A staggering 15,000 people have been sued in 22 cases in Dhaka and eight other districts, on allegations of attack, violence, vandalism, and obstruction in government works during the BNP's recent march programmes.
In the cases, some 1,587 people, mostly leaders and activists of the BNP and its affiliated organisations, have been named as accused, while the remaining 13,370 accused are unidentified.
The police have already arrested 118 BNP men in different districts for their alleged involvement in the offences.
The de facto opposition, along with other like-minded parties, waged a one-point movement for the resignation of the government before the next national election.
To press home the demand, the opposition parties held march programmes in all cities and districts on 18 July and in the capital on 19 July. The programmes came under attack in different districts.
The cases were filed in nine districts on the following days, either by the police or the ruling party men, but the accused are the same, the BNP men.
Among the cases, four were recorded in Lakshmipur and Bogura each; three in Feni and Khagrachhari each, two in Dhaka, Chattogram, and Joypurhat each; and one in Kishoreganj and Pirojpur each.
Of them, two cases in Lakshmipur contain no names as accused while three cases in Bogura have no specific number of accused. Apart from the noted offences, some cases were filed under the Explosives Substances Act and the Special Powers Act.
The police have so far arrested 26 BNP men in two cases in Chattogram, while 10 people, including district BNP general secretary Ali Ajgar and five other activists, in Bogura, 18 in Dhaka, 16 in Khagrachhari, 28 in Lakshmirpur, three in Joypurhat, and 17 in Pirojpur.
No arrest was reported from Kishoreganj and Feni.
Shahadat Hossain, convenor of BNP’s Chattogram city unit, said they held a 2-kilometer march peacefully in the city, in participation of hundreds of thousands leaders and activists. Seeing the huge turnout in the BNP programme, the frustrated ruling party men carried out an attack on the BNP office in the city.
He further said they approached the local police station to file a case over the attack, but the police refused to record the case. In a surprising twist, the BNP men were rather sued in a case on allegation that they attacked the electoral office of a ruling party leader.
Shahadat claimed that the Awami League men vandalised their own office and later fabricated the lawsuit against the BNP men.
The BNP claims one of its activists was killed, and at least 3,000 leaders and activists sustained injuries during the march programme on 18 and 19 July, with around 2,000 activists being shot.
The ongoing political tension traces back to 2011 when the caretaker government system was removed from the constitution. The BNP and its allies have been demanding the polls-time government system’s reinstatement ever since.
The party boycotted the national election in 2014 as its demand for the election-time government was not met. Prior to that, they waged an extensive movement for restoring the caretaker government and got thousands of activists sued on allegations of violence and arson.
The party has long been alleging that a significant number of BNP men were subjected to disappearance and extra-judicial killing.
Before the following city and national elections in 2018, fresh cases were filed against thousands of BNP men across the country. There were some cases that were deemed completely 'fictitious'.
The 12th national polls are scheduled to be held within the next six months. The BNP and its allies are still hellbent on restoring a neutral polls-time government, while the Awami League is stubborn in holding the next election under the current government, as per the constitution.
The BNP has already waged a one-point movement to press home the demand. Some of its leaders fear that the government will resort to attack, lawsuit and arrest to deal with the BNP movement.
The actions over march programmes indicate that the government does not want the BNP men to stay home. Besides, the trend of filing fictitious cases returned to its previous level.
Awami League leaders have filed some 40 cases with different police stations in the capital city in the last seven months, accusing some 1,701 BNP men and 2,575 unidentified people.
Also, some 10 cases were filed by the police.
At the youth rally on Saturday, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir also came up with a similar allegation and said the government has taken a strategy to keep the opposition away from the election through intimidation.
But no election will take place this time without a neutral government. The issue will be settled on the street, he added.