Khaleda announces nonstop BLOCKADE


Police continue siege of BNP chief’s Gulshan office, stop her fromcoming out, fire pepper spray to disperse party activists at officegate; ruling party men defy Police ban to hold rallies, bring out processions; clashes in different districts

BNP chief Khaleda Zia yesterday called an indefinite, countrywide blockade from today, protesting her confinement in her Gulshan office and the locking of the party office by police for the last two days.

Having been confined since Saturday midnight, Khaleda made her last-ditch effort to come out yesterday afternoon by a car, but law enforcers locked the main gate from outside.

Cops also used pepper spray to disperse the party leaders and activists waiting inside the gate. Several journalists were injured in the police action.

BNP leaders said Khaleda wanted to go to the party’s central office at Nayapaltan, where leaders were asked to gather for holding a planned rally to denounce the January 5 one-sided parliamentary election of last year.

After police barred her from coming out, the former prime minister called the blockade of roads, railways and waterways across the country.

She did not elaborate its scope or if anything such as ambulance and newspaper vans would be out of its purview.

“The blockade will continue until our demand [for a fresh election under a nonparty government] is met,” a seemingly annoyed Khaleda announced, while talking to journalists at her office.

The ruling Awami League and its various front organisations, however, brought out processions and held rallies and human chains in many parts of the city, defying an indefinite police ban on political activities, to celebrate January 5 as the “Victory Day for Democracy.”

But the government took every possible measure to thwart the BNP to hold any rally in the capital.

Twelve trucks either loaded with sand and bricks or empty have been placed on the way to her office since Sunday midnight. Three police trucks, a water cannon and armored personnel carriers were also positioned on the nearby street in the name of “beefing up” security.

The BNP chairperson was confined in Gulshan residence similarly on December 29, 2013. She was not allowed to join the “March for Democracy” aimed at resisting the January 5 polls.

On Saturday night, cops picked up BNP Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi from the party’s Nayapaltan office and forcibly admitted him to a hospital. The law enforcers also drove out all other leaders and activists of the opposition party and its office staff and locked the main entrance from outside.

All roads to Khaleda’s Gulshan office and the party’s Nayapaltan office were blocked and guarded by a large number of law enforcers, to prevent BNP men form gathering there.

The government action to foil the BNP rally caused immense public sufferings in the capital and elsewhere. The government used the administration to cut off the capital from rest of the country since Sunday, by keeping major roads and waterways communication suspended. Inter-districts communications were also disrupted.

Outside the capital, BNP men brought out processions in several districts and clashed with AL men and police. Four people were killed in such clashes…..

The city streets, however, were under the total control of the AL men. Leaders and activists of the ruling party took to the streets in their hundreds to observe the first anniversary of the January 5 polls.

They brought out processions, held rallies and formed human chains.

Police, instead of enforcing the ban, facilitated the ruling party men, who staged showdowns in different areas in the city, gathering in front of unit offices and important places.

They sat on chairs in the middle of various roads and had fun. Riding on bikes and pickups, they drove through different areas for hours.

The Daily Star reporters saw almost identical pictures in Mirpur 10, Pallabi, Gabtoli, Mohammadpur, Hazaribagh, Lalbagh, Sayadabad, Jatrabari, Motijheel, Shyampur, Shanirakhra, Dhupkhola, Kantaban, Khilgaon and Farmgate areas.

In some areas the ruling party activists arranged musical programmes where artists sang and danced, attracting passers-by and police alike.

Besides, country songs and the March 7 historic speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were also played.

Sticks-wielding ruling party men were seen guarding at least three places on the Beribandh road stretching between Gabtoli and Kamrangirchar.

They stopped vehicles, particularly CNG-run auto-rickshaws, and interrogated passengers about their destinations and where they are coming from.

They were also seen threatening drivers not to ply vehicles.

Hundreds of Awami Swechchhasebak League men took position in front of Matsya Bhaban with banners to greet Prime Minister and AL chief Sheikh Hasina on her way to and from the secretariat.

They also staged a showdown in the area.

Khairul Islam Jewel, an organising secretary of Swechchhasebak League, said they did not hold any procession or rally to respect the police ban on political activities.

“We remained alert in the streets as conscious citizens of the country to safeguard democracy,” he said.

But another leader of the organisation said they were asked to gather there by the party high-ups.

“We had no option but to come, though I know it violates the law,” said the leader, seeking anonymity.

Several hundred Chhatra League men staged motorcycle showdown in Shahbagh and Press Club areas.

Party central and City unit leaders took position before the party headquarters on Bangabandhu Avenue.

City AL General Secretary Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, also disaster management minister, and Qamrul Islam, food minister, were present there.

Asked if their gathering defied the DMP ban, Maya said the AL was not holding rallies and processions. “But we have taken to the streets so that no one could create any anarchy.”

Around 10:30am, Maya went to the Jatiya Press Club where around 100 activists of Bangladesh Muktijoddha Projonmo League took position since morning.

It was an opposite picture in front of the BNP office.

From early morning, law enforcers cordoned off its headquarters and put up barricades on all the roads leading to it. Several hundred members of different law enforcement agencies took position at different points near the office.

Police set up barbed-wire fence at the Kakrial intersection, one of the entry points to the BNP office. Similar fences were at Fakirapool intersection.

No one was allowed to cross the barricades expect the journalists, who had to show their identity cards. But there was no restriction to enter the AL office area.



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