Activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal faced police action as they tried to hold a pre-announced rally in the capital on Sunday against the custodial death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed while facing trial in a Digital Security Act case.
More than 100 people, including Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) leaders and activists, police and journalists, were injured in the clash in front of the National Press Club in the morning.
Meanwhile on the day, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party demanded repeal of the law.
JCD alleged that at least 30 of their injured leaders and activists were arrested by police while undergoing treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, but police sources claimed they arrested 7/8 persons.
Chhatra Dal on Saturday declared that they would hold a rally in front of the press club in protest at the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed, who died in jail on Thursday, and the decision to revoke the state title of former president Ziaur Rahman.
But the pre-announced rally was thwarted even before it started as a chase and counter-chase took place between police and JCD leaders and activists when JCD tried to hold the rally.
Witnesses said police resorted to baton charge and fired rubber bullets to bring the situation under control.
A group of Chhatra Dal activists took position inside the press club and hurled brick-chips at police. Later police entered the press club. Chhatra Dal activists also vandalised a police box in front of the press club.
Dhaka City West Chhatra Dal President Kamruzzaman Jewel claimed that at least 60 of their leaders and activists have been injured.
Earlier around 10am, leaders and activists of different units of Chhatra Dal started gathering at the press club and its adjoining areas. After 11am, JCD leaders and activists tried to get out of the press club to hold the rally, but police stopped them.
At one stage, some JCD leaders and activists came out of the press club and sat on the road. But police beat them back to the press club premise, triggering a clash between the two.
"Chhatra Dal leaders and activists executed a pre-planned attack on police. Legal action will be taken soon," Deputy Commissioner of Police Sajjadur Rahman said while talking to reports after the clash, adding that 10 policemen have been injured in the clash. All of them have been treated at different hospitals in the capital.
Fazlur Rahman Khokon, president of Chhatra Dal, told The Business Standard, "Today's police attack is unprecedented. When the Chhatra Dal leaders and activists took shelter in the press club, policemen also entered there and carried out a brutal attack, injuring more than 100 people, including me. Among the injured, 50 are in critical condition."
"Police also arrested 30 of our injured leaders and activists while undergoing treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital," he alleged.
Meanwhile, as part of the ongoing protest against Mushtaq Ahmed's death, leftist student organisations of Dhaka University held a rally at Shahbag in the capital on Sunday evening.
They demanded immediate release of all those detained under the Digital Security Act. They also demanded the release of their eight leaders and activists who were detained by the police during the previous two days' protests.
At the rally, Dhaka University Economics Department Professor MM Akash said the digital security law is a black law and it should be repealed. The law is being used against the people.
BNP wants repeal of the law
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has demanded the repeal of the Digital Security Act as well as immediate and unconditional release of all those detained under the act.
Raising the demands at a virtual meeting of the national standing committee of the party on 27 February, he also said about 700 people had already been detained under the law.
"The people are being deprived of all their constitutional rights – including freedom of speech, freedom of writing and freedom of expression – because of the oppressive law, the Digital Security Act," he added.
The meeting expressed deep concern over the sudden death of Mushtaq Ahmed, a dissident writer detained under the Digital Security Act, and condemned the government for not having provided treatment despite Mushtaq having been ill.
National Standing Committee members of BNP Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Barrister Jamiruddin Sarkar, Mirza Abbas, Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, Moin Khan, Nazrul Islam Khan, Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, Begum Selima Rahman, and Iqbal Hasan Mahmud were present at the meeting, among others.