Blockade: Concerns over sudden attacks

A bus of Welcome Paribahan was torched on the second day of BNP's blockade at Syamoli in the capital at around 6:00pm on Wednesday.Collected

The incidents of sudden and arson during the blockade enforced by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other like-minded parties have raised concerns. Members of the police force officials at the field level are particularly concerned.

At the same time many of the BNP leaders are in hiding due to the stern stance taken up by the government. Several central and district level BNP leaders have been arrested. The rest are in hiding.

Given the circumstances, the method of carrying out their programmes has changed. They are showing a tougher attitude as compared to past, police officials at different levels said.

On condition to be unnamed, several police officials involved in tackling political activities, arrest and interrogation told Prothom Alo that most of the arrested opposition leaders and activists are accused in different cases. Many of them believe that they will be jailed if arrested or will have to go into hiding. Therefore, they are not hesitating to take risks now.

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The police officials further said the conversations of the local level BNP activists that they obtained using technology are also indicating a tougher stance.

According to sources in the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), a total of 65 incidents of arson attacks have been recorded in Dhaka in the 13 days following the clash that erupted over the grand rally of the BNP on 28 October.

According to the fire service and information sent by the Prothom Alo correspondents across the country, at least 82 vehicles were torched in those 13 days across the country. Most of these arson attacks took place in the evening, middle of the night and early in the morning.

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The BNP and police are issuing counter statements regarding the people responsible for the arson attacks. The police say that the BNP activists are leaders who are creating an environment through violent activities like subversive attacks and arson. Meanwhile, BNP senior secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, who is in hiding at the moment, claimed in a virtual press conference that the men of the government are setting the buses on fire.

However, the police have claimed to identify the people involved in sneak attacks and arson. Besides, the DMP claimed to arrest 12 opposition activists red-handed while torching a bus.

Sources say the BNP had been holding peaceful activities for more than a year. However, the government took a “tougher” stance following the incidents on 28 October to quell the movement of the opposition parties. BNP activists, including the central and local leaders, have gone into hiding in the face of mass arrest. The opposition is not being able to hold rallies and other open programmes in this situation.

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Additional DMP commissioner, Khandaker Mahid Uddin told Prothom Alo that those enforcing the blockades are carrying out subversive attacks to create an environment of fear. The situation would have been worse if police weren’t on alert. The number of such incidents remained low due to the actions taken by the police.

The police claimed to have found evidence of BNP activists being involved in the arson and sneak attacks and their harder stance. Prothom Alo spoke to several relevant police officials and political analysts in this regard. They say numerous cases have been lodged against active BNP leaders and activists over the last 15 years. Some even have several hundred cases against them. Many of the leaders have become destitute bearing the case expenses over the years. In addition to the old cases, new cases are being filed against them. That’s why they are showing a desperate attitude now.

Political researcher and writer Mohiuddin Ahmad told Prothom Alo, “Both sides have become desperate. None of the sides are ready to compromise even a bit. Subversive attacks, arson and clashes are common in this situation. It’s hard to tell who is doing this. However, the common people are in fear. The situation will be worse in the coming days.”

*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu