Last Updated: October 28, 2023, 15:38 IST
A large number of supporters of two major Bangladesh opposition parties rallied in the capital Dhaka on Saturday, demanding Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina step down ahead of the general election due in a few months. Saturday’s rallies by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, marked a new phase in their protests.
This protest comes in the wake of resurgent opposition that has been mounting protests to press their demands for months, accusing PM Hasina of corruption. “No one will leave the ground. Stand up if you feel uncomfortable sitting, but don’t leave an inch of space. The country is not the property of anyone’s father,” BNP leader Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal was quoted as saying during a rally by The Dhaka Tribune.
This massive protest comes as BNP’s ailing leader Khaleda Zia is effectively under house arrest after a conviction on corruption charges. Her supporters poured into Dhaka on Saturday, crammed into buses despite checkpoints on the road into the capital, and even rode on top of packed trains. “Vote thief, vote thief, Sheikh Hasina vote thief,” chanted the crowd at the BNP demonstration in front of the party headquarters, according to AFP.
At least 10,000 police had been deployed to prevent violence, officials said, but officers clashed with hundreds of protestors in the Kakrail neighbourhood in front of the city’s largest Catholic church, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets. “Some police officers were injured,” Deputy Police Commissioner Akterul Islam told the French news agency.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesperson Faruk Hossain said that at least 100,000 people had joined the BNP rally, while up to 25,000 were at the Jamaat protest near the city’s main commercial district. That event had been banned by police and hundreds of officers in riot gear blocked off a key intersection, but about 3,000 protesters broke through the cordon.
Police arrested at least 200 BNP supporters near the party headquarters after they were accused of hurling Molotov cocktails, Faruk said, adding at least 600 had been detained over the previous week. BNP spokesperson Zahir Uddin Swapan told AFP that there were more than one million people at its rally, which he described as its “final call” for Hasina to resign, and at least 2,900 of its activists and supporters had been held over the past week.
(With agency inputs)