At least three people were killed and 100 others injured on Sunday as widespread violence gripped Bangladesh’s capital and other cities in clashes between rival activists during an opposition-enforced nationwide blockade over electoral system controversies.
The violence claimed two lives in Dhaka and the third death was reported from northwestern Sirajganj while at least 100 people were injured and a similar number were detained by police across the country.
Witnesses said one passerby was found lying in a pool of blood on a street in old Dhaka where main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) activists and supporters of ruling Awami League clashed with knives while the second man was crushed under wheels of a speeding bus as he was chased by rival activists.
The third victim of the clash in Sirajganj was reported to be an activist of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami who witnesses said, died in a stampede while being chased by rival activists.
Media reports said at least 100 people were injured and a similar number had been detained by police across the country during the eight-hour blockade since the morning.
Police said protestors of BNP and its allies set ablaze about 30 buses, trucks and cars including police vehicles in the capital Dhaka and other parts of the country while riot police shot rubber bullets and tear gas shells.
The violence forced thousands to stay indoors or keep their vehicles off the road while the highway from Dhaka to the main port of Chittagong was deserted after the road had been barricaded.
The 18-party alliance led by BNP of former prime minister Khaleda Zia called for the blockade to force her archrival Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League government to restore a system of holding parliamentary elections under a non-party caretaker administration.
The government with its three-fourths majority in parliament last year scrapped the caretaker government provision through constitutional amendment for holding elections in 90 days, saying the elections must be held under political party-run government.
But BNP and allies including fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party feared the changed system would be used for stealing election results and said they would not take part in any future elections unless the system is restored.
The last caretaker government in 2007 was exposed to massive controversies for its alleged bias to BNP prompting intervention by the army amid an election standoff and intensified political tension.
The past four general elections in Bangladesh were held under the caretaker government system.