Fierce violence broke out in the capital’s Tejgaon yesterday as police and transport workers clashed for around an hour over an eviction drive in the area.
At least seven people, including journalists and city corporation employees, were injured during the violence, while several vehicles in the area were also vandalised.
Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Annisul Huq, who was present with the eviction team, had to take shelter inside a workers’ union office during the violence.
Law enforcers and locals said the transport workers – although agitated – were initially cooperative when the DNCC authorities started the drive at Tejgaon truck stand in the morning.
But tensions crossed the tipping point after a bulldozer shoved a covered van, which the workers said had been standing there for some time.
Police asked transport workers to remove the covered van, but no one cared. Then the bulldozer hit the covered van. Angered at the incident, workers started throwing bricks at the police, who reportedly retaliated with rubber bullets.
Demonstrating workers said two of the protesters, transport manager Bodruddoza, 55, and truck driver Jasim Uddin, 40, were hit by bullets shot by the police. Another garment worker named Masum Billah was also hit by a bullet.
Santu Chandro Das, assistant sub-inspector at Dhaka Medical College Hospital police outpost, said Bodruddoza was admitted with gunshot wounds to his both legs, Jasim was hit on his right ear and arm, and Masum had wounds on his arm and back.
All of the injured men were released after primary treatment, the ASI added.
However, claims of police shooting were denied by Tejgaon zone Deputy Commissioner Biplob Kumar Sarkar. He termed the situation an isolated incident and said: “The police did not open fire on transport workers. Some people are distracting them by speaking about police shooting.” The police also did not arrest anyone in connection with the clash, he added.
During the violence, protesters allegedly assaulted The Daily Star photographer Anisur Rahman, bdnews24.com photographer Tanvir Ahmed and two city corporation employees.
Media vehicles belonging to Channel i, Independent Television, Ekushey Television, two pick-up vans of the city corporation, and DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq’s SUV were vandalised. The adjoining Tejgaon and Sat Rasta Intersection remained closed to traffic for around three hours, which caused traffic tailbacks in the nearby areas.
Mayor caught in violence
As the violence unfolded outside, the mayor, who went to the Tejgaon truck stand around 1pm to oversee the eviction drive, stayed inside the Bangladesh Truck and Covered Van Union office there. Railways Minister Md Mazibul Hoque also went to the scene with Annisul, but left under police protection as violence broke.
“I have been running the Tejgaon bus stand eviction drive in consultation with the railways minister and local transport leaders for the sake of the city dwellers. I will not retreat from the drive in the face of protest from some grabbers,” Mayor Annisul told reporters while inside the union office.
“The drive will continue. This mayor is not a coward who will leave amid such chaos. We are clearing government land. The prime minister is with me in this move. I am not scared of anyone,” he said. Commenting on the injuries, he said: “I have heard that one person was injured. But I have no idea if it is true or a rumour.”
The mayor said some people were instigating others to throw bricks at law enforcers and the DCC officials.
Also present there, Truck and Covered Van Owners Association President Rustom Ali expressed his support for the eviction drive. “We have been announcing for the past three or four days to clear the truck stand. We fully support the eviction drive.” He, however, added that some quarters had been trying to prevent the move. “Some grabbers, groups of workers and mechanics who are dependent on the truck stand for their livelihoods are instigating others against the eviction.”
Yesterday’s eviction drive follows an earlier ultimatum set by Mayor Annisul, who told truck owners on November 8 to clear illegal infrastructure from Tejgaon to increase parking space and reduce traffic congestion in the area.