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Voting in Sylhet marred by stray incidents

  • Published at 11:24 pm July 30th, 2018
Law enforcement officials detain a youth following a scuffle between activists of BNP and Awami League in front of Sylhet Government Alia Madrasa polling centre during the Sylhet city polls on Monday, July 30, 2018 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Votes in two out of 134 centres have been cancelled after clashes broke out

The fourth city corporation election in Sylhet, held on Monday, saw a number of stray incidents taking place, and the two key mayoral aspirants making a flurry of complaints.

But the majority of polling centres held votes peacefully. Only in two out of 134 centres, the votes were cancelled after clashes broke out. The centres are Shah Gazi Syed Borhanuddin Madrasa under ward 24 and Habinandi Government Primary School under ward 27.

A crude bomb exploded near the Upashahar High School centre around 1:30pm, said the Presiding Officer Giasuddin. However, no one was injured or detained in the incident.

Police arrested a person after the supporters of two councillor candidates — Jagadish Chandra Das and Eliasur Rahman — engaged in a clash in the Pathhantula Razamia Islamia centre.

Two groups of candidates clashed and pelted brickbats at each other in the city’s Kumarpara area, injuring a magistrate. Confirming the incident, Sylhet Deputy Commissioner Numery Zaman said Magistrate Matiur Rahman was given first aid at a local hospital.

Around 10:30am, four outsiders entered the Railway Colony Government Primary School centre and tried to snatch a ballot box. The presiding officer handed them over to the on-duty policemen.

Law enforcement officials stop a group of youths from stuffing ballots at the Sylhet Railway Government Primary School polling centre during the Sylhet city polls on July 30, 2018 | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

When asked, Sylhet Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner (north) Faisal Mahmud said that voting was held peacefully.

At the Chandu Shah Dakhil Madrasa centre under ward 21, a Union Parishad chairman was found standing in the queue. After newsmen asked him why he was there, Ekhlasur Rahman, the chairman of Jaintapur Union Parishad, fled the centre without responding to the query.

BNP boycotts polls

BNP mayor candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury, in a press briefing immediately after the voting ended, announced that he was boycotting the polls because of rampant election engineering and silence of the Election Commission.

“The commission did not perform its proper duties to ensure a free and fair election,” he said.

“I placed 35 complaints of vote rigging but in vain. These massive irregularities have proved that the EC has no backbone,” he added.

He also alleged that the law enforcement had worked in favour of the ruling party candidate.

Awami League leaders and activists stuffed ballots in the early hours of Monday and forced many of his polling agents and voters out in many centres, Ariful claimed.

Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ehsanul Mahbub Zubair, who was an independent candidate, said around 2pm said they submitted written complaints of vote rigging in at least 50 centres.

However, Awami League mayor candidate Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran had no allegation of vote rigging or any other anomalies. He termed the election a fair one and was ready to accept the polls result.

Women voters in a queue outside Kadamtali Government Primary School during the Sylhet city polls on July 30, 2018 | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Returning Officer Md Alimuzzaman told reporters that the election was held peacefully.

Journos assaulted

Four journalists covering the election were manhandled by the police and political activists in separate incidents.

Supporters of one candidate beat up Bangla daily Prothom Alo’s Shahjalal University Correspondent Misbah Uddin as he entered the Dorgah Gate Government Primary School centre under ward 17 to take pictures of ballot stuffing. They deleted the pictures from Misbah’s camera.

Immediately afterwards, a group of police assaulted Misbah. He was finally rescued by other journalists and hospitalized.

Abdullah Al Bappi, photojournalist of the Daily Naya Diganta, was beaten up by police when he tried to take pictures of vote casting at a centre.

In another incident, two local correspondents of The Daily Star - Dwoha Chowdhury and Masuk Hridoy were attacked by a candidate's supporters near the Jamia Modinatul Ulum Darussalam Madrasa centre.