A daylong blockade in Khagrachhari called by the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) was marked by unsavoury incidents such as sporadic gunfire, arson, and clashes on Wednesday.
Supporters of the blockade allegedly committed acts of violence on the roads and highways of various upazilas of Khagrachhari, including Khagrachhari Sadar, Ramgarh, Manikchhari, Lakshmichhari, and Matiranga from the morning onwards, though UPDF organizer Michael Chakma has denied the party’s involvement.
Demonstrators reportedly fired at a moving CNG autorickshaw in the Kalabari area of Ramgarh, injuring the driver – 21-year-old Md Shariful Islam – who was taken to Chittagong for better treatment.
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Supporters of the blockade placed burning tires in the middle of the road on Wednesday; March 21, 2018Nuruchsafi Manik/Dhaka Tribune
Meanwhile, pickets also set fire to a car owned by an official of Bangladesh Marine Academy in the Gaachhban area on the Khagrachhari-Panchhari highway. During the incident, the miscreants physically assaulted Marine Academy Second Engineer Abul Hasnat Md Masud and his driver.
In other incidents of violence in the region, a BRTC truck full of food rations from a government warehouse was destroyed and its driver beaten up by vandals in the Manikchhari area of the Chittagong-Khagrachhari highway, the windshield and mirrors of a “Chander Gari” (a colloquial term for an off-road vehicle running on a shallow-engine) were destroyed at Lakshmichhari, and a motorcycle was set ablaze in the Shapmara area of Matiranga.
Also Read- Two Hill Women’s Federation leaders abducted
During the blockade, vehicles could not enter or leave Khagrachhari. To enforce this, pickets attempted to set fire to vehicles travelling through the Chengi Bridge area. This led to skirmishes between the demonstrators and law enforcement officials. In one such skirmish, police fired 16 warning shots to scatter the pickets.
Most of the roads in Khagrachhari were empty over the duration of the blockade, with most people too afraid to venture out into the streets.
Khagrachhari police Superintendent MM Salahuddin said: “Police will take action if people try to disrupt state activities or the safety of the people.”
UPDF organizer Michael Chakma said: “UPDF have nothing to do with the violence being carried out during the blockade. These are being carried out by subversive groups looking to tarnish our public image.”
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Firefighters douse the flames of a car that was set on fire on Wednesday; March 21, 2018Nuruchsafi Manik/Dhaka Tribune
Attempts were made to contact UPDF convenor Tapan Jyoti Chakma, but he could not be reached.
On Sunday, an unidentified group kidnapped UPDF-affiliated group Hill Women’s Federation’s Central General Secretary Monty Chakma and member Dayashona Chakma, shooting Democratic Youth Forum leader Dharmasingh Chakma who was with them.
Supporters of UPDF faction Prasit blamed Democratic, a newer faction of the party, over the kidnapping.
The blockade was organized with the help of UPDF affiliates Hill Women’s Federation, Democratic Youth Forum and Hill Students’ Parishad, to demand that the kidnapped members be returned and the kidnappers brought to justice.