At least 230 BNP leaders and activists were injured on Saturday when law enforcers dispersed them by using batons and water canons as they arranged a black-flag protest blocking roads and footpaths in front of the BNP’s Nayapaltan headquarters in Dhaka, according to the party.
Among the injured are BNP Organizing Secretary Fazlul Haq Milon, Advisory Council member Ataur Rahman Dhali, and former lawmaker Nilofer Chowdhury Moni, said the party’s senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
BNP leaders also alleged that law enforcers picked up over 150 BNP members, including Joint Secretary General Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal and central leader Mostafizur Rahman Babul, in front of the party office.
BNP organized the program to protest the denial of permission to hold a rally in the city on Thursday.
Carrying black flags, leaders and activists of the party started to gather in front of the office around 9am. The protestors were seen chanting slogans demanding the release of party chief Khaleda Zia, who has been behind bars since February 8 after being convicted in a graft case.
At one stage, police charged with batons and used a water cannon to break up their protest and disperse the BNP men.
Asked, Shibli Noman, additional deputy commissioner (Motijheel zone) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), told the Dhaka Tribune that BNP members were not given the permission to hold the program.
“We requested them [BNP men] not to block the road, but they refused to heed our call, which is why we had to use a water cannon to disperse them.”
‘Police attacked our peaceful protest’
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir heavily slated the government and law enforcers for foiling their protest and assaulting party leaders and activists.
“This attack by police on our peaceful protest proves that democracy is absent in the country,” he told a press briefing at the Nayapaltan headquarters following the incident.
“When I asked why they [law enforcers] were disrupting our peaceful program, they outright started using a water cannon and charging batons on us.”
He also said the police fired teargas shells into the BNP office.
The BNP second-in-command demanded the immediate release of those who were detained from the spot.
‘Protests occupying roads cannot be peaceful’
DMP official Shibli Noman said that causing public suffering by occupying roads in the name of protest does not constitute a peaceful event.
“They [protestors] did not take prior permission for arranging such a program. We cannot allow programs that cause public suffering.”
Police assault on-duty journo
Law enforcers reportedly assaulted Kiran Sheikh, a reporter of the news portal Bangladesh Journal, during the incident.
“I showed them my ID card. Instead of letting me go, they started cursing, punching, and kicking me. When I asked why they were assaulting me, one of them again slapped my face and asked me to keep quiet.”
Asked, DMP Assistant Commissioner (Paltan zone) Ariful Islam said: “We always try to avoid such incidents. Whatever happened to Kiran Sheikh was unexpected, and we will look into the matter and take action as necessary.”
BNP to stage demo tomorrow
BNP will stage demonstrations in Dhaka and in all districts and upazilas tomorrow to protest the attack.
BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi made the announcement at a separate press briefing at the Naya Paltan office on Saturday.