Violence, low turnout mark polls
18 killed across countryStaff Correspondent
Polling in 147 constituencies for the 10th Jatiya Sangsad on Sunday was marked by death of 18 people in violence, low turnout of voters and stuffing of ballot boxes by ruling party men across the country.
A member of Ansars and 17 opposition activists were killed in Thakurgaon, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Nilphamari, Feni, Munshiganj, Laksmipur, Jessore, Natore, Chittagong and Gaibandha districts as violent clashes erupted across the country after opposition men tried to foil voting in the ‘one-sided’ polls.
The BNP-led opposition alliance demanded cancellation of Sunday’s ‘farcical elections’ and announced a fresh round of 48-hour general strike beginning at 6:00am today along with the blockade for fresh elections.
The ruling Awami League, however, termed Sunday’s election as ‘victory of the people and democracy’.
Candidates in 153 constituencies had already been elected unopposed after the opposition alliance boycotted the polls.
Burning down of more than 150 polling stations by opposition activists before polling began at 8:00am Sunday, killing of an assistant presiding officer and snatching of election materials forced the Election Commission to suspend voting in around 400 centres.
Turnout of voters was relatively higher in three constituencies in Chittagong Hill Tracts where Awami League candidates had close contests with independent candidates. Mobile phone networks in the three districts were switched off on the polling day.
Both the Election Commission and the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said they were not aware of it and not certain who ordered the mobile network off. ‘There was no such instruction from the commission,’ said election commissioner Mohammad Shahnawaz.
Three regional political parties – Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti, United People’s Democratic Front and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (MN Larma)] – saw the move as a part of ‘election engineering’.
In the capital New Age found turnout of voters in different polling stations very low till noon. Dense fog in the morning discouraged voters from turning up at the polling stations in some constituencies. The turnout
increased slowly as the day rolled on. By the afternoon people of Awami League candidates began stuffing the ballot boxes in some constituencies.
The correspondent in Pabna said Ashique Al Shams Ranjan, son of state minister for home affairs Shamsul Haque Tuku, also Awami League candidate for Pabna 1 constituency, had alone snatched and stuffed 899 ballot papers at Paikhati Shahidnagar high school in Bera. As the polling agent of independent candidate Abu Sayeed protested, Ranjan and his cohorts beat him up mercilessly.
Senior Awami League leaders were seen stuffing boxes at the Jamia Islamia Madrassah and Orphanage centre at Dakkhin Khan under Dhaka 18 constituency. They were visibly annoyed at the presence of a newsman but polling officials requested the correspondent to stay there until the close of the polling.
At the T&T Girls College centre at Mohakhali, Awami League activists stuffed ballot boxes forcing all out of the polling booths in the afternoon.
Reports from Dinajpur said an Ansar member and two opposition men were killed and five others injured in three separate incidents of violence in Parbatipur upazila.
Ansar constable Abdul Wahed died after Jamaat-Shibir men attacked Bachhirbaniya government primary school centre around 11:00am. Ansar sources said Wahed had died of cardiac arrest after several hundred Jamaat men chased him for a kilometre.
Masud Raihan, an activist of Jatiya Ganatantrik Party, died in local hospital after being hit by a bullet in a clash with the police when opposition activists attacked Manmathpur Cooperative High School centre around 12:30pm.
Babul Hossain, a leader of Chehelgazi union BNP, was shot dead by rivals when the opposition men attacked Nashipur primary school centre at about 1:30am.
The correspondent in Rangpur said Sirajul Islam Siraj, 24, and Hadiuzzaman Hadi, 25, activists of Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir, were killed in police firing after Jamaat-Shibir men attacked Dewti School and College polling centre in Pirgachha and looted ballots and ballot boxes and set fire to the centre under Rangpur 4 constituency around 3:00am.
Pirgachha police officer-in-charge Mokbul Hossain said the police were forced to open fire on the attackers that left two dead. Leaders of the upazila unit Jamaat and Shibir declined comments on the incident.
The correspondent in Nilphamari reported that two Jamaat-Shibir activists were killed in police firing after they attacked two polling centres in Dimla and Jaldhaka upazilas and attempted to torch the centres after looting election materials.
Jamaat activist Jahangir Alam,32, a lecturer at Khalisa Chhotokhata Fazil Madrassah at Khalisa Chapani of Dimla, was killed when police opened fire on Jamaat-Shibir men who attacked Beparitala Alim Madrassah centre around 2:30am.
Dimla police acting officer-in-charge Azim Uddin said one person was killed in police firing when Jamaat-Shibir attacked the polling centre.
Jamaat man Momtaz Uddin,50, a teacher of Barabhita Dakhil Madrassah in Kishoreganj, was killed when police opened fire on Jamaat supporters after they attacked Balapara Kachari Girls High School polling centre in Koimari union under of Jaldhaka at about 10:00am.
Jaldhaka police officer-in-charge Moniruzzaman said one person had died in police firing in Koimari after Jamaat-Shibir men attacked a polling centre.
In Laksmipur, Shibir activist Mohammad Rubel was killed and two more suffered injuries as police opened fire on opposition activists after they attempted to snatch ballot boxes at Machhimpur High School centre in Ramganj upazila. Ramganj police officer-in-charge Rezaul Karim confirmed the death of Rubel.
Juba Dal leader Jamshed Alam was killed in police firing when opposition activists attacked Uttar Char Chandia primary school centre in Sonagazi of Feni around 10:30am. Chhatra Dal leader Shahidullah, who suffered injuries in the same incisent, died at hospital, said Sonagazi police chief Subhash Chandra Pal.
Kangkan Mia, 24, joint secretary of Shimulia union unit Chhatra Dal, drowned as he jumped into a ditch after being chased by police in Tongibari of Munshiganj after hurling a petrol bomb at Dakshin Kathadia-Shimulia government primary school centre around 5:50am.
The correspondent in Thakurgaon reported that three opposition activists were killed in police firing when opposition men attacked polling stations. Joynal, 30, and Harun, 40, of village Khagrabari were killed in police firing after they attacked Basudevpur Government Primary School polling centre around noon. In another incident BNP activist Abu Hanif died in a clash with Awami League supporters at Gopalpur.
The opposition men attacked over 30 polling centres in Thakurgaon1 constituency and clashed with the ruling party activists and law enforcers. At least 50 people, including police, ansar and BNP-Jamaat activists, were injured during the violence.
In Chittagong, Shibir activist Enamul Haque, 26, of Adur Para in Lohagara, was killed when police opened fire on Jamaat men after they tried to snatch ballot boxes from Bhabanipur polling centre at about 3:30pm.
BNP activist Babul Hossain died in Rajshahi Medical College Hospital after being hit by a bullet at Ramnagar under Manda in Natore around 11:00am. Manda police officer-in-charge Abdullahel Baqui said joint forces were forced to open fire after the opposition men attacked them with bows and arrows.
Reports from Gaibandha said Jamaat activist Shahabul, 35, was killed and 15 others were injured after Jamaat supporters clashed with Awami League at Manmath Government Primary School centre in Bamandanga in the afternoon. Gaibandha additional police superintendent Mosharraf Hossain confirmed the death.
Jamaat activist Matiar Rahman was shot dead as joint forces opened fire to disperse attackers at Bajitpur centre in Monirampur of Jessore and 30 more, including three presiding officers, sustained injuries in widespread violence in Monirampur that forced the Election Commission to suspend polling at 47 centres.
The correspondent in Lalmanirhat said at least 68 people, include eight police men, two presiding officers and a journalist, were injured in attacks at different centres by opposition activists. The injured were admitted to Patgram and Hatibandha upazila health complexes, Lalmonirhat General Hospital and Rangpur Medical College Hospital. The attackers also snatched a rifle from police at Hosnabad Community Primary School centre.
The correspondent in Jhenaidah said opposition activists had snatched election materials from Dariapur government primary school polling centre in Maheshpur upazila. Police opened fire to control the situation. The attackers also cut the tendons of Mahehspur municipal unit Awami League leader Ali Nur Rahman. In retaliation, the house of Mahehspur municipal unit Jamaat amir Moqbul Hossain was torched. Maheshpur police officer-in-charge Akram Hossain confirmed the incidents.
An assistant presiding officer at Banani Bidya Niketan School and College hands over a number of sealed ballot papers to a man to put them in the ballot box on Sunday. — Sanaul Haque
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