BNP's peaceful road march programme in Natore concluded with attacks on vehicles, vandalism and arson on the very day a member of the Awami League presidium announced that he would congratulate BNP if they conducted a peaceful programme.
BNP's road march programme on the 112 km stretch from Bogura to Rajshahi proceeded peacefully in other areas except for Natore. Vehicles belonging to Chhatra Dal and Swachhsevak Dal were stopped, attacked, vandalised, and set on fire in Natore. According to a report by Prothom Alo, while heading to BNP's road march programme last Sunday, vehicles of Chhatra Dal and volunteers were halted, attacked, vandalised, and set on fire at various locations in Natore.
Apart from 30 leaders and workers, the driver of the vehicle was injured. Some were in serious condition. BNP accused the Awami League of the attack. However, Awami League leaders have denied these allegations.
As per newspaper reports, 11 leaders and workers led by Bagatipara Upazila Chhatra Dal convener Sohel Rana set out for Bogura in the morning in a hired microbus.
Upon learning that Awami League leaders and workers were obstructing the route, they chose an alternate road through Dattapara and later joined the Natore-Bogura highway via Dighapatia.
When the microbus reached in front of the textile mill, hundreds of Awami League workers and supporters attacked them with local weapons and rods.
A 112-km long road march programme was organised by BNP, and there were no incidents reported anywhere, except for repeated attacks in Natore, which seem to be driven by local politics.
Previously, a leader from Awami League in Natore had bragged that BNP would not be permitted to carry out the programme. Attacks have occurred in each of the nine programmes organised by BNP in Natore over the past eight months. Sometimes the attacks are carried out by individuals wearing masks.
Government party leaders and ministers consistently state that there is no problem with peaceful programmes. However, they emphasise that disruptive activities like strikes and blockades that hinder public life cannot be allowed. A road march is not a programme that halts public life, yet the attack occurred.
What message does the ruling party intend to convey to the people of the country through these actions? Those who used to denounce BNP's past programmes as promoting arson and terror, are they not the ones instigating such actions now?
A few days ago, a member of parliament from Narayanganj declared intentions to expel BNP from Narayanganj within 24 hours. How can a member of parliament disregard the law in this manner? This provocative statement by government party leaders is undoubtedly contributing to a more fragile situation leading up to the elections.
In this case, the role of law enforcement also comes under scrutiny. The Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Natore police station arrived at the scene after being informed about the incident.
He claimed that he did not know why and who attacked BNP leaders and workers, vandalising cars and setting them on fire. Would he have made the same statement if the incident had revolved around a programme by the ruling party? Or was there inactivity in identifying the attackers?
Law enforcement is tasked with suppressing wrongdoing and maintaining discipline, not taking sides or opposing anyone. Those who attacked BNP's road march in Natore should be held accountable under the law.