Police say it has reason to believe "a third party" incited violence during the New Market skirmish as a Dhaka Court placed BNP leader Makbul Hossain on a three-day remand in a case filed over the clashes between Dhaka College Students and shopkeepers that left two dead and dozens injured.
Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Md Mamunur Rashid passed the order on Saturday in response to the police's plea for a 7-day remand to grill Makbul.
A Detective Branch (DB) official claimed that they so far identified at least 17 people – nine wearing helmets and some carrying local weapons as seen in video footage – who took part in the violence and killing of Nahid, a courier service employee. But none of them was arrested in five days since the New Market violence broke out on Monday.
Makbul, who previously served as BNP's New Market unit president, was arrested on Friday on charges of inciting violence, obstructing police, attacking and vandalism in the case filed with the New Market Police Station.
The BNP leader is the prime suspect among the 24 people named in the case. On the other hand, around 1,700 people have been accused in three other cases over the incident with only the arrest of Makbul as of filing this report.
In the remand plea, police mentioned that the clashes started between shopkeepers of two stores named Welcome and Capital Fastfood, both allocated to Makbul by the city corporation.
From primary probe police found that the clash erupted over the store allocated to Makbul who and 23 others were directly and indirectly involved in the violence and incited the clash, added the petition.
DB Joint Commissioner Mahbub Alam said the investigation into the incident had already yielded sufficient evidence.
"Detectives believe that a third party tried to make the situation worse and police are looking for them," he added.
Additional Commissioner and DB chief AKM Hafiz Akhter said that the 24 people were named in the case based on clear police intelligence about incitement and their political allegiance played no role.
However, BNP has slammed the police over the arrest of Makbul Hossain and accused them of attempting to "cover up" their "failures" by blaming the BNP.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul on Saturday also accused the police of trying to shield the Awami League, Jubo League and Chhatra League leaders and activists involved in the recent New Market clashes.
The party will stage rallies in all metropolitan cities, including in the capital, on 26 April (Tuesday), demanding the release of arrested BNP leader Makbul Hossain and the withdrawal of "false cases" filed by police in connection with the clashes.
Fakhrul announced the programme at a press conference at the party chairperson's Gulshan office and said a meeting of the BNP standing committee also decided to form a three-member probe committee to unearth the real truth by investigating the incidents of violence in the New Market area.
He said the BNP standing committee strongly demands the arrest of the real perpetrators by releasing Makbul and withdrawal of the false cases filed with a "political motive."
Fakhrul added that the cases were filed against 1,200 people, including 24 leaders of BNP and its wings, instead of arresting the real offenders.
He said it has been proved through different media reports that the Chhatra League "cadres" were involved in the violence.
DB says armed goons identified, arrests soon
Since the New Market incident on last Monday and Tuesday, police are yet to arrest any of the armed people involved in the violent clashes between Dhaka College students and shopkeepers that claimed the lives of an 18-year-old courier delivery man and a shopkeeper.
The Detective Branch (DB) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), which is investigating both cases over the incident, said they have identified the armed goons involved in the killing of courier delivery man Nahid and shopkeeper Morsalin.
An official of DB Ramna Division told The Business Standard that they have so far identified at least 17 people who took part in the attack and brutally hacked Nahid to death.
The detectives were able to confirm their identities through CCTV footage of the incident and eyewitnesses' accounts, the official added.
In the clash between the students of Dhaka College and the shopkeepers, 17 armed men were actively involved and nine of them were wearing helmets wielding weapons in their hands.
Courier service worker Nahid Hossain fell on the road after he was chased by the helmet wearers. All of them unleashed on the teenagers and brutally hacked him to death.
According to a source at the DB Ramna division, most of them are former and current students of Dhaka College with some having political identities.
The source added that detectives collected all their names, addresses and family identities but will not reveal the information at this stage of the ongoing probe.
Meanwhile, since the violent clashes traders of New Market area and general students of Dhaka College have been living in a state of uncertainty and fear with many calling on the authorities to conduct a proper investigation and identify real culprits.
In all, the number of accused in the four cases is about 1,600. In the last four days, police have so far arrested only one person in these cases. He is Mohammad Makbul Hossain, former president of New Market Thana BNP and now a member of the executive committee of BNP's Dhaka Metropolitan South branch.
Mohammad Helal Uddin, president of the Bangladesh Shop Owners Association, thinks the issue is turning into a political case.
"They want the case to investigate the case politically without focusing on unearthing the real truth," he said and added, "Let the perpetrators be brought to justice."
However, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Benazir Ahmed said on Saturday that no case has been filed for political reasons over the New Market incident and it will never happen.