Police used water cannon, fired tear-gas shells and baton on pickets, mainly leftist student activists, during on Tuesday’s strike in Dhaka protesting the government decision to raise gas prices.
Many protesters were injured in the police action during the half-day shutdown with at least 12 pickets being detained by the police.
Police, however, claimed that they did it all only to disperse the hartal supporters since they were creating traffic chaos, mainly in and around Shahbagh in Dhaka.
The Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) on Friday called the six-hour shutdown starting from 6am, just a day after the fresh hike had been announced.
In the morning, hartal supporters brought out a procession and marched different streets surrounding Naya Paltan, Press Club and Shahbagh, among other key strategic points.
The activists of Progotishil Chhatra Jote, an alliance of progressive student bodies, brought out a procession from TSC around 6am.
Pickets set tyres afire at the Shahbagh intersection and occupied the area for nearly an hour, halting traffic. They brought out another procession from Shahbagh around 8:45am and marched through different streets in the area.
The activists took position again in Shahbagh around 9am and held a rally where speakers warned the government of tougher movement if the new prices were not cancelled. The activists went for another procession after the rally.
Meanwhile, police went on action by spraying water and lobbing tear gas canisters and finally baton charging on the activists around 10:30am.
Angered by the police obstruction, the pickets retaliated with bricks, leading to a series of chases and counter-chases, which lasted for nearly an hour.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Additional Deputy Commissioner Mizanur Rahman defended police action, saying the pickets were disrupting vehicular movement through Shahbagh circle surrounded by some major hospitals and educational institutions.
“We were forced to use water cannon and hurl tear-gas shells as the protesters turned down our requests to get away from Shahbagh,” he said.
Lucky Akter, president of Bangladesh Chhatra Union, who was present during the Shahbagh protests, said the gas price hike will definitely push up the expenditures of daily commodities, causing the masses to suffer immensely.
She demanded that the government withdraw its decision immediately.
Threat issued to besiege energy ministry
After the strike, the two left political parties and Gonotantrik Bam Morcha threatened that they would lay siege to the Energy Ministry if the gas price hike was not withdrawn.
“We will besiege the Energy Ministry on March 15, if the price is not revoked by then,” said Ruhin Hossain Prince, a central leader of CPB, in a rally held in front of the National Press Club.
Declaring the programme, Gonotantrik Bam Morcha Coordinator Firoz Ahmed said they will protest for a fortnight starting today.
Gonosanhati Andolon Coordinator Zonayed Saki and Secretary of Revolutionary Workers’ Party of Bangladesh, Saiful Haque, among others, addressed the rally.
The BNP supported on Tuesday’s hartal.