Second Day of Protest in Baitul Mukarram Area: Violent clashes with cops leave 200 hurt: Shotgun looted by activists found in mosque compound

by Priyo Australia | April 11, 2008 11:33 pm

Hundreds of Islamist activists clashed with police for hours on the second day of violent protests in the city’s Baitul Mukarram National Mosque area yesterday, leaving over 200 people injured.

Police used batons and fired rubber bullets and tear gas shells to break up demonstrations against the recently announced national women development policy in defiance of the state of emergency.

At least 52 policemen and five journalists were among the injured.

Some 17 people were arrested in connection with the clashes. Deputy Commissioner (DC) Mazharul Islam of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Motijheel zone last night said they filed a case accusing over 100 people of assault on police and looting firearms.

An intelligence official requesting not to be named told The Daily Star that they have already identified those inciting violence. “We have suggested that the government take a tough line against them,” he added.

Eyewitnesses said violence broke out at around 1:35pm, minutes after Jum’a prayers when police barred a procession coming from the north gate of the mosque. Incensed, the other members of the radical Islamist outfits who were preparing to join the march began throwing projectiles at the law enforcers.

As chase and counter-chase continued for hours, hundreds of those who went to the mosque for Friday prayers became trapped inside.

At around 3:00pm, some demonstrators caught a policeman cut off from his colleagues and beat him up. They snatched his shotgun and broke it up into pieces, said the media cell of DMP.

Earlier, some 50 people were wounded in Thursday’s fight between the Islamist groups and law enforcers.

Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed announced the National Women Development Policy-2008 on March 8, causing a firestorm of protests among Islamist organisations.

Since then, some radical groups have been claiming that the policy gives equal inheritance rights to men and women, while the government maintained there is no such provision.

In efforts to scotch the discontent, four advisers of the caretaker government on March 27 met Islamic leaders and formed a review committee headed by the acting Khatib of Baitul Mukarram Mosque.

A report by the committee is due by April 16. But some Islamic groups including Ahkam-e-Shariah Hifajat led by Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee, Anti-Quran Law Resistance Committee of Allama Azizul Huq Shaikhul Hadith, Islamic Law Implementation Committee led by Islami Oikya Jote’s Fazlul Huq Amini and Chhatra Jamiat Andolon of Maulana Muhiuddin Ahmed opted not to wait and launched violent street agitation Thursday.

A huge number of students from madrasas across the city took part in the pitched battles with police yesterday. They acted on instructions from their teachers who were staying inside the mosque, said the eyewitnesses.

After around four hours of fighting, areas like Purana Paltan, Dainik Bangla intersection, Bangabandhu Avenue, Gulistan and national stadium were littered with brickbats as smog from tear gas hung heavily over them.

The agitators launched attacks on the police from every corner of Baitul Mukarram and took shelter inside whenever police went on a counter-offensive. They took bricks off under-construction structures on the mosque premises and split those into pieces to hurl at police.

Around 1,500 law enforcers in riot gear struggled all along to control the crowds.

At one stage, rumours spread that three of the protesters were killed, adding fuel to the agitation.

To escape tear gas, both the law enforces and agitators burned carpets of the mosque, woods, furniture of several street side stalls and papers making the air heavier and adding to the sufferings.

The marchers chanted slogans demanding resignation of Women and Children Affairs Adviser Rasheda K Chowdhury and the interim government.

The injured policemen were admitted to Rajarbagh Police Lines Hospital while journalists, pedestrians and protesters received treatment at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) and various private medical facilities.

DMCH sources said 22 madrasa students were admitted there.

Monirul Islam and Hasan Raja of Prothom Alo, Abu Taher Khokon of New Age, and Belal Hossain of Ekushey TV–all photographers–were badly injured.

Of the policemen wounded, condition of inspector Selimuzzaman, Sergeant Israfil, Sub-Inspector Kamrul, and constables Belayet, Enamul, Emdad, Kamrul, Monir, Kabir, Shafique, and Sarwar was stated critical, according to the DMP media cell.

An official of the cell told The Daily Star last night that during the clashes, police shot 312 tear gas shells and 243 rounds of rubber bullets.

DMP (Motijheel) DC Mazharul Islam said, “They attacked first, forcing us to retaliate with baton-charge and tear gas.”

He said at least 35 platoons were engaged to disperse the agitators till 3:30pm.

Meanwhile, Islami Oikya Jote Chairman Fazlul Haque Amini at a press conference at Purana Paltan in the afternoon alleged that police attacked them without provocation.

He claimed that more than 100 of their workers were injured in the clashes.

"We called a rally to drum up support for the anti-Quran rules," he added.

Amini also said, "If our demands are not met, the fire ignited today [yesterday] will spread like wildfire across the country."

Asked about mosaic stones taken off the mosque’s wall, he said he was not aware of it.

Original source daily star[1] | Link posted by Anim Anamika

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