Dozens injured in Bangladesh as BNP stages protests against electricity cuts

Ahammad Foyez
Dozens injured in Bangladesh as BNP stages protests against electricity cuts Dhaka police block a march by Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders and activists protesting electricity blackouts across the country, June 8, 2023.
Sabrina Yesmin/BenarNews

Dozens of people were reported injured in violence between supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the ruling Awami League as the BNP staged protests in several cities against electricity cuts amid a nationwide heat wave.

BNP leaders and activists faced attacks in at least 10 districts including Dhaka, Pabna, Patuakhali, Bogura, Mymensingh, Faridpur and Jhenaidah while attempting prescheduled sit-ins outside the offices of electricity providers, said Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, the party’s senior secretary general.

“When people of the country are starving due to extreme load shedding, BNP leaders and activists came under attack while carrying out the program. It is proved once again that Awami League has established an extremely oppressive regime in the country,” Rizvi told BenarNews.

Load shedding refers to rotating power outages. In addition to the sit-ins, BNP members issued a memorandum in all of the nation’s 64 districts expressing concern about the outages.

Severe heat waves have blanketed the country for the last few weeks, pushing temperatures as high as 37 to 41 degrees Celsius (99 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit). The Bangladesh Meteorological Department warned there was no end in sight while schools have closed across the country.

The violence on Thursday occurred in the run-up to a general election planned for December or January 2024. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has held power since 2009, but refused to meet the BNP’s demand of stepping aside to make way for a caretaker government ahead of the polls.

The BNP alleges that the last election was marred by irregularities – charges that the Awami League denies. In late May, the United States announced that it would deny visas to Bangladeshis, including officials, suspected of undermining democratic elections in their country. 

Rizvi claimed that only 49 of Bangladesh’s 154 power plants were fully operational, leading to the blackouts.

Habibur Rahman, adviser to BNP chairwoman Khaleda Zia, said he was among more than 50 people injured in Thursday’s political violence. 

Rahman told reporters that he and others were marching in Dhaka when police stopped them. BNP then held a rally, he said.

He noted that leaders of the Awami League student wing, the Chhatra League, and the youth organization, the Jubo League, had gathered at a nearby intersection. 

“On the way back after the rally, those leaders and activists of the ruling party attacked us. At least 10 leaders and activists including me were injured,” he said.

On Tuesday BNP announced that members would be protesting to demand an uninterrupted power supply and against corruption and irregularities in the energy sector.

Around noon Thursday, BNP leaders and activists began a procession in Dhaka as they marched toward the Bangladesh Power Development Board office, but they were stopped by police about one-half kilometer (three-tenths of a mile) from their destination.

Rizvi said a delegation was able to submit a memorandum to Momtaz Parvin, the board’s deputy director.

‘Not true’

Police and Awami League leaders denied BNP’s claims.

“The allegation of obstructing the BNP program is not true. We have stopped their march and assisted the delegation in handing over a memorandum to maintain normal traffic flow,” Hayatul Islam, a deputy police commissioner, told BenarNews.

Elsewhere, BNP official Ali Azgar Talukdar Hena said police obstructed a peaceful program in the city of Bogura, a statement challenged by police.

“BNP was not allowed to hold a rally in front of the electricity office as it is a government key point installation,” he told BenarNews, adding that BNP was able to submit a memorandum.

In Feni, the opposition party alleged that at least five activists were injured in an assault by police. A police official denied the allegation but said some BNP members were removed from the area around the electricity office.

On Wednesday, the prime minister said she expected the power situation to return to normal in about two weeks.

“We are forced to do load shedding. I know people are suffering, I can understand people’s suffering,” Hasina said during a discussion arranged by her Awami League. “We are trying our best.” 


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