Scores reported injured in clashes between Bangladesh’s ruling party, opposition BNP

Ahammad Foyez
Scores reported injured in clashes between Bangladesh’s ruling party, opposition BNP A motorcycle burns during a clash between members of the student wing of the ruling Awami League and activists with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in front of Mirpur Bangla College in Dhaka, July 18, 2023.

One person died and about 200 others were injured in clashes between activists from Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League and the BNP as the main opposition party staged anti-government protests in Dhaka and other cities on Tuesday, police and officials said. 

The outbreak of political violence – the worst during a single day in months – took place amid simmering tensions between the feuding parties in the run-up to the South Asian country’s next general election.

BNP officials said most of those who were injured in Tuesday’s violence were its supporters and that they were attacked by Awami activists. The violence erupted as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party staged road marches across the country while the Awami League organized a counter “Peace and Development Procession” in the nation’s capital.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League have ruled Bangladesh since 2009, but the opposition BNP has accused her party of rigging polls. The BNP has been staging a series of street demonstrations since last year to demand that Hasina’s government make way for a neutral caretaker administration during the polling season.

The United States, European Union and others meanwhile have been urging all parties in Bangladesh to respect free and fair elections and not engage in voter intimidation in the build-up to the election, which is expected in December or January 2024.  

Police and a BNP leader reported that the two sides clashed in Lakshmipur district, south of Dhaka, where a 25-year-old man identified as Md Sajib was killed and nearly 100 were injured.  

“There were programs of two opposing parties in the town. Workers of the Awami League and BNP suddenly locked into clashes at the Samad Academy intersection,” Mosleh Uddin, the officer-in-charge at the local police station, told BenarNews.

BNP central leader Shahiduddin Chowdhury Annie said Sajib was an activist in the party’s farmers’ wing. 

“Sajib died and more than 100 of our party were injured as police and Chhatra League activists attacked our procession,” he told BenarNews, referring to members of Awami’s student wing. 

Apart from the clash in Lakshmipur, BNP leaders and activists allege they were also attacked by police and supporters of the ruling party in Dhaka, Kishoreganj, Khagrachari, Bogra, Pirojpur, Feni and Joypurhat. 

Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, a BNP standing committee member, said the road marches drew hundreds of thousands of participants.

“Being infuriated with this, the ruling party, along with the police, attacked the BNP across the country,” he told BenarNews.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party activists participate in a road march in front of Mirpur Bangla College in Dhaka, July 18, 2023, [BenarNews]

‘Pushing the country’ toward conflict

An Awami League official denied that his party was responsible for Sajib’s death.

“It’s a false allegation. Our activists did not attack anybody. We do not know how the BNP man was killed,” said Syed Ahmed Patwary, the party’s president for Lakshmipur City. 

In addition, A.F.M. Bahauddin Nasim, the Awami League joint general secretary, said an unknown number of party leaders and activists were injured in attacks by BNP supporters.

“The routes of the BNP’s ‘Road March’ and Awami League’s ‘Peace and Development March’ were different. We never thought about such violence. It is very unexpected,” he told BenarNews. “Those who want to disrupt the elections are pushing the country toward a conflict situation.”

Obaidul Quader, the ruling party’s general secretary, told supporters that BNP members were not honest in their calls for a caretaker government.

“We have told the European Union that we want peace before and after the elections. There will be no election-time caretaker government,” Quader said.

Meanwhile, a case was filed at the Banani Police Station in Dhaka on Tuesday over a polling station attack a day earlier against Ashraful Alam (also known as Hero Alam), a YouTuber with a large following who is running as an independent candidate in the Dhaka-17 by-election.

His assistant, Sujan Rahman, filed the case against 15 to 20 unidentified persons. Police said they arrested seven allegedly involved in the attack.

“We will seek court’s permission to interrogate two of the suspects in police remand,” Harun Or Rashid, the detective branch chief, told BenarNews.

Obaidul Quader, general secretary of the Awami League, speaks before a “Peace and Development Procession” in front of The Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh, in Dhaka, July 18, 2023. [BenarNews]

International community is watching

The attack on Alam attracted international concern.

“The fundamental human right of everyone to participate in elections without violence should be guaranteed and protected,” Gwyn Lewis, United Nations resident coordinator in Bangladesh, tweeted on Tuesday. 

In Washington, the U.S. State Department denounced the attack and called for an investigation.

“We encourage the Government of Bangladesh to investigate any reports of violence thoroughly, transparently and impartially, and to hold the perpetrators of violence to account,” spokesman Matthew Miller said when asked during a press briefing on Monday about the attack on Alam.

“And I would say, as we have said before, that we would expect the Government of Bangladesh to hold free and fair elections, and we continue to monitor it closely.” 

Tuesday’s incidents occurred about two weeks after senior officers met at police headquarters on July 6 to speed up investigations into old cases against BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and allies, according to a copy of the meeting minutes obtained by BenarNews.

Members have faced allegations of arson, violent attacks on police, acts of sabotage and other crimes since 2013. 

“The government is making various efforts to disqualify BNP leaders from the next elections. They want to clear the field for themselves by disqualifying us from the election by punishing us in old cases,” Mahmud Chowdhury said.


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