Haroon Habib

DHAKA: As the "Dhaka siege" programme of the Opposition parties planned for Sunday draws near, the police have begun largescale arrests in an obvious attempt to thwart the agitation.

More than 2,000 persons, mostly young and uneducated youths who are likely to participate in the siege, were arrested in the past five days.

Although the police claimed that they did not arrest anyone without sufficient reason, relatives of many detenus and human rights organisations alleged that the arrests were a gross violation of human and political rights of the people. Persons in the low income group such as rickshaw pullers, hawkers and those who have come to Dhaka looking for jobs, were arrested and implicated in cases like assault on police, burglary and vandalism.

Relatives of the detenus crowded the court area in Dhaka and blasted the police for arresting people without specific charges. The detenus will be kept behind bars until the Opposition programme ends on Sunday evening.

The Awami League-led Opposition alliance has asked the Government to stop blanket arrest of its activists ahead of the "Dhaka siege" which, it claims, will assemble over two million people to demand the resignation of the Khaleda Zia Government. The High Court had on February 5 passed an injunction against blanket arrests after the Government launched a similar drive earlier.