment.
The third death was reported from Cox’s Bazaar, some 391 km southeast of capital Dhaka. An elderly man died when pro-hartal activists vandalised an ambulance carrying him to hospital.
Scores of people, including protesters and policemen, were also injured in clashes in major cities and towns including Dhaka where traffic on the streets remained thin as most private vehicles were kept indoors.
But most shops, education institutions and other business establishments remained open as the government, the ruling party and the protesters from Shahbag rally which has been continuing since Feb. 5, demanding capital punishment for war criminals, urged all to defy Jamaat’s strike. Police detained dozens of Jamaat men from Dhaka and elsewhere in the country.
Although inter-district buses stayed off the roads, the authorities claimed that operation of trains and flights was usual. The ruling party activists were seen to stage anti-strike procession on many city streets.
After returning to power in January 2009, Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangladesh’s Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the tribunals in March 2010 almost 40 years after 1971 war, allegedly to castigate those committed crimes against humanity during the nine-month war.
Apart from eight Jamaat high-ups, a few leaders of ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party are also facing trials. In an apparent move to try the largest Islamic party, the South Asian country’s parliament Sunday adopted amendment to a law, which President Zillur Rahman signed Monday.
In the wake of a mass movement in Dhaka’s Shahbagh Square, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government brought the amendment to the act.
Mahabubul Alam Hanif, senior ruling party spokesman, Monday said people rejected Jamaat’s strike. “Jamaat can be tried and banned from politics under the amended law if found guilty for war crimes,” he said.
Earlier, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said “the government is looking at options” to ban Jamaat, one of the key demands of Shahbagh rally.
After visiting house of a slain blogger in Dhaka on Saturday, Hasina hinted at backing move to impose a ban on Jamaat and its students wing, saying they have no right to practice politics in Bangladesh as they do not believe in democracy and are engaged in politics of terrorism.
After the parliament adopted the amendment, Jamaat, which denies committing atrocities in 1971, in a statement said such move would put the country into a dreadful anarchic situation. The government had made the decision to wipe out Islamic idealism in the country, it said.