The clash erupted when the DSCC team went to evict hawkers from Gulistan underpass at around 11:00am yesterday as their makeshift stores were creating barriers in pedestrian movement in the area.
Eyewitnesses said when the DSCC team reached the Gulistan underpass to conduct a scheduled eviction drive, a group of hawkers tried to prevent them.
“When we fined some makeshift stores around 11am, Anwar Hossain, the general secretary of the underpass shop owners’ association, along with a group of hawkers barred us and engaged in altercation with us,” DSCC Executive Magistrate Abu Sayeed told the Dhaka Tribune.
“Later, we tried to convince the hawkers’ leaders and took Anwar Hossain to Nagar Bhaban to hold a discussion over how to conduct the drive smoothly,” he added.
“But, in the meantime, hundreds of hawkers misinterpreted the incident saying that Anwar had been arrested,” the magistrate claimed.
The hawkers then brought out a huge procession and entered into the Nagar Bhaban premises, chanting slogans against the eviction drive, said witnesses.
According to witnesses, the DSCC mayor Sayeed Khokon then came down from his office to settle the issue, holding dialogue with the hawkers. But, the agitated hawkers engaged into an altercation with him, and threw brickbats at him.
The situation soon deteriorated into a total chaos as the DSCC officials, to save their mayor, started chasing the hawkers out of the Nagar Bhaban, triggering chasing and counter chasing between the hawkers and the DSCC officials in and outside the Nagar Bhaban.
In such a situation, the Ansar members posted inside the Nagar Bhaban blank fired few rounds of bullet to bring the situation under control.
Following the clash, DSCC mayor Sayeed Khokon ordered his staffs to carry out the eviction drive and evict illegal makeshift shops from Gulistan area.
When DSCC team, led by its chief estate officer Khalid Ahmed, went to evict the hawkers again around 3:00 PM, the hawkers prevented them again, triggering another clash between law enforcers and hawkers that left several people including the Paltan police station Officer in-Charge Rafiqul Islam injured.
Police had to deploy additional forces in the area and bring water cannon to control the situation, said witnesses.
Later, some Sromik League activists joined hands with the law enforcers. With hockey sticks at hand, they took position at different points of the area to drive the hawkers away from the streets.
During the drive, DSCC demolished makeshift stores with bulldozers. Due to the clashes a huge traffic jam was created spanning the entire Gulistan.
“It made me frightened to see the clash when I was here to accomplish some of my official work here. The roads were blocked and people were much panicked. Traffic movements came became gridlocked in the area,” said one Atiqur Rahman, a service holder, who was caught in the middle of the clash.
The hawkers claimed that they were not informed in advance about the eviction.
“Thinks could have been very smooth if they (city corporation) informed us prior to the drive. We have lost our assets and goods worth lakhs of taka due to the sudden drive,” said a hawker leader, wishing not to be named.
After the drive ended, DSCC mayor Sayeed Khokon said the authorities will strictly prevent anyone who illegally occupies the streets.
“The city corporation will do everything required to keep the footpath in Gulistan free for pedestrians,” he told a group of reporters.
“Gulistan is a very important area. Thousands of people move through the area every day. So, the city corporation will do everything required, including carrying out regular eviction drives, to keep this area’s footpath clean,” Khokon also said.
Palton police’s OC Rafiqul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune that the situation became normal around 4:30pm after police took control of the area.
“Agitated businessmen can attack the city corporation building any time. So the security of the building was increased and forces were asked to be alert in Gulistan area,” he added.