In the name of politics This Is What They Do To People

Bangladesh on 12 November 2013
Location : Bangladesh | Source : Daily Star. Image Source: Daily Star

Hartals have always been violent, more or less, and have often taken innocent lives. Yet there is something gory about the BNP-Jamaat’s shutdowns this time. The number of people killed and injured in pre-hartal and hartal violence in the last three weeks is alarming.

At least 19 people were killed and over 100 injured, mostly in arson and crude bomb attacks, during the three spells of shutdowns since October 27.

Most troubling is the number of child victims — at least 16 wounded so far. After the disturbing death of 14-year-old Monir on Thursday, another boy came under a similar attack on Sunday, the first day of the 84-hour hartal.

The 13-year-old victim, Rony, broke through a window of a bus in a desperate attempt to save himself when hartal supporters set it ablaze in the capital’s Mirpur.

He survives but the escape bid has left his right foot peppered with shards of glass, and over 15 percent of his body got burnt by the time he jumped out. He also suffered deep cuts in the right leg.

Rony, being the conductor of the bus, was sitting inside after the driver parked it on the Diabari embankment. The attackers came out of nowhere around 5:00am, an hour before the hartal began, and hurled a petrol bomb inside the bus, said the boy’s father.

The boy is now taking treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

The ongoing 84-hour hartal is thus drawing fresh blood when the old wounds have yet to be healed.

Still recovering at the National Ophthalmology Institute is Rahima, the nine-year-old who was caught up in an explosion during the hartal on October 29.

The explosion has damaged both her eyes — one fully, the other partly. Splinters have peppered her palm when she picked up a cocktail mistaking it for a ball.

It is understood that it was one of those crude bombs carelessly thrown by pickets. At least six children have been similarly caught up and injured in explosions.

Another little girl, who was burnt inside a bus in a pre-hartal violence, is being treated at the DMCH burn unit.

Eight-year-old Sumi was coming to Dhaka to visit her sister when hartal supporters set the bus on fire. Still in racking pain, she wants to get out of the hospital. But doctors are not sure when they can release her, as her condition is critical.

Upstairs, lay two more victims — Abdur Razzak Mithu and Ruhul Amin. They were attacked by pro-hartal men on Saturday, the day before the “official” start of the hartal.

Mithu, 20, an office assistant at an insurance company, was injured when hartal supporters swooped on the bus he was in around 6:00pm at Shahbagh. He was on his way home to Savar after work.

Ruhul Amin, 32, a driver of a rental car service, too was going home when he came under attack around 8:30pm on the same day.

“A piece of brick flew in through the window and hit me on the head. As I slowed the car down, the attackers hurled a petrol bomb from behind. 
My car burst into flames instantly,” he told The Daily Star.

Al-Amin, the 20-year-old human hauler driver who was burnt inside his vehicle on November 5, lay shivering under a heap of blankets when a correspondent of this newspaper went to see him at the DMCH on Sunday.

National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman visited some of these patients on the day.

After his visit, he told The Daily Star: “Enforcing hartals through violence is not a democratic right. Pre-hartal violence is definitely a criminal offence and we must hold them accountable.”

He said the general public wanted peace and security and the state must ensure that.

Meanwhile, Asad Gazi, a CNG-run auto rickshaw driver who was badly burnt when hartal supporters hurled a petrol bomb in his vehicle during last 
week’s hartal, had to be moved to the Intensive Care Unit. His condition is unstable.

Two other hartal victims, Rokon Zaman, a covered van driver, and Hasu Mia, a CNG-run auto rickshaw passenger, are still recovering at the DMCH.

The condition of Montu Chandra Pal, who was badly burned in an arson attack by pickets on Sunday night, worsened yesterday. Doctors say 90 percent of his body was burned and there is little hope of his survival.

Five others were injured in the incident when pickets hurled a petrol bomb in the vehicle in Laxmibazar.

Asked about such widespread violence, Hassan Mahmood Khandker, inspector general of police, said, “The number of burn victims is decreasing and will further decrease. Cases have been filed for all these incidents and we have arrested some of those involved in the attacks. We are trying to arrest the others.”

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