Clash, arson mark Hefazat’s hartal

Staff Correspondent

29 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

The countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal enforced by Hefazat-e-Islam was marked with stray incidents of clash, road blockade, torching of vehicles, an attack on a train, vandalism and BGB firing on Sunday.

The Islamist organisation enforced the hartal in protest against the police action on their anti-Modi processions in Dhaka, Chattogram and several other districts.

Hefazat activists ran riot in some parts of the country, including Brahmanbaria and Narayanganj, in support of their hartal.

In Brahmanbaria, sporadic clashes between Hefazat supporters and law enforcers left three people dead in Sarail on Sunday,               

taking the death toll from the violence in the past three days to 9 in this district alone.

Two of the deceased were identified as Hadis Mia alias Kalon Mia, 23, of Khantihata village under Budhal union of Brahmanbaria Sadar upazila, and Al Amin, 20, of Kuttapara village under Sarail upazila.

Police and witnesses said Hefazat supporters vandalised Khantihata Highway Police Station at Sarail Bishwa Road intersection on Dhaka-Sylhet highway around 11:45am.

At one stage, law enforcers opened fire as the agitating Hefazat activists set fire to the police station. At least two people sustained bullet wounds during the clash.

Syed Ariful Islam, a doctor on duty at the emergency department of Brahmanbaria General Hospital, said two people died after they were admitted to the hospital with bullet wounds.

After the incident, thousands of madrasa students and others were seen holding sticks at Sarail Bishwa Road intersection, Kuttapara intersection, Bariura, Shahbazpur, Bertala and Uchaliapara intersections on Sarail–Nasirnagar-Lakhai regional highway.

Meanwhile, Hefazat-e-Islam activists attacked a Chattogram-bound train at Talshahar Rail Station in Brahmanbaria town during the hartal hours.

Witnesses said the activists of Hefazat-e-Islam intercepted ‘Sonar Bangla Express’ train in the morning and pelted brick chips, leaving 10 people injured.

After the attack, train services were temporarily suspended around 9:30am.

Akhaura Railway Police Officer-in-Charge Mazharul Karim said Sonar Bangla Express was taken to Bhairab railway junction later. Dhaka-bound intercity Upakul Express also got stranded at Akhaura railway station.

Brahmanbaria Railway Station Master Shoeb Ahmed said at least 10 passengers were injured and the train engine room and 117 window glasses of 15 coaches damaged in the attack.

They also set fire to a railway bridge between Ashuganj and Brahmanbaria.

Meanwhile, several trains were stranded at different stations, causing immense sufferings for the commuters.

Besides, hartal supporters also carried out vandalism in some private and government establishments, including Zila Parishad building, municipality building, Police Lines, Industrial School, Land office, Alauddin Music Academy and Foirtala Bus Stand, in Sadar upazila.

They also set fire to Alauddin Music Academy building, land office in Sadar upazila of Brahmanbaria and Industrial School building during the mayhem.

Meanwhile, hartal supporters also attacked Brahmanbaria Press Club and confined some journalists to the club building.

President of Brahmanbaria Press Club Riaz Uddin Jami was injured in an attack by hartal supporters.

Al Mamun Sarkar, general secretary of district unit Awami League, said, “Hartal supporters vandalised different private and government buildings and also carried out arson attacks.  These are part of conspiracy.”

In Narayanganj, a group of madrasa students blocked Dhaka-Chattogram highway in Sanarpara area in the morning by torching tyres in support of the hartal.

Hartal supporters took to the streets at Shimrail, Mouchak, Madanpur, and Signboard areas and staged demonstrations.

Traffic came to a grinding halt on the highway, causing immense sufferings for commuters. Some passengers began to walk to Dhaka from Kanchpur.

At least 25 people were injured in clashes between police and Hefazat supporters on Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Narayanganj. Three of them sustained bullet wounds.

More than 40 vehicles were vandalised and five to six others torched by Hefazat activists in Shanarpar and Mouchak areas, police said.

In Dhaka, Hefazat activists marched in support of the strike in Lalbagh, Paltan, Baitul Mukarram Mosque, Mohammadpur, Bosila, Saat Masjid and Vatara areas.

When students of Saat Masjid Madrasa in Mohammadpur tried to block the road, a clash took place with police around 11:00am. Police resorted to baton charge to disperse the protesters.

Bosila Bridge area was also surrounded by hartal supporters for about two hours.

Activists of Awami League and its associate bodies were seen taking position on streets in protest against the hartal.

The ruling party activists also staged demonstrations against the strike at Shahbagh, Bangabandhu Avenue, Mirpur and some other places.

In Rajshahi, unidentified criminals set fire to two BRTC buses at Rajshahi Terminal in Amchattar area during the hartal hours.

Senior Station officer of the Fire Service and Civil Defense of Rajshahi Abdur Rauf said criminals set fire to a BRTC bus around 6:00am and the flames spread to another BRTC bus.

On information, firefighters rushed to the spot and extinguished the blazes.

However, no causality was reported till the filing of this report.

Saiful Islam Khan, officer-in-charge of Shah Makhdum Police Station, said police are investigating the incident.

In Chattogram, the hartal passed off without significant impact on public life. No incident of violence was reported during the strike.

Although no activity of Hefazat was seen in the port city, they put a barricade on Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar highway at Patiya and Chattogram-Khagrachhari highway at Hathazari.

The day started with movement of a good number of vehicles while the roadside shops were open since morning.

Activities at government and private organizations, including garment factories and banks, were normal.

Tight security measures were taken and additional forces were deployed at different important points of the port city to ward off any untoward incident.

Hefazat activists brought out a protest procession, blocking the Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar highway in Dak Bungalow area under Patiya upazila in the morning.

Besides, Hefazat activists, mainly students of Al Jamiatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam Hathazari Madrasa, continued the demonstration, putting barricade on Chattogram-Khagrachhari highway on Sunday.

They erected a concrete wall on the road, suspending traffic movement.

They announced that they will resist any attempt to create anarchy in the name of hartal.

Four people, including three madrasa students, were killed and a good number of people injured in clashes between anti-Modi protesters and police at Hathazai upazila on Friday.

The clash ensued after Hefazat activists, mainly students of Hathazari Madrasa, attacked Hathazari police station.

The protesters vandalised local Land Office and set fire to a vehicle, files and furniture. They also ransacked local Dak Bungalow during the attack.

Later, Hefazat Ameer Junaid Babunagri announced a protest programme across the country for Saturday and a dawn-to-dusk strike for Sunday.

In Sylhet, hartal supporters brought out processions in different parts of the city, including the Court point, after Fazr prayers. No long-route buses left the district in the morning.