Jamaat-Shibir activists clash with police in Dhaka (Photo by Shahadat Hossain)
More than a hundred people were injured over the weekend after Islamist party activists clashed with security officials in the second protest over the detention of top party leaders on war crimes charges in less a week.
Police arrested 34 members of the Jamaat-e-Islami party and its student wing Islamic Chhatra Shibir on charges of attacking police officers and vandalizing vehicles, a police official said today.
Similar clashes last week left about 250 people injured and dozens of vehicles damaged as party activists condemned the targeting of their leaders by the War Crimes Tribunal, which seeks to prosecute alleged war crimes committed during the War of Independence in 1971.
The weekend protests erupted after a Jamaat party activist died in hospital while being treated for injuries sustained during last week’s protest.
“We organized five peaceful rallies in Dhaka to protest against the death due to police torture and demanded punishment for his death,” said Safikul Islam, a Jamaat leader from Dhaka.
“Police attacked us deliberately. Our activists attacked police in self defense.”
Ataur Rahman, a police officer from Kafrul station in Dhaka, said Jamaat and Shibir protesters held the rallies without prior permission and smashed 15 vehicles including four police cars.
“They attacked police with rocks and sticks, leaving 11 badly injured. We have filed two cases and arrested 10 Jamaat-Shabir protesters,” he said.
A Dhaka-based political analyst who asked not to be named attributed the recent violence by Jamaat to a shift in relations with neighboring India.
“After a popular uprising in the 1990s that ousted military rule and restored democtracy, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was sworn into power twice, and its stance was largely anti-Indian,” the analyst said.
The analyst added that a recent BNP-led delegation to India has taken a softer stance toward India, which has led to frustration among the Jamaat party.
“Now the Jamaat-e-Islami, which has always been anti-India and in opposition to Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan, feels alienated and desperate.”
However, BNP leader John Gomes said Jamaat anger has nothing to do with its shift in policy on India.
“Top Jamaat leaders are in jail and they have no other option except to protest in the streets,” he said.
As a registered political party, Jamaat can exercise their democratic rights, but we don’t support their attack on police and vandalism of vehicles.”
Mrinal Kanti Das, a ruling Awami League leader, said the government would move to curb Jamaat violence, which he said was linked to efforts to scuttle the war crimes tribunal.
“Jamaat has been opposed to … democracy and secularism. We just can’t allow them to wreak havoc in the country.”
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