Tens of thousands of BNP leaders and activists -- defying all odds, and hurdles -- have joined the party's ninth divisional rally at the Central Eidgah in Rajshahi.
Rajshahi city unit of BNP arranged the rally that formally began around 11:30am on Saturday morning amid an all-out transport strike.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and other senior party leaders reached the rally venue at around 2pm. They are scheduled to address the rally soon.
Senior central leaders of the party are currently delivering speeches.
Party supporters from districts close by started arriving in and around the rally venue, forming small processions, since this morning.
Many activists entered the city riding easy bikes and walking through the villages surrounding the city to avoid harassment, some BNP men said.
Procession participants were seen holding the party symbol "sheaf of paddy" and the photos of former prime minister and BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and her son, the party's acting chairperson, Tarique Rahman.
Rally organisers have kept two chairs empty on the main rally stage for Khaleda, and Tarique, both convicted over corruption charges, as a symbolic gesture. ,
Meanwhile, locals in Rajshahi have reported that they have been facing difficulties in using mobile internet services since Saturday morning ahead of the rally.
According to sources, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) issued a letter directing the country's telecom operators to keep the 3G and 4G data services shut in the region from 9:30am to 8pm today (3 December).
Journalists of different media houses, who gathered in Rajshahi to cover BNP's divisional rally, also claimed to have faced slow internet services from this morning.
BNP activists alleged harassment by police and Awami League activists at different points on their way to Rajshahi.
Insaan Ali Molla and Abu Bakar Siddique left their homes in Puthia early morning to reach the rally venue ahead of schedule.
The two alleged that they faced obstruction by the police and Awami League men.
It took them several hours to reach the Central Eidgah in Rajshahi with rickshaw vans and battery-run easy-bikes.
Another party activist, Rabiul Islam said that he along with hundreds of others reached Rajshahi on some 20 battery-run easy-bikes.
Law enforcers have taken adequate measures to maintain the law and order situation in and around the city centring the BNP rally.
Also, check-posts have been set up at all entry points of the city with plainclothes police patrolling important locations.
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP), Rafiqul Alam, said that law enforcers are on alert so that no one can create any anarchy centring the rally and three-tier security measures have been taken to ensure smooth conduct of the rally, reports UNB.
Some 17 check-posts have been installed at important points of the city and detective police are also performing their duties alongside police.
Besides, a number of CCTV cameras were installed in the venue area to ensure security and a cybercrime unit will observe the activities at the venue through the cameras.
Meanwhile, bus communication remained halted between Rajshahi and other parts of the country since Thursday morning,
BNP activists from the districts under the divisions were seen coming to the city by train, trucks, and other vehicles like human haulers, auto rickshaws, three-wheelers, motorbikes, and micro-buses from Wednesday.
Transport owners and workers enforced the strike in eight districts under the Rajshahi division for an indefinite period from Thursday, causing immense suffering to commuters.
Besides, the Rajshahi auto-rickshaw owners association also enforced an indefinite strike on Friday afternoon. BNP leaders alleged that the strikes are meant for obstructing mass waves toward their rally.
The rally in Rajshahi on Saturday will be the ninth by BNP at the divisional level as eight others were held in Chattogram, Mymensingh, Khulna, Rangpur, Barishal and Faridpur, Sylhet and Cumilla.
A similar strike was also enforced ahead of BNP's divisional rallies in Sylhet, Faridpur, Barishal, Rangpur and Khulna, but thousands of party leaders, activists and supporters participated in the rallies overcoming the obstacles.
As part of the move to continue the pace of its ongoing movement, the BNP on 27 September announced a series of public rallies in 10 divisional cities.
The party will conclude the divisional programmes by holding its last rally in Dhaka on 10 December.
The organisers said the rallies are meant to denounce the price hike of daily essentials and fuels, the death of five party men in previous police action in Bhola, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, and Jashore, and to ensure the freedom of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
BNP has long been demanding that the next general election be held under a caretaker government, not under any political government — a demand sharply rejected by the ruling Awami League as the constitution does not allow it to happen.