At least three people, including a journalist, have been injured in an attack on a campaign event of BNP
A sense of unrest has been building up in Rajshahi ahead of its city corporation election.
Following accusations and allegations being made by both parties, recent incidents have compounded the already heavy tension in the city.
On Tuesday, three crude bombs were exploded at a meeting of BNP-led 20-party alliance's mayoral candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul in the Sagarpara area of Rajshahi city by three unidentified assailants on two motorcycles.
The incident coincided with a coordination meeting of law enforcement agencies at the office of the Rajshahi Divisional Commissioner Md Nur-ur-Rahman, when police presence in the city was sparse.
At least three people, including Bangla Vision journalist Paritosh Chowdhury Aditya, were injured in the attack.
Rajshahi Metropolitan Police Boalia zone Deputy Police Commissioner Amir Zafar confirmed the matter, adding that it is being investigated.
Residents of Rajshahi told the Dhaka Tribune that the city has erstwhile been a peaceful region, even during election time. Even its politicians prefer peaceful proceedings.
However, this year the publicity campaigns of the two top parties, which involved accusations and allegations against one another, have incited an aggressive stance from each side. In light of this new development, law enforcement agencies will have to be vigilant in order to prevent further violence.
BNP chairperson’s adviser and former Rajshahi mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu said the act was committed by two miscreants called Abed and Javed who live in the Sagarpara area and carry out misdeeds for the ruling party.
He added that if the duo is arrested, they may reveal the identities of their masters.
The former mayor also said BNP would not be intimidated by such condemnable acts, and demanded that the culprits be apprehended within 24 hours.
BNP central committee Organizing Secretary Advocate Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu when the crowd attempted to approach the assailants following the explosions, they made their escape by holding the group at gunpoint.
Kuddus also said Awami League is trying to foil the election as they know they will not win.
BNP nominated mayoral candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul said: “Even though the authorities are biased towards Awami League leaders and activists, the people of Rajshahi will fight this injustice.”
Meanwhile, Awami League held a press conference at their Rajshahi metropolitan office where they declared that BNP high-ups orchestrated the attack to polarize the people of Rajshahi against Awami League and make them question the validity of the election.
Awami League mayoral candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton said: “BNP has been flouting election etiquette since the beginning of its publicity campaign. We know that their Organizational Secretary Ruhul Kuddus Talukdar Dulu has secretly brought in a considerable amount of black money into this election. We have learned that he has been in contact with Tarique Rahman (BNP senior vice-chairman), and believe that it was he who masterminded the bomb attack.
“We want to urge BNP to abandon such tactics and accept the will of the people as the final verdict, no matter how unfavourable,” he added.
Rajshahi metropolitan Awami League Joint Secretary Rezaul Islam Babul said: “Dulu’s sudden arrival in Rajshahi does not bode well. Such incidents do not occur in Rajshahi, and it is important to remember that his party had once given rise to notorious militant Bangla Bhai.”
Ruhul Kuddus Dulu, however, denied all allegations against him.
Moreover, BNP’s chief polling agent and president of BNP’s Rajshahi district unit Tofazzal Hossain Topu filed a complaint against Awami League activists with the regional election officer as well as the returning officer regarding the crude bombing incident.
Boalia police station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Aman Ullah Aman said: “We have employed all sorts of tactics to identify and capture the miscreants. They will be arrested soon.”
In the meantime, Election Commissioner Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury said law enforcement agencies would have to remain alert for such incidents, adding that parties need to keep their members in check in order to prevent such occurrences.
Speaking to journalists after the coordination meeting, he also said: “Accusations are a kind of electoral tradition for parties, and nothing so far has seemed damning to me.”
He added that if legitimate, proven accusations emerge, action would be taken.
The commissioner continued: “All parties must have representative polling agents present, and they will be vetted by the police as anyone with a warrant to their name cannot be allowed to be a polling agent.”
Shahadat also said all parties will get equal opportunities to run publicity campaigns, and that voters should vote freely.
“30 mobile courts with executive magistrates will be active in the city. Every ward will have striking forces with BGB members and magistrates, and mobile strike forces comprising of policemen and RAB. 10 judicial magistrates will also be present,” he said.
“Every centre will have teams of 22-24 police and Ansars, and 10 assistant returning officers will be appointed to aid the returning officer. The Election Commission will also have an agent present at every ward,” the election commissioner went on.
Shahadat also stated that cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, and easy bikes would be disallowed on the streets of the city for 48 hours before the election.