• Tuesday, Sep 28, 2021
  • Last Update : 07:03 pm

Tejgaon turns into a battlefield as apparel workers clash with cops

  • Published at 02:50 pm March 16th, 2021
Clash garment workers police Dhaka
A clash takes place between garment workers and police in the Tejgaon area of Dhaka on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 Dhaka Tribune

Nine people, including a policeman, shot as lawmen fire rubber bullets, tear gas shells

At least nine people, including a law enforcer, have been shot and injured in a series of clashes between workers of two factories owned by Patriot Group and police in Dhaka’s Tejgaon area. However, none of them are in a critical state.

The situation arose when the policemen started to disperse the workers who had taken to the streets demanding “arrears of four months” and protesting sudden layoffs at their workplaces--Apparel Stitch Limited and Stitchwell Designs Ltd-- on Tuesday morning.

A clash takes place between garment workers and police in the Tejgaon area of Dhaka on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 | Dhaka Tribune

However, the group’s high officials said they had cleared all payments whatsoever before being forced to shut down both factories due to a huge loss of around Tk100 crore, which they did in line with the relevant law. 

Interestingly, workers from some nearby apparel factories also joined the clashes, eventually causing a massive gridlock on the roads linking the Tibet intersection to parts of the city. 

Like every day, some 1,200 Patriot Group workers went to the two factories housed in the same building, around 8am, only to find its main entrance shut, claimed some of the injured workers, who were rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). 

As they tried to get access there, the factory authorities did not let them in, saying that the factories were closed due to growing losses, they claimed. 

But the workers started to protest the decision and thus took to the streets and blocked the road in front of the building, which is situated before the road that connects two major intersections of the capital, Mohakhali and Tejgaon Satrastar Matha. 

A policeman becomes injured during a clash with garment workers in the Tejgaon area of Dhaka on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 | Dhaka Tribune

As the day progressed, the protests turned violent, with police entering the scene, asking them to remove the blockade. Determined not to retreat from their stance, the workers vowed to continue their demonstrations until they were paid their “due salaries of four months” and the factories resumed operation.

At one stage, police went into action, triggering a series of chase and counter chase, with both sides going after each other.  

The series of clashes put traffic on the road to a grinding halt until the situation was brought under control around 3pm, police said.

Tejgaon Industrial Area police station duty officer Mosammat Aklima said the situation had eased around 3pm, helping restore vehicular movement through the road.

Police disperse apparel workers by baton-charging during their demonstrations in the Tejgaon area of Dhaka on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 | Dhaka Tribune

DMCH police outpost in-charge Sub-Inspector Bachchu Mia said all the injured were taken there with bullet wounds.

“Shotgun bullets are found in the workers’ body and the policeman was hit by a rubber bullet in his hand,” he said. 

Dhaka Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner (Tejgaon division) Mohammad Harun-Ur-Rashid said the workers had blocked the road, triggering a traffic jam in the area.

Police requested them to leave the spot, but they did not pay heed to the call, causing the law enforcers to chase them to clear the road, the police official added.

Authorities’ take

When contacted, Md Iqbal Hossain, managing director of both factories, claimed that the factories no longer owed the workers any payment as the latter had already been paid the salary of February.

“We shut down the factories on March 10 under Section 120 of the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 and upon paying the due salary of February on Monday,” he said.

“There is no negligence in paying their salaries and wages. The situation is out of my control  due to skyrocketing losses,” he said.

“We were denied a payment of $3 million last year, totalling our losses at more than $11.80 million. Also, the Covid-19 pandemic weighed on the situation,” he said.

The workers, he said, had received their salary of February without any chaos on Monday and then returned home peacefully.  

“But from this morning (on Tuesday), they started to gather in front of the factory premises, demanding salary of four additional months by citing termination without prior notice,” he said, hinting that they had been instigated to do so. 

“I did not sack anyone; I just shut down the factories after paying them as per the law. The law enforcers are very much convinced about that as well,” he continued. 

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