Friday, February 22, 2013

Nationwide protests after Jumuah in Bangladesh, 4 dead by police fire.

Four people died today in nationwide protests across Bangladesh. Daily Star reports that around 1,000 were injured, many of them with bullets, when activists protesting the atheist elements at the Gonojagoron Chottor (Shahbagh) who were alleged to have used the social media to defame Islam with blogs and posts that defamed the prophet Mohammad (S.A.W) and Allah (S.W.T), clashed with police and ruling party men in the capital and elsewhere in the country after Jummah prayers on Friday.

Police and pro-government media have alleged that Jamaat-e-Islami and Shibir supporters carried out acts of vandalism from within the ranks of protesters. The protesters today were mostly labelled negatively by media. Daily Star in its reports used 'marauding' activists and in one place in its report talked about bigots, saying, "around 500 bigots brought out a procession from Lalbagh Shahi Mosque". Various TV reporters such as those of Ekattor TV termed the protesters as 'jongi', i.e. terrorists. Others termed them as fundamentalists, radical Islamists and religious zealots. However, activists from within the demonstrations have refuted any such claims, saying that a mass participation from all strata of society had been in effect. It included, but was not limited to, supporters of Jamaat-Shibir, supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and other parties of the 18 party grand Alliance, even members of the Tabligh Jamaat along with supporters of the Islamic parties who had called for the demonstrations. The presence and support of a large number of general Islam loving people was something the media couldn't hide.  

At Gaibandha, a procession came out after Friday prayers under the banner of Hefazet-e-Islam at Chowmatha of Palashbari. Police super AKM Nahidul Islam, citing witnesses, said that small processions came out various mosques in Palashbari and joined at Rangpur bus stand to form a huge procession. The gonojagoron podium at Chowmatha was attacked and vandalised. When police obstructed the procession, clashes took place. To control the situation, police fired rubber bullets, tear shells and 20 rounds of live ammunition. 50 people were injured including police. Two people who were rushed to Gaibandha Sadar Hospital with bullet wounds were pronounced dead at around 5:00pm. 

At Jhenaidah, a protester, Abdus Salam was killed in a clash with the ruling Awami League men after Juma prayers in Paira Chattar area in the town. Abdus Salam is a teacher at the Alia Madrassah at Jhenaidah City. The clash erupted when two processions, one brought out by Imam Parishad while the other by Awami League flanked by police, came face to face at the area.

At Sylhet, Sylhet Correspondent reports that at least 150 people were injured, 10 of them sustaining bullet injuries, in clashes between the police and the Islamists, in the city’s Chauhatta and Zindabazar areas. An unidentified man, 28, died on his way to the Sylhet Osmani Medical College Hospital. Dr Ujjal Dutta of the hospital’s Emergency Department said that the youth sustained bullet wounds in the stomach and back. Five of those who are undergoing treatment at the hospital after sustaining bullet injuries have been identified as Mokhlesur Ahmed, 40, Suhen Ahmed, 35, Khairul Ahmed, 32, Shahid Chowdhury, 45, and Faruk Ahmed, 32. The identities of the others could not be known immediately. Officer-In-Charge of the Sylhet Kotwali Police Station Ataur Rahman said that they arrested 56 people from the clash sites. Spanning about five kilometers, the area stretching from Chauhatta to Zindabazar turned into a battlefield. Police used teargas shells and sound grenade and fired from shotguns to bring the situation under control.

In Dhaka, the Daily Star reports that clashes took place at the premises of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, Jatiya Press Club, and Paltan, Katabon Mosque, Dainik Bangla intersection and Shilpakala Academy areas. Police later detained more than 100 people taking them for Jamaat and Shibir men from the spots.

A notable observation was the targeting of journalists by police fire and tear shells and a rough treatment by a section of the protesters. Up to 26 journalists have been injured and reports have come in of at least 10 journalists bullet ridden, 2 of whom were critically injured. The injured journalists include Masudur Rahman, reporter Gtv; Nurul Islam, cameraman of Independent Television; Abdullah Tuhin, senior reporter Maasranga Television; Mir Ahmed Miru, photographer of Amar Desh; Arifuzzaman of Ekattar TV, Sayeed Bablu of the daily Sangbad, Aminul Islam Bhuiyan. Statements from the facebook page Basherkella also reported that one of its administrators, Rebellious Programmer was also injured by police fire.

It is mentionable that mass protests also occurred at Chittagong, Munshigonj, Rajshahi, Bogra, Moulvibazaar, Pabna and many places all over the country.  

In a follow up the Islamist parties have called a nationwide dawn-to-dusk hartal for Sunday protesting attacks on demonstrators demanding punishment to Shahbagh top bloggers. Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan Ameer (president) Maulana Shah Ahmadullah Ashraf made the announcement at a press briefing at a madrasa in Kamrangirchar on Friday afternoon.

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