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Street violence over fuel price hike

Clashes leave at least 30 injured, dozens arrested

Street violence over fuel price hike
Police in Dhaka try to douse the flames of a car set ablaze reporter, Dhaka

January 7, 2013

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Police clashed with protesters over the weekend in various parts of the country as opposition parties tried to enforce a general strike against fuel price hikes of between five and 11 percent. The price rises took effect on Friday.   

Local media reported at least 30 people were injured during clashes yesterday when police moved in to protect people defying the strike organized by an 18-party opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Around 15 vehicles were smashed and torched in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country, prompting police to use tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the violence that broke out on Saturday.

Dhaka deputy police commissioner, Masudur Rahman, said the opposition had every right to protest against government policy but condemned the violence.

“In Dhaka … 60 opposition activists were arrested for their involvement in bomb and arson attacks in the capital on Saturday,” Rahman said yesterday.

Opposition parties have put the number of those detained much higher.

BNP party spokesman Tariqul Islam told reporters yesterday that “government supporters’’ were behind the violence and authorities were pinning the blame on opposition activists.

He said public anger is rising against the latest round of fuel hikes and accused the government of caring little about people’s suffering  

He added that people have had to endure six fuel price hikes over the past four years. The latest price rises will hurt many as it will drive up prices on many goods and services.   

 “I don’t support political violence and anarchy over a national issue. But I had moral support for yesterday’s strike, because we have no other options,” said Joynul Abedin, an accountant with a local NGO.  

“Fuel price hikes affect everything related to daily life including transport and daily essentials, and we can’t cope with that with our limited incomes,” he said.

The government says it needs to cut the fuel subsidies it pays in the face of rising demand.

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