Cocktails were exploded in one of the clashes, forcing voting to a halt for some time at the centre in question
The first ever election conducted through electronic voting machines in the Dhaka south and north city corporations was held on Saturday amid reports of a number of clashes at different polling centres.
Cocktails were exploded in one of the clashes, forcing voting to a halt for some time at the centre in question.
But polls were not suspended at any centre despite the clashes that left a number of people, including at least four journalists and a policeman, injured.
On the whole, voting went on almost peacefully for eight hours starting at 8am, without any break.
Most of the incidents occurred in the first couple of hours after the voting ended.
Talking of the incidents, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda told reporters that the commission had never wanted such incidents to take place in on Saturday’s election.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal claimed in the morning that voting was underway peacefully.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammad Javed Patwary also made the same claim, and assured that strict action would be taken against those who had attacked on-duty journalists.
No fewer than four clashes were reported in Gandaria, Tikatuli and Baskshibazar in the old part of the capital, while four others were reported in Mohammadpur, Adabar, Mirpur and Badda.
The most severe clashes occurred at the Baskshibazar Government Primary School centre under the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and the Beraid Muslim High School centre of Badda at Dhaka North city.
According to reports, at least eight cocktails went off at the Baskshibazar centre following a series of chase and counter-chase between the supporters of the Awami League and BNP-backed councillor candidates for Ward-27.
The explosions caused panic among voters, sending them running for safety. Voting was halted for about 20 minutes.
Attesting to the development, the centre’s presiding officer (PO), Mostafizur Rahman, said: “The situation was brought under control after a little while, and voting restarted.”
Meanwhile, six people, including a police constable and an Awami League worker, were injured at the Beraid Muslim High School centre under Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) after police baton charged the supporters of the Awami League candidate and his rebel contestant, to stop them from clashing with each other.
Abdullah Al Mamun, Dhaka Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner of Badda division (traffic), said the brawl over queuing up at the polling centre was triggered around 10:45am and lasted for nearly 15 minutes.
However, the centre’s PO Nazrul Islam told Dhaka Tribune that the clashes did not hamper voting.
“We were not concerned about what was going on outside the centre. Rather, we were focused on maintaining discipline inside the centre,” he said.
But our correspondent Niaz Mahmud found a number of voters who could not cast their votes due to the brawl.
Awami League-supported nominee Abul Quashem’s supporters swooped on the followers of his rebel candidate for DNCC’s Ward-30 in Adabar.
At Mirpur’s Bashir Uddin Adarsha School and College centre, a series of chase and counter-chase was reported between the supporters of the Awami League’s councillor candidate and his rebel aspirant.
In another development, Awami League-backed councillor aspirant for DNCC’s Ward-31 Aleya Sarwar Daisy claimed to have been attacked by her rival candidate in Mohammadpur.
The attack, allegedly by Jatiya Party-backed councillor candidate Shafiqul Islam Sentu's followers, took place at Baitul Falah Madrasa centre around 1pm--a claim Dhaka Tribune could not verify independently.
Pandemonium was also observed at centres at Dhaka University, Dakshin Khan and Uttara sector-4.
Attacks on journalists
At least five reporters and a photojournalist were assaulted allegedly by Bangladesh Chhatra League men at separate polling centres.
Online portal Agami News reporter Mostafizur Rahman Suman was badly injured when he came under attack at the Zafrabad High School centre in Mohammadpur around 11am.
He was first rushed to Sikder Medical College Hospital for emergency treatment and was shifted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital an hour later.
Former Crime Reporters Association of Bangladesh president Saleh Akand, who witnessed the attack, said Suman had taken photos of an Awami League candidate’s supporters who were carrying firearms on the centre premises.
“After one of them noticed, he started beating Suman and left him bleeding from his head,” Saleh said.
In another incident, Jisad Iqbal, special correspondent of news agency Press Bangla Agency, sustained severe injuries at Nikunja Jan-E-Alam Government High School when supporters of Ishaq Mia, Awami League’s councillor candidate for Ward-17 of DNCC, beat him.
Also in Old Dhaka, online portal sarabangla.com’s Senior Correspondent Ujjal Jisan was assaulted by some unidentified miscreants.
Talking to reporters at Banani, IGP Javed Patwary, pledging strict action against the attackers, said: “If the incident is true, I am ordering the departments concerned to investigate. Those who have assaulted the journalists will face action.”
He went on to say that voting was underway peacefully as no chaos had been reported till around 12noon.
Earlier in the day, the home minister said the polling atmosphere was free and fair.
“I’ve not heard of any unwarranted situation,” he said around 11am, after exercising his franchise at a polling centre on Manik Mia Avenue, which is under the DSCC.
Commenting on the clashes and chaos, CEC KM Nurul Huda said: “Never have I wanted such an election. I’ve already instructed the law enforcers to act instantly if any such situation arises.”
He was talking to reporters after casting his vote at the IEC School and College centre of Sector-5 at Uttara.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Pratidin Staff Reporter Mahabub Momtaji and The Business Standard Staff Reporter Nurul Amin were beaten allegedly by leaders and activists of the ruling party’s student wing.
This incident happened at Faridabad Madrasa voting centre in Old Dhaka’s Gandaria around 10am.
The journalists said they came under attack while gathering information about potential irregularities at this centre.
Mahabub said: “The Chhatra League goons beat us indiscriminately and kept us confined for one and a half hours.”
The attackers also took away their mobile phones, said the duo,the who were later rescued by the police.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Lalbagh division AC Abdul Hannan confirmed the incident, and added that they had also recovered the phones of the journalists.
Some 30 minutes later, online portal poriborton.com photojournalist Osman Ali was attacked and left injured. He had been taking photos of a clash between Chhatra League men and law enforcers at Kamrunnesa Girls High School polling centre at Tikatuli.