Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) activists are living in camps built in Sylhet's Chowhatta area ahead of the political party's divisional rally on Saturday (19 November).
Small pandals have been built with curtains near the rally venue in Aliya Madrasa ground with banners above that read "camp".
BNP leaders said that activists from different regions have started coming to Sylhet earlier due to various obstacles including transport strikes. These camps have been built for them. Separate camps are set-up for different chapters of BNP.
The leaders and activists who came earlier are living in these camps. There are also arrangements for food in these camps.
On Thursday (17 November) night, BNP leaders and activists could be seen roaming around the ground while the food was being cooked for them at the grounds.
"Many of our leaders and activists have already reached Sylhet. Here they are resting and eating," said Habiganj district BNP joint convener and former municipal mayor GK Gaus.
At the entrance of the field, two vendors are sitting with badges and coat pins bearing the BNP logo and symbols.
One of them, Mamun Khan came from Shariatpur. "I have sold coat pins and badges in Faridpur, Khulna, and Barishal rallies. Not only for business but for the love of the party, I am traveling around the country," he said.
He said that sales are also good.
A few small stalls have been built inside Aliya Madrasa grounds.
Water bottles are stacked in a stall. Anyone who comes to the field can take water from there for free.
Moulvibazar district BNP vice-president Regina Nasir has made the arrangement to distribute free water to activists. She is the daughter-in-law of former finance minister late M Saifur Rahman. Her husband Naser Rahman is the president of Moulvibazar District BNP.
From Thursday afternoon, the crowd of leaders and activists started gathering at the rallying place, the crowd kept growing over time.
BNP local committee members and central leaders including Moin Khan visited the ground. Sylhet district and metropolitan BNP leaders were also present.
"A 70 feet long and 30 feet wide stage is being constructed for the rally in Sylhet. Stage construction is almost complete," said Abdul Qayyum Chowdhury, the president of Sylhet district BNP.
"The government is trying to suppress the gathering in various ways. A transport strike has also been called. So many activists have started coming earlier. Camps are built in the fields for them to rest and eat. Each camp can accommodate 450 to 500 people. However, these camps will be demolished to make way for the people who came to the rally on Saturday," he added.
BNP is holding mass gatherings in all the divisional cities of the country as part of the central programme to protest against the increase in the price of daily necessities including rice, pulses, fuel oil, gas, electricity, fertilisers and to demand the unconditional release of BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and the withdrawal of the case against the party's acting chairman Tarique Rahman.
In continuation of this, the party will hold a rally in Sylhet on Saturday. BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir will speak as the chief guest.
Many BNP activists coming to Sylhet by trawler and boat
Many BNP activists are coming to Sylhet by trawler and boat from Sunamganj to join the rally.
Sunamganj District Transport Owners and Workers Association called for a 36-hour strike on Thursday.
The strike will continue from 6 am on Friday to 6 pm on Saturday. In view of this, BNP leaders and activists are coming to Sylhet not only by road but also using the waterways.
Sunamganj BNP leaders said that 50,000 activists from the district will join the rally.
Sunamganj District BNP President Kalim Uddin said that the strike has been called to prevent the rally.
"The government cannot stop us from going to the rally with a strike. 50 thousand activists will go to Sylhet from Sunamganj to make the rally successful. Meanwhile, the leaders and activists of different upazilas of the district have left for Sylhet by trawlers and boats," he added.
Going to Baithakhali and Saheb Bari Ghat of the city, it could be seen that the activists are going to Sylhet in engine-driven and steel-bodied boats with grains of rice in their hands.
District BNP leader Rakab Uddin said that these activists will reach Sylhet today.
"BNP leaders and workers of Durgam Tahirpur, Dharmapasha, Madhyanagar upazila have started their journey by boat to make the Sylhet rally a success. Today they will reach Sylhet," he said.
Sunamganj District BNP Senior Vice President Dewan Zainul Zakerin said, "We are adopting various strategies to make Sylhet rally successful. Strikes and police intimidation cannot stop us from going to rallies. Either way, we will reach Sylhet."
"Today we will start a peaceful journey to Sylhet with seven to eight thousand motorcycles. If the police block the road, we will resist it and join the rally," said Advocate Nurul Islam Nurul, general secretary of Sunamganj District BNP.