Tea seller who fell sick due to tear gas during clashes dies 

Representational image
Prothom Alo illustration

A tea seller, who had fallen ill due to tear gas exposure used by the police during a clash between ruling Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party  leaders and activists in Bhairab of Kishoreganj on Tuesday, passed away later that night while undergoing treatment at a hospital.

Tuesday was the first day of the three-day blockade enforced by BNP and Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami.

The tea seller, identified as Ashiq Mia, 50, succumbed to his injuries at Zahurul Islam Medical College Hospital at around 10:00 pm yesterday. He lived in the Gachtalaghat area of the town.  

Ashiq is claimed to be a party worker by BNP, but his family members state that he was not involved with any political activities. 

Witnesses said that the BNP brought out a procession at 7:00 in the morning on Tuesday, the first day of the blockade. The procession started from the Gachtalaghat area on the Bhairab-Mymensingh regional highway and headed towards the bus stand. A section of the group picketed in the Gachtalaghat area, leading to a clash between the AL and BNP. Subsequently, the police arrived and fired several tear gas shells to control the situation.

One of the shells fell near Ashiq's shop, which led to Ashiq falling ill due to smoke exposure. He began experiencing shortness of breath and started vomiting.

Ashiq was rushed to Bhairab Upazila Health Complex and later transferred to Zahurul Islam Medical College Hospital, where he breathed his last at around 10:00 pm.

Ashiq's aunt, Rokeya Begum, who witnessed the incident recounted, “The shell fell near Ashiq's shop and emitted smoke. Ashiq could no longer see anything, and he was shouting. It was not possible for us to take him to safety as everyone was facing difficulties due to the smoke in the area.”

She further noted that Ashiq was already in poor health, as he had a heart disease.

Bhairab Upazila BNP president, Rafiqul Islam, claimed that Ashiq was a member of BNP in ward no. 7. However, Ashiq's family asserts that he was not involved in politics.

Mohammad Maksudul Alam, the officer-in-charge of Bhairab police station, acknowledged that tear gas shells were indeed fired in the Gachtalaghat area to quell the clash between Awami League and BNP on the first day of the blockade. Nevertheless, no one should have lost their life, and they were unaware of any casualties, he added.