Political violence centering national polls mars in 2023

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UNB :
Bangladesh prepares to bid farewell to the year 2023 amid a series of political violence centering the upcoming national election that is being boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allies.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League is going ahead with the January 7 parliamentary vote rejecting the opposition demand for her government to transfer the power to a neutral caretaker administration to make the balloting free and fair.

The political stand-off has spawned intermittent clashes involving police, opposition activists and ruling AL members.

The violence, which spiked in the last week of October, left at least several dead and many injured in capital Dhaka and other parts of the country.

The official data on the number of deaths caused by political violence in 2023 couldn’t be obtained from the Police headquarters. However, several human rights bodies have gathered data from multiple sources.

According to data compiled by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), 18 people lost their lives and 3,873 were injured in political violence from January to August this year.

Meanwhile data from Human Rights Support Society (HRSS) show at least 60 people were killed and 6,743 were injured in a total of 689 incidents of political violence in the first nine months of the current year.

The violence-that sparked after October 28-has been marked especially by arson attacks on public vehicles and different establishments during hartal and blockades called by the opposirion.

The situation started aggravating in the last week of October following the BNP’s foiled October 28 grand rally that led to severe violence in the capital and later in different parts of the country.

The central Dhaka, especially Nayapaltan and its surrounding areas turned into a battlefield centring the grand rally after BNP activists and police clashed, leading to the death of a policeman and a ward-level BNP leader. Scores were injured.

Police used teargas and sound bombs to control the violence but that forced BNP to end its grand rally not long after it started.

In protest, BNP called a countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal on October 29. Since then BNP and like-minded parties resorted to on-again off-again nationwide blockades and hartals even if the authorities arrested thousands of its leaders and activists on charges of violence.

Among the arrestees has been Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the party’s general secretary who faces charges of attacks on the chief justice’s residence at Kakrail on October 28.

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Sources at the DMP headquarters said a total of 36 cases were filed with different police stations in the capital following the violence centering the October 28 BNP’s Nayapaltan grand rally.

The cases named 1544 leaders and activists of BNP and its like-minded parties, including several top leaders of BNP, as the accused. Besides, many unidentified activists have been included in those cases.

On the other hand, a total of 1,813 leaders and activists of various opposition parties, including main opposition BNP have been arrested from the capital in 14 days till November 10 since BNP’s October 28 grand rally in the capital’s Naya Paltan, said the police sources.

A total of 131 cases have been filed over violence, sabotage, beating and killing of policemen, vandalism, and arson with different police stations in the capital Dhaka during the period, said the sources wishing anonymity.

BNP, however, claimed that a total of 23,460 leaders and activists have been arrested by law enforcement agencies from across the country till December 27.

It said police started arresting its members even about a week before the ill-fated October rally.

As many as 26 people, including one journalist, died and 6573 others were injured during the period, BNP claimed.

Figures from Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) say 64 cases were filed in different police stations of the city in connection with burning 64 buses since October 28 to till November 9.

Besides, 12 people were caught red-handed by the people and the police for alleged sabotage attempts during the period.

Some of them climbed into the passenger car or set fire to it from below. During the arrest, petrol, gun powder, cotton, old clothes etc. were seized from them, said police.

A helper of a bus identified as Naeem (22) died and another helper known as Rabiul Islam suffered burn injuries when miscreants torched a bus of Ashim Paribahan at West Deilla Paka Road in Demra of the capital in the early hours of October 29. Both of them were asleep inside the parked bus.

Incidents of arson attacks on vehicles occurred not only in the capital, but also across the country.