28 October, 2006: A case study of the violent politics of the Awami League
Background At the end of BNP-Jamaat-led alliance government’s tenure (2001-2006), the 13th Amendment to the Bangladesh Constitution required the president to offer the position of the Chief Adviser to the immediate past Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who was to be Justice K.M. Hasan, soon after the tenure of the government expires on October 28, 2006. The then main opposite party Awami League (AL) opposed Justice Hasan, alleging that he belonged to the then ruling BNP. Awami League launched country-wide blockade and general strike to stop Mr. Justice K M Hasan taking the oath of the chief of the caretaker government.
Sheikh Hasina, the President of Awami League, called her party activists to march to Dhaka with oars and sticks to take control of the streets of the capital. From a rally held on 18th September 2006 at the Paltan ground in the the capital, Sheikh Hasina instructed her party activists to come to Dhaka with oars, logs, and sticks:
“you [the people] be ready and come to Dhaka from villages, upazilas and districts with oars, rowing poles and with whatever you have when I will call you,” Hasina instructed her coalition activists urging to build a resistance against the following caretaker government.1 Following her call, her party activists gathered in the city sparking the violence of October 28.2
Chronology of events On the eve of October 28, 2006, the then Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia addressed the nation on the evening of October 27th. On the following day, October 28th, a feeling of fear prevailed across the country as Awmi league threatened to massive blockade if Justice K M Hasan was not offered for the post of the chief advisor to the caretaker government.
The activists of the then opposition alliance led by Awami League took to the streets, started setting fire in the markets, set vehicles ablaze and clashed with the BNP and Jamaat activists, and even with the law enforcers. Hundreds of Awami League activists carrying bamboo poles and oars paraded most city roads, chanting slogans against Khaleda Zia and Justice KM Hasan.3 The Awami League activists blocked almost all the city entry points in the morning and clashed with any procession of the BNP they saw.
The major violent incidents took place at the Paltan intersection, Shahbagh, Jatrabari and Mirpur in the capital.4Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (BJI) arranged a pre-declared program at 3.00pm at Baitul Mukarram North gate in the capital to observe the day of power handover of the government. Another political meeting was arranged by Bangladesh Awami Legue at Paltan ground which was quite far from the Jamaat’s venue. At 11.00 am suddenly a procession started to throw bricks upon the activists of BJI and the students organisation Bangladesh Islami Chatrashibir (BICS). A rally led by AL leaders Hazi Selim and Dr. Iqbal passing by the Jamaat gathering, suddenly attacked the Jamaat meeting and started throwing bricks and sticks at the Jamaat workers.5 Even a number of big bombs were hurled by the AL men close to the stage as Jamaat Chief Matiur Rahman Nizami was at the tail end of his speech.6
Awami League activists used handmade bombs, arms, logs, oars and sticks in their indiscriminate attack on BJI and Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir (BICS). Due to this sudden attack, along with Jamat leaders Nurul Islam Bulbul, Josim Uddin, Mujahid and other activists were severely wounded and 5 of them died instantly. AL activists and cadres beat to death Jamaat activists with oars and sticks they were carrying. 7 Electronic media showed how inhumanly the Awami league men killed Shibir activist Mujahid by beating with sticks and oars. 8 The atmosphere at Dhaka Medical College Hospital was rendered heavy with the cries of the relatives of the injured and the dead activists of BJI and BICS. Hundreds of shocked relatives and party activists thronged to the hospital to see whether their relatives were among the dead and the injured. More than 400 of the injured were admitted to the hospital.9
The massacre of 28th October caused the tragic death of Shibir activist Mujahidul Islam, Golam Kibria Shipon, Jamaat activist from Lalbag, Habibur Rahman, Jamaat activist from Jurain, Jasimuddin, Jamaat activist Jasim (s/o Haji Anwarullah) and Abdullah Al Foysal from Siddhirganj. Later, on 5 November 2006, Saifullah Mahmud Masum died in hospital from severe wounds sustained on 28th October.
The violence of Awami League in 28th October 2006 was not limited to Dhaka only. On the same date Awami League men killed BJI activist Ruhul Amin in Gazipur, BJI activist Saber Hossain in Nilfamary, Arafat Hossain Sabuj in Magura, Abbas Ali in Meherpur and Jabid Ali in Satkhira.
At least 18 people were killed throughout the country by the “oars and logs” attack of Awami League and its allies.10 At least 1,000 were injured, many with bullets, in attacks by the activists of the AL led alliance.11 In Kurigram, Islami Chhatra Shibir activist Rafiqul Islam, wounded in a clash with the Awami League activists, died in a clinic at about 5:00pm.12
In Narsingdi, Hajipur union council chairman Saiful Islam, 33, also a local BNP leader, and his younger brother, Ripon, 28, died in a brutal attack of Awami league cadres at about 2:30pm. His elder brother, Mah-e-Alam, 42, cousin Shamim, 35, and supporters Hannan Sarkar, 33, and Elen Hossain, 32, were injured when they tried to save Saiful from the Awami league attackers. More than two dozen offices of the BNP and its front organizations were vandalized in the attacks of Awami league. In Chittagong, a toll collector of Shah Amanat Bridge, Abul Kalam, wounded in an attack by Awami League on Saturday morning, died in Chittagong Medical College Hospital at about 4:00pm.
Kalam and three others were wounded when the Awami league men, during a road blockade, attacked state minister Zafrul Islam at 11:30am. Zafrul somehow managed to escape the scene unhurt.13 Road communications between Dhaka and other areas remained snapped due to massive blockade by Awami League. Shops and business establishments were closed. Streets in towns and cities were deserted. Railway communications were also disrupted in many areas.14
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