Riot police in Bangladesh fired tear gas shells on Sunday to disperse thousands of Islamist activists trying to enforce an anti-government general strike, leaving at least 50 people injured, news reports said.
The violence erupted at two places outside capital Dhaka after police tried to stop the protesters from blocking roads and smashing vehicles that defied the shutdown, private television stations ATN News and Boishakhi TV reported.
Footage showed protesters, many of them wearing Islamic prayer caps, throwing stones at police. Police responded with batons and tear gas.
The 30-hour nationwide strike has been called by a coalition of 12 Islamic parties to protest removal of a clause from the country’s constitution that expressed “absolute faith and trust in Allah.” The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party backed the protest.
The amendment also restored secularism as a state principle of Muslim-majority Bangladesh.
In a recent constitutional amendment, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s coalition government tried to appease both the Islamists and the liberals.
It has retained Islam as the state religion, but included secularism to replace the phrase “absolute faith and trust in Allah.”
The Islamists want the government to reinstate the phrase in the charter’s preamble.
The Islamists have no representatives in the Bangladesh’s 345-member Parliament, but they draw support from the country’s hundreds of Islamic schools.
During Sunday’s strike several thousand protesters, many of them armed with sticks and stones, tried to block a road outside Dhaka, TV footage showed. The footage showed police using batons and stones to break up the protesters at Kanchpur, 16 kilometres (10 miles) southeast of the capital city.
Similar clashes also occurred in Keraniganj, another small town on southern outskirts of the capital city.
At least 50 people were injured in the violence, the reports said.
Police officials were not immediately available for comments.
A general strike is a common opposition tactic to embarrass the government in Bangladesh. Such strikes usually turn violent in the South Asian nation, a parliamentary democracy, that has a history of two successful and 19 failed military coups since 1971, when the country won independence from Pakistan.