Ashulia erupts into violence

June 29, 2009

1 more killed, 150 hurt as RMG workers clash with cops for second day
Garment workers clashed with police for hours at Ashulia near the capital yesterday, leaving a co-worker killed and over 150 people including 30 cops wounded.
The fight followed Saturday’s pitched battles that saw a worker killed and 25 others injured when Ansars fired on those agitating for higher pay.
Police shot over 200 rounds of rubber bullets and teargas shells and charged baton to break up yesterday’s protest over the fellow worker’s death the previous day.
The marauding crowd attacked at least 15 factories and damaged over 50 vehicles. They barricaded the Dhaka-Tangail highway for over four hours, causing huge traffic gridlock on either side.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association President Abdus Salam Murshedy has expressed deep concern over the last two days’ violence.
Talking to The Daily Star last night, he said such unrest is ‘very upsetting’ for the industries.
Earlier in the day, some 500 policemen from Dhaka and Manikganj districts joined Ashulia police and the Rapid Action Battalion to quell the violence.
Iqbal Bahar, superintendent of police in Dhaka, told The Daily Star in the evening, “Around 50,000 workers participated in the protest. They were violent and throwing stones at us, forcing us to fire rubber bullets and tear gas.”
He confirmed that a worker had died in the incident, but could not give identity of the deceased.
Additional SP Imam Hossain, Assistant Police Commissioner (circle) Abdus Salam, Officer-in-Charge Monwar Hossain of Ashulia Police Station, sub-inspectors Ilias Hossain, Abdus Salam, Murad Hossain, Mostafa Kamal and Hafiz Uddin were among the injured.
Most of the wounded workers were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. Of them, condition of at least 30 was critical, said hospital sources.
The workers began pouring into the Jamgorah bus stop since early morning. At 9:00am, they started agitation by barricading the highway with blazing tyres.
As vehicular movement ground to a halt and snarl-ups grew longer, police resorted to baton-charge to disperse the protesters.
The workers retaliated by throwing stones. Soon chase and counter-chase ensued. Police started firing rubber bullets and teargas shells at around 11:00am.
At one stage, death of a worker stoked anger among the demonstrators and sent them on the rampage.
With things threatening to spin out of control, additional forces from Dhaka and Manikganj reached the scene at around noon. The situation came under control at 2:00pm.
Tension was still running high as a huge contingent of police was patrolling the area to avert further violence.
A little after midnight, OC Monwar Hossain told The Daily Star that two cases had been filed with the Ashulia Police Station for the day’s incidents.
One was filed for assault on police and the other for the killing of a worker. Over 1,200 unnamed people stand accused in the assault case and 300 in the murder case.
Earlier, two cases were filed in connection with Saturday’s violence and a worker’s death in Ansar firing.
In one case, Ashulia police accused three Ansars–Rahmat Ali, Sihab Mollah and Shahjahan–of shooting dead Al-Amin of sweater factory S Suhi Industrial Park Ltd.
Sub-inspector Sekander Ali said the three have been confined to the headquarters.
Meanwhile, some 50 garment workers attacked a factory and damaged around 15 vehicles on Dhaka-Mymensingh road at Board Bazar yesterday afternoon.
The workers ran riot on rumours that a fellow worker injured while crossing the road had died.
Witnesses said the workers of Southern Garments staged the demonstrations.
BGMEA REACTION
The BGMEA president said the way factories are damaged over trifling matters is extremely worrying.
“I request the workers and their leaders to understand that the present global situation doesn’t bode well for our export sector.”
He said there is no denying that workers have the right to protest unlawful practices by the factory authorities, while for owners it is reasonable to sack employees on just grounds.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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