Gazipur polls rigging proves 'more innovative' than Khulna model

A gang of youths forcibly enters booth at the polling station of Madinatul Ulum Senior Madrasa in 26 no. ward in Gazipur, snatches ballot papers and votes for boat. Photo: Prothom Alo
A gang of youths forcibly enters booth at the polling station of Madinatul Ulum Senior Madrasa in 26 no. ward in Gazipur, snatches ballot papers and votes for boat. Photo: Prothom Alo

Ruling Banladesh Awami League showed more effective techniques of coercion in Gazipur civic polls than it did in Khulna, for holding a stage-managed ballot, conclude victims and witnesses.

The day before the voting on 26 June, some agents of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) candidates were allegedly picked up but released later from different locatons.

The AL men applied an ‘innovative technique’ to kick out BNP polling agents of the centres. Even a portion of the law enforcement was said to have been used as shield.

And once the BNP men were driven out or stopped from entering the polling stations, the AL activists joined the 'celebration of ballot stuffing', said the witnesses.

They added that the law enforcement and the election officials played a supportive role in making the rigging easy.

The police raided the houses of polling agents the way they did during the Khulna city polls held in May, the BNP men alleged.

Khulna city polls on 15 May reportedly proved to be a new model of manipulated elections.

Nearly 100 people were shown arrested since the announcement of Gazipur City Corporation polls schedule.

Following the Khulna experience, the ruling party had brought ‘changes in its tactics’. The opposition apparently ‘failed’ to counter such techniques.

The BNP’s mayoral candidate Hasan Uddin Sarkar earlier said resistance would start once agents are kicked out of polling stations. However, he eventually went back home at noon and instead demanded cancellation of the elections.

Kazi Mahbub-ul Haque, chief of the BNP’s election observation team, said they kept ready three sets of BNP agents following the experience in Khulna city polls.

"If one group is either arrested or driven out, another team would come forward. But, it did not work as in most cases, all of them were kicked out from the polling centres," claimed Mahbub-ul Haque.

Md Abdul Hadi, Gazipur city Awami League executive member, observed that there are many reasons of the victory and the loss.

"There is no BNP leader in the field and even no BNP man is there to bring the BNP voters to the polling centres."

The AL leader claimed that BNP mayor MA Mannan could not do any significant works during the last five years.

The AL leader further claimed that the health condition of BNP’s mayoral candidate Hasan Uddin Sarkar is not well.

AL candidate Jahangir Alam has been working for last four years to persuade the voters. "There is no single place in Gazipur where Jahangir has no activist and connection." 

How agents were picked up

 Some of the BNP agents were detained a day before the polls and from homes, while others were picked up either from inside polling centre or outside of it, said the victims.

Prothom Alo talked to many of them, who are still afraid and unwilling to name themselves.

BNP candidate’s media cell chief Mazharul Islam told Prothom Alo that the agents were advised not to stay at home. “But, it did not work as many of them were picked up from the polling booths either by the plainclothes policemen or detectives.”

According to a victim, as many as 42 people who were picked from their respective polling booths or from the city and were kept in secret places.

It has been learnt that those were either BNP’s polling agents or member of the central polls committee.

They were released immediately after the end of voting.

BNP agent Alamgir Hossain was detained while he was entering a polling booth at Noagaon MA Mazid Mia High School centre.

Member of Arichpur Primary School centre committee Kazi Shahin, Chhatra Dal leader Rajan, BNP activist Zakir and joint secretary of BNP’s ward no. 46 Kazi Nazrul were also detained in the same fashion.

Tongi thana Chatra Dal joint secretary Shah Alam and Shimultali centre’s chief agent Motaleb, Madinatul Ulum Madrasa’s polling agent Md Munna were detained on the night before the election.

Six people, including Munna, were released in Kapashia road area in the district a few hours after the balloting ends.

BNP’s ward no. 31 president Hasanuzzaman, Amir Hossain of ward no. 29, and Taij Uddin High School centre’s agent Abu Bakar Siddique were also detained from their respective polling booths and they were released later at night.

Picked up from polling centres

A group of plainclothes men picked up Mohammad Idris, a polling agent at Gacha Kamaleshwar Adarsha School centre in ward no, 34.

Idris told Prothom Alo that four people, introducing them as detectives, called him out for a talk.

When he went out to meet them, Idris said, one of them caught his left hand tightly and another put hand on this shoulder. When he asked them ‘Is there any problem?’ “No problem. We are helping you out. We are bringing you to a safe place,” replied one of them.

Later, he was taken to a microbus and they beat him. He was then taken by the microbus to a big room in the district police line area, Idris added.

As many as 36 other people, according to Idris, were in the room.

He was 37th at that moment. Later, five more people were also taken there, Idris said.

Residential inspector (RI) Abul Kalam Azad on Wednesday told Prothom Alo that he did not know anything about such story.

Idris also said a person came in the room around 4:00pm and told them not to be worried.

Idris added that the man told them they all will be released soon.

Meanwhile, seven microbuses were brought there. Six people including Idris were taken by one the microbuses. Four DB policemen were with them in the vehicle.

Idris said three of them were dropped at Bagmara area of Mymensingh’s Trishal upazila while three other including Kashimpur’s Abdul Aziz Master were taken to Bhaluka area.

He came back home from there at night.

Asked about the matter, Gazipur police superintendent Harun-or Rashid on Wednesday said, “I’ve no information about detaining and picking up of any BNP agent.”

Picked up from home

Young lawyer Selim Reza, who was a BNP agent at a polling centre, was picked up from home in the morning of the election day.

The police detained him from home, Selim added, while he was taking preparation to go to polling centre.

He was then taken to the police line area. Later, nine people including him were released on Tuesday afternoon in Pakundia union area in Kishoreganj district.

Selim Reza told Prothom Alo that he had no money at that time. He then somehow contacted his family seeking money through a bKash account.

Those who were taken to police custody

Plainclothes policemen picked six people - Anowar, Kabir, Mozibur, Helen Badsha, Alamgir, Mosharraf Badsha - from the city’s Dhiram area.

Four other persons, including Amir and Iqbal, were also picked up from Samantapur area of the district.

On Wednesday, the families of the detainees came to know that they are in Keraniganj Central jail.

Meanwhile, ruling AL candidate Jahangir Alam has been declared mayor of the Gazipur City Corporation (GCC). Official records show he bagged 400,010 votes while his rival Hasan Uddin Sarker, the candidate of the BNP, bagged 197,611 votes in the polls in 416 centres out of 425.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam