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Dhaka City Polls: Protests intensify demanding reschedule

  • Published at 11:59 pm January 17th, 2020
DU Protest
File photo: Students of Dhaka University observe hunger strike demanding rescheduling of Dhaka city polls, at the base of Raju Memorial on Friday, January 17, 2020 Dhaka Tribune

Quader says won’t oppose if election date changed, Kamal leaves the matter to EC

For the sixth day on the trot, protests continued on Friday seeking the rescheduling of the elections to the Dhaka south and north city as the election day coincides with Saraswati Puja.

On Friday, a platform of Hindu community threatened boycotting the election if the Election Commission (EC) does not reschedule it, while at least 10 Dhaka University (DU) students fell sick during their hunger strike placing the same demand.

Meanwhile, a minister said they would not mind if the election date would be changed, while his another colleague said the matter is only in the hands of the EC. 

Hindu Mohajote calls for refraining from voting 

Leaders of Bangladesh Jatiyo Hindu Mohajote, a platform of the Hindu community, urged their voters not to cast ballots if their demand is not met. If needed, they would consider boycotting the polls, the leaders told a press briefing at the Dhaka Reporters’ Unity.  

"Do not go to the polling stations if you are Hindu. Do not participate in any campaign for the city elections,” said Palash Kanti Dey, executive secretary of the alliance.  

The platform announced that its members would bring out a black-flag procession and offer Saraswati Puja on the street, in front of National Press Club in Dhaka on January 30, if the city polls are not rescheduled. 

Controversy stirred on December 22 last year, when the EC announced the polls schedule, prompting the Hindu community to oppose the decision as the Puja falls on January 29-30. 

The community moved to the High Court, but its petition seeking the polls deferral was rejected, leading to the filing of an appeal with the Appellate Division of the apex court on Thursday.  

Amid the growing protests, the commission on Wednesday said it was determined to hold the polls on January 30 as there was no scope for deferring it.  

The alliance’s Chief Coordinator Shyamal Kumar Roy said: “There is still time for rescheduling the city polls. The commission can shift the date, and hold the elections on any day before January 30.

“We will go for stern protest if the polls date is not changed," he warned.

Echoing Shyamal, human rights activist Mrityunjoy Mondol said it was a matter of great disappointment that the neighbouring country India would celebrate Saraswati Puja while the Bangladeshi Hindu community would be busy casting ballot.

In another development, Jago Hindu Parishad, another platform of the minority group, demonstrated on the Dhaka University campus around 11:30am.

10 DU hunger strikers fall sick 

Al least four of the 10 DU students, who were among 25 fasting unto death at the base of Raju Sculpture since Thursday were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) around 2pm after their condition deteriorated. 

They are Apurba Chakrabarty of Theatre and Performance Studies Department, Orko Shaha of Soil, Water and Environment Department, Sukesh Debnath of Pali and Buddhist Studies Department and Prodip Das, Jagannath Hall Union social service secretary. 

Later, three of them were released after primary treatment. Soon after their release, they joined the protest. 

Confirming the development, Jagannath Hall Union Vice President Utpal Biswas said: ”Only Sukesh is undergoing treatment at DMCH as his condition deteriorated."

Six other students, including Utpal, were administered intravenous saline at the strike venue, he added.

Meanwhile, DU Vice-Chancellor Prof Md Akhtaruzzman met the protesting students around 4:30pm and expressed solidarity with them.

"Their demand is logical, and I urge the commission to reconsider the date for holding the polls," he added.

Two ministers leave the issue to the EC

 Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said the ruling party will not oppose if the EC reschedule the election.

He also suggested the commission to sit with the leaders of the Hindu community to resolve the issue, reports UNB.

 “If the EC thinks about changing the election date, it can do so as it's only their jurisdiction. But the government has nothing to do with it. We’ve also no objection to it,” Quader said while addressing the media at the party president’s Dhanmondi office.

 In another development, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal also echoed Quader’s sentiment. 

 “Holding elections to the two city corporations on the day of Saraswati Puja is an issue of the commission. It’ll take decisions [on polls-related issues],” he told reporters at a program in the capital. 

 BNP's Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) mayoral candidate Ishraque Hossain during his polls campaign at Shanir Akhra said they, too, have no issues if the election is rescheduled. 

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