BNP sees police firing as a message

Deceased Chhatra Dal leader Nur-e-AlamCollected

Chhatra Dal leader Nur-e-Alam, who was shot by the police in Bhola, also died in a hospital in Dhaka on Wednesday. Two people were killed in firing at BNP’s protest rally. BNP was shocked by the firing by the police just before their protest rally in Bhola within a week of the government's declaration that it would not interfere with the peaceful programme. The leaders of the party are assessing whether this incident is a signal from the government or not.

BNP leaders say that prime minister Sheikh Hasina said in a party meeting on 23 July that if BNP went to surround her office, they would not be stopped. Instead she will sit with the BNP leaders, serve them tea and listen to them. Less than a week after this speech, the police opened fire at BNP’s programme in Bhola on 30 July. Abdur Rahim Matbar, a leader of Bangladesh Swecchasebak Dal was killed on the spot in the firing. At least 24 others were shot. Nur-e-Alam, former president of Bhola Chhatra Dal died on Wednesday while undergoing treatment at a hospital in Dhaka.

The policy makers of BNP see this incident as a message from the government ahead of the upcoming national polls. They think that through the incident of Bhola, this message has been given to the opposition party that they will not be given the opportunity to occupy the roads for any anti-government movement. It is also an indication of how strict the government can be in this regard.

Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, a member of BNP’s standing committee, told Prothom Alo, “How big is Bhola town? How far could the procession have gone? Why did the police open fire at them? Who gave the order? There must be a reason behind this.”

Before the Bhola incident, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said at a press conference on 24 May that, “Every political party in a democratic state has the right to hold meetings and rallies.” It was reiterated from the top levels of the government as well. However, right after these statements, police opened fire in Bhola at a BNP rally.

Several leaders at BNP’s policy making level feel that there was no such situation in Bhola that day that the police had to shoot indiscriminately like this. It was a peaceful demonstration. The rally was held in front of the Bhola district BNP office as part of a central programme in protest of power outage and mismanagement of the energy sector across the country. At one point of the programme the situation escalated as the leaders and activists of BNP tried to bring out a procession from the rally and police baton-charged them. As the situation escalated further, the members of police fired 155 rounds of bullets and 33 tear shells.

Speaking regarding this to Prothom Alo, BNP standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury said, “They (the government) have no other way than intimidating and applying force to remain in power.”

However, police superintendent (SP) of Bhola told the newspersons, “BNP had the approval to hold the rally but they didn’t have the permission to bring out any procession. However, they brought out a procession and attacked the police. They were armed. Police opened fire as the leaders and activists of BNP aimed arms at them.”

Rashed Khan Menon, president of the Workers Party of Bangladesh, a member of the 14-party alliance led by Awami League, thinks the statement from the police is not acceptable.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said, “The statement from the police is not acceptable. They say BNP had the permission to hold the rally, not for any procession. I can’t remember when Bangladesh’s politics revolved around so much permission from the police. There could be no objection in the case of any peaceful political programme.”

He further said, “The country is not in turmoil at the moment. Despite that, police opened fire. It is true that they opened fire. Therefore, the fact whether the BNP activist was shot dead or was killed by anything else is not so important.”

However, speaking regarding this, information and broadcast minister and Awami League’s publicity secretary Hasan Mahmud told the newspersons at the secretariat, “BNP wants to see dead bodies. As part of this, they staged the incident in Bhola.”

He also claimed that BNP held meetings and rallies without police permission in Bhola ahead of the month of August.

Sudden police firing at a BNP rally has triggered a political unrest. The national election will be held some one and a half years later. There are discussions inside and outside BNP whether such an incident is a strategy of the government to force BNP to take to the street beforehand or a signal from the government on how tough it can be.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, “Through this incident the government has made it clear that they want to subdue our movement through repression.”