Bangladesh | The Daily Star | January 26, 2017 | Star Online Report:
The half-day shutdown sponsored by pro-Sundarbans activists in Dhaka ended this afternoon with daylong confrontation and showers of teargas shells at Dhaka University.
Nearly a hundred teargas shells were lobbed to keep the protesters at bay there and five of them were put in lock-ups. Two journalists were injured while discharging duties.
Elsewhere, pro-shutdown demonstrations and processions were brought out at different points in the city under a tight police watch. No otherwise untoward incident was reported.
Police used nearly a hundred canisters of teargas and sprayed hot water at short intervals for eight straight hours since 6:30am to keep picketers at bay in Shahbagh. Protesters kept showering brickbats in retaliation.
Shahbagh showered with teargas
Demonstrators at Shahbagh, led by student fronts of left-leaning political bodies, tried to march to Shahbagh from inside Dhaka University around 6:30am and faced a barrage of police.
Since then, teargas canisters were showered in spree hot waters were sprayed in intervals. Shahbagh Police Station Officer-in-Charge Abu Bakar Siddique said at least 70 gas canisters were lobbed.
Five people were held from Shahbagh. They are: Topu and Ziaur Jewel, street performers of band Betal, and Sundarbans activists Mizanur Rahman, Mahtab Uddin Ahmad and another.
Shahbagh police’s OC Mizanur Rahman endorsed the detentions made.
Mizanur Rahman, an assistant commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said law enforcers retaliated to ensure smooth vehicular movement when the protesters tried to occupy streets.
“Police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets at us,” claimed Saeed Bilash, president of student front Chhatra Gonomancha. “At least ten activists have been injured. Some have been taken to hospital.”
On-duty journalists injured.
ATN News Cameraperson Abdul Alim sustained injuries during the confrontation at Shahbagh around afternoon. With bloody head and hands, he was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
English daily Dhaka Tribune Sub-Editor Morshed Jahan Mithun claimed he was assaulted by DMP Assistant Commissioner Mahbub at Mirpur 10 when he tried to inquire about an information.
“Traffic police ordered a bus to plough through the protesters. He assaulted me when I asked him (AC Mahbub) why this was so. As I showed my identity card, he said he doesn’t read English newspapers,” Mithun told The Daily Star.
Demo, processions at marginally vacant Dhaka
Meanwhile in Paltan, pro-shutdown activists brought out a procession peacefully under police watch. Leaders and activists of the Natural Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports participated in the march.
Anu Muhammd, secretary for the committee, told The Daily Star that people support the cause of saving Sundarbans. “We want to raise the call of Sundarbans among everyone.”
Pro-shutdown demonstrations were also carried out in Shantinagar, Mohammadpur, Agargaon and Mirpur 10 areas without any news of major confrontation.
Vehicular movement on the city streets was observed to be thinner where the picketers took position throughout the day. Police were seen stationed through all key points in the city.
“Transport workers wanted to participate in the strike. But we learned that the government, with their police, intimidated them and forced them to bring out their vehicles, Anu Muhammad said.
Despite serious environment concerns and widespread protest, Bangladesh government has a clear statement regarding Rampal power plant – “it will be done, no matter what”.
Protests to save Sundarbans have spread worldwide and environmental concerns have been issued from several quarters, including the Unesco.