B’desh radical group calls for ‘hartal’ on Sun after 4 die in clashes with cops

Radical Islamist group Hefazat-e Islam has called for a dawn-to-dusk ‘hartal’ in Bangladesh on Sunday in protest against the killing of four of its activists in clashes with the police on Friday.

Four persons, including three madrasa students, were killed while over 50 others were injured in a series of clashes between anti-Modi protesters and the police in Dhaka and Chattogram on Friday. In a separate incident, another radical wing of Hefazat vandalised the Brahmanbaria railway station.

The situation is still tense in the Hathazari area in Chattogram, known to be a stronghold of the Hefazat, where scores of madrasa students clashed with the police on Friday after reports came in of police action against a group of Hefazat supporters who tried to take out a procession against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to the country in the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque area in Dhaka.

After a long disruption, train service on the Chittagong-Dhaka and Sylhet-Dhaka routes resumed late on Friday, though the situation in Brahmanbaria still remains tense.

Hefazat radicals and followers of Jamat-e-Islam Pakistan, mainly comprising students from the Hathazari Madrasa, attacked the Hathazari police station in Chattogram on Friday while protesting against the Indian Prime Minister’s visit.

The radicals also vandalised the local land office and set files, furniture and a vehicle on fire. They also ransacked the local dak bungalow besides blocking the Jatrabarri entry point to Dhaka.

Later, the police brought the situation under control while the students took position in front of the madrasa, suspending traffic movement on the busy Chattogram-Khagrachhari highway.

Additional Superintendent of Police (North), Md Mosiuddowla Reza, told IANS on Saturday that the students carried out the attack without any provocation, causing huge damage to the police station compound.

However, the organising secretary of Hefazat-e-Islam, Azizul Hoque Islamabadi, claimed that there was no prescheduled programme of Hefazat on Friday.

The Qawmi madrasa-based Jamat-e-Islam backed the Hefazat at a press conference on Friday evening, and announced to holding countrywide protests on Saturday.

On Friday, scores of Hefazat supporters, comprising mostly students from the Hathazari Madrasa, took out a rally at around 2 pm in protest against the arrival of Narendra Modi to Bangladesh and the ‘attack’ on their leaders and activists in the Baitul Mukarram area in Dhaka. Raising slogans, the radicals soon reached the Hathazari police station, around 500m from the madrasa,.

At one stage, they started pelting the police station with bricks, damaging the glass doors and furniture, Dakub Mia, an eyewitness, told IANS.

In retaliation, the police opened fire to disperse the violent protesters, leaving 12 of them injured. Eight injured persons were rushed to the Chattogram Medical College Hospital, where the doctors declared four of them dead, Sub-Inspector Jahirul Islam Bhuiyan told IANS.

The deceased have been identified as Kazi Mirajul Islam, Rabiul Islam and Jamil, all students of the madrasa, and Md Mijan, an employee with a local tailoring shop.

Earlier on Friday, a large number of Hefazat supporters had gathered at Dhaka’s prominent Baitul Mukarram mosque for Friday prayers. As they were about to take out a anti-Modi march soon after the prayers ended, they were stopped by the police and the altercations between the two sides soon turned violent after a few Hefazat followers hurled brickbats at the cops.

The police first tried to disperse the crowd by using tear-gas shells. But as things turned bad, they fired from shotguns and used rubber bullets and water cannon to bring the situation under control.

At least 50 people, including four journalists, were injured in the clash between the police and anti-Modi protesters.