The beauty of democracy is the existence and prevailing of the dissidents. When a regime becomes more aggressive and violent to subdue the opponents, the democratic state starts to act then as an autocratic rule. Bangladesh is a democratic country which is renowned worldwide for its democratic practice and political coexistence. The constitution of the country also backs the rights of the individual and the party to gather or to hold a procession. Article 37 of the constitution states that, “Every citizen shall have the right to assemble and to participate in public meetings and processions peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of public order health.”
But the democratic norms and practices of the country have become questionable since the incumbent Awami League government has come to the power. The opposition, not very defiant, has struggled to make broad base movement against the government. But the government is rather further aggressive to crush the opposition. The opposition alliances have to wait for getting the police nod to hold a rally. But the nation has faced a unique experience this time as the government uses its all apparatus including law enforcers and the party cadres to create hindrance against the opposition declared program. An unprecedented strike had been declared by the administration on last 12th March, as the opposition declared a mass gathering in the city on that day. The capital Dhaka was made disconnected from the rest part of the country as the government suspended all the naval and road transportation. The situation was so severe that even I had struggled a lot to come to my office from my home, which is just located in the other part of the capital.
As the government is branding the opposition as terrorist forces, so making a u-turn, the leader of the opposition and former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia has declared ‘March to Dhaka’ program on 29th December. The announcement of such a program soothed the people as they wanted to get rid of non-stop blockade and strike of the opposition. But that desire of the people have put at a stake once again as the government is adopting the same policy of hindrance this time as well. Furthermore, they are more aggressive in comparison to 12th March to foil the opposition declared demonstration and gathering program.
Transport services on many roads suspended ahead of BNP rally
Communications of the capital with several districts remained snapped since Friday morning as bus and launch services have been suspended “fearing violence” ahead of the opposition’s March for Democracy towards Dhaka scheduled to be staged on Sunday.
BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia announced the program on December 24 calling upon people from all walks of life to march towards Dhaka carrying the national flag to press home their demands for having the next national election under a non-party neutral administration.
Pro-Awami League owners and workers suspended the operation of buses and launches on several routes while many others were ‘forced’ to stop the services.
In Rajshahi, transport workers loyal to the ruling party on Friday called a strike on Rajshahi-Dhaka route until Sunday for ‘security reasons’.
District Motor Workers’ Union enforced the strike at 5pm Friday and it will end on Sunday evening.
Bus services of Barisal and other parts of the region were also stopped in the morning.
Aftab Hossain, president of Barisal Bus Owners’ Association, said the operation of Dhaka-bound passenger buses from Barisal and other parts of the region were suspended at 11:30 fearing the loss of lives and property through acts of sabotage over the March for Democracy program.
Similar transport strikes have also been enforced on Sylhet-Dhaka, Meherpur-Dhaka, Bagerhat-Dhaka, Pirojpur-Dhaka, Bhola-Dhaka routes.
Launch services on various river routes, including Bhola-Sadarghat, Fularhat (Pirojpur)-Sadarghat and Barisal-Sadarghat, also remained snapped.
330 persons held Saturday
The joint forces, comprised of the police, the Rapid Action Battalion and the Border Guard Bangladesh, picked up at least 330 men from the capital's Tejgaon area, Dhaka-bound trains and two districts on Saturday, police said.
The detention came just a day ahead of the BNP-led alliance’s ‘march for democracy’ toward Dhaka to join a rally Sunday.
In capital, the joint forces held 162 people during their overnight drives carried out at different residences, boarding houses and messes at Tejgaon area, police said. Among the detained, there were listed criminals, police claimed and added that they were investigating, whether any innocent persons were in their custody.
No charge has been formed in this regard till writing the report at 1.15pm, police said.
The joint forces operation continued across the country on Saturday amid army patrol to assist the law enforcement agencies to hold the national elections, scheduled for January 5, said Monirul Islam, joint commissioner of Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Meanwhile, during a special drive, the police also arrested 62 people that included 21 BNP-Jamaat men in Jessore. Golam Rasul, the amir of Jessore town unit of Jamaat-e-Islami was one of them.
Talking to the media, Reshma Sharmin, an assistant superintendent of police in Jessore, admitted that the police did arrest some 62 people in overnight drives Saturday.
‘The arrested persons include 5 BNP, 8 Jamaat-e-Islami and 8 Islami Chhatra Shibir men’, she added.
Syed Saberul Haque Sabu, general secretary, Jessore district unit BNP termed the arrest as undemocratic saying that the government wanted to create panic among the 18-party men ahead of the ‘march for democracy’.
Meanwhile, the law enforcers held more than hundred people on sabotage charges, during their unprecedented drive in two trains at Ghatail Railway Station in Tangail Saturday morning, police said.
Police stormed the ‘Padma Express’, a Dhaka bound train that departed Rajshahi and ‘Nil Sagar Express’, another Dhaka bound train, originated in Nilphamari. Sagar Ali, an official of Ghatail Railway Station said police raided the trains as both the trains reached there between 8:00 and 10:00 am.
Later, those trains returned to the respective stations from where they had started following an unspecified order of high command. Those trains left the station empty, he added.
Officer-in-charge of Tangail Sadar Model Police Station Nazrul Islam said they are quizzing the detained.
Meanwhile, the authority of Tangail New Bus Terminal closed operations of all intercity buses this morning.
In another drive by the joint forces, six leaders and activists of BNP-Jamaat from different parts of Lakshmipur were held.
Lokman Hossain, officer-in-charge (investigation) of Sadar Police Station said they were nabbed on sabotage charges.
Railway authorities cancels Dhaka-bound train schedules
Train operation on the Dhaka-Rajshahi and Dhaka-Sylhet routes was suspended on Saturday on the eve of the opposition’s ‘March towards Dhaka’ program.
In Sylhet, train plying on the Dhaka-Sylhet route was halted as the railway authorities cancelled the train schedule.
Railway sources said the train service on the Dhaka-Sylhet route was suspended as movement of the Dhaka-bound ‘Upoban Express’ was stopped due to schedule disaster.
Sylhet Railway Station Master Mahibur Rahman confirmed the matter.
In Rajshahi, train service on the Dhaka-Rajshahi route was suspended due to technical glitch and schedule disaster.
Rajshahi Rail Station Superintendent Abdul Karim said plying of all scheduled trains on the Dhaka-Rajshahi route was halted as Dhaka-bound ‘Dhumketu Express’ scheduled to start at 7:00 am from Rajshahi was yet to arrive in the station.
Besides, movement of the ‘Padma Express’ train remained suspended due to technical fault in its engine.
However, train communication between other districts of the country was normal.
24 held in Sadarghat launch terminal
Police arrested 24 people from a number of launches coming from different districts at Sadarghat launch terminal in the capital on Saturday ahead of the 'March for Democracy.'
Sources said four vessels–one from Bhola and three from Chandpur–reached the launch terminal in the morning.
Police arrested seven people from ‘MV Srinagar’ launch from Bhola, and four from ‘Moyuri-2’, five from ‘Imam Hasan-2’ and eight from ‘Eagle-2’ launch which came from Chandpur.
Identities of the arrestees could not be known immediately.
When connected, Shadiul Islam, sub-inspector of Kotwali Police Station, said police arrested eight on suspicion of destructive activities.
City commuters suffer for lack of vehicles ahead of BNP rally
Most buses stayed off the streets in the city on Saturday ahead of the opposition’s much-hyped ‘March for Democracy’ program adding to the woes of the commuters, reported UNB.
The commuters, including office-goers and students, were seen waiting for busses at city bus stops to reach their destinations but the number of vehicles was much less than the other normal days.
Rickshaws, human-haulers, CNG-run auto-rickshaws and battery-run three-wheelers were dominating the city streets.
Some people were also seen going to their destinations in rickshaw-vans while many more on foot.
Meanwhile, communications of the capital with several districts remained snapped since Friday morning as bus and launch services have been suspended “fearing violence” ahead of the opposition’s March for Democracy towards Dhaka, scheduled for Sunday.
Men fleeing from Nilfamari to avoid arrest
In Nilfamari, a northern district of Bangladesh, mass people including day laborers and wage-earners are getting arrested. Panicked men across the district are running away to avoid getting arrested by the joint forces who have picked up 52 people in the last 10 days.
These people have been arrested in connection to a lawsuit following the death of 5 including 4 AL supporters during a clash between police-AL activists and 18 party alliance supporters. However, it is alleged that most of them are commoners who earn their bread by manual labor. Opposition supporters as well as the mass people are panic-stricken as the joint forces have been conducting drives in different areas of the district almost every night. On the other hand, some opposition supporters along with non-partisan people in Ramganj and Tupamari areas of the district are attending AL activities to avoid getting arrested.
According to sources, at the very night of December 14’s clash; police filed a lawsuit mentioning 14 opposition men and another 1500 anonymous people. Since then, the joint forces have been conducting the arrest drives and picking up indiscriminately almost anyone from anywhere in connection to this lawsuit.
Among the arrested people so far, there are working commoners, shopkeepers and Madrasah students. The drives are especially rigorous in areas populated mostly by Jamaat supporters. Areas noted for their support for Jamaat are devoid of men as they are running away from getting arrested. Among these are Panchapukur, Kachukata and Tupamari unions of Sadar Upozilla, Khutamara, Meerganj, Shimulbari, Golmunda, Golna, Kathali, Dharmapal and Koimari unions of Jaldhaka Upozilla.
On physical visit, these areas have been found almost devoid of male inhabitants. The women left behind are utterly scared. Some people from Ramganj informed that for the fear of ruling party men it is dangerous to come out even in daylight.
Anyone found in the areas is labeled as Jamaat-Shibir men, beaten and then handed over to police. They also informed that at noon on December 22, Jubo League activists severely beat Abu Saeed, an electronics shop owner at Ramganj bazaar, Mainul Islam, a grocer, Aijul, a cloth store owner, Majibar, a hardware shop owner and Mofajjal Hossain, a shopper, and detained them. Afterwards, they handed them over to police as Jamaat-Shibir supporters.
Besides, on December 21, the joint forces arrested 3 people including a madrasah student. On December 23, they arrested 21 people from different areas. As many as 15 of them are not involved with any political party, inform the local inhabitants. Moreover, a dry fish seller, a shopkeeper and a drug store owner have been arrested from Baraipara area of the district town.
The district chief of Jamaat alleged that most of the people arrested so far are non-partisan commoners. He said that mostly commoners are getting arrested as opposition supporters have gone underground. A reign of terror prevails across the district.
Again, some people scared of getting arrested joined a human chain arranged by AL protesting the December 14’s incident. Some BNP activists willing to remain unnamed informed that they had been threatened to be arrested unless they joined the human chain. This has been confirmed by the district coordinator of BNP although he claimed that they were just some activists not anyone significant. However, he informed that appropriate action would be taken against them after preparing a list of the participants in the program.
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