Clashes among ruling party leaders turn Dhaka’s Azimpur into battlefield

The clashes characterised by vandalism and arsons forced motorists to a halt in the area for almost two hours until 1pm.

Shah-e-Alam Murad, General Secretary of Dhaka (south) unit of the ruling Awami League, was set to collect and renew members for his unit on Thursday morning.

He booked Pearl Harbour Community Centre as the venue for the purpose but his followers found a pile of garbage dumped in front of it when they arrived there.

Locals said they also saw the heap of garbage.

Followers of Abu Ahmed Mannafi, Senior Vice-Chairman of the Awami League’s Dhaka unit, had planned to take out a protest rally at the same street at the same time.

The rally was to protest against what they called was “harassment of Mannafi”. Mannafi is known to be a supporter of Dhaka South Mayor Sayeed Khokon.

Seeing the pile of garbage, Murad’s supporters started chanting slogans demanding resignation of Mayor Khokon.

Police reached the scene and bolstered security around the area. But around 11am, Khokon’s followers tried resisting them from entering the road.

Mannafi’s group had not secured police permission to hold a protest rally there, said DMP (Lalbagh Division) Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ibrahim Khan.

“They started hurling brickbats at police and police chased them back,” he told bdnews24.com.

Some motorcycles were set afire at the Palashi intersection. Police managed to restore order around 1pm.

One witness said no vehicle could enter roads along the Azimpur intersection, Dhakeshwari Temple and orphanage. Traffic movement was on a halt at Palashi as well.

Motorcars were vandalised in front of the community centre although police were present at the Azimpur intersection, according to a number of witnesses.

Mayor Sayeed Khokon and Shah-e-Alam Murad had been in a discord for quite a while now, said some leaders of Awami League Dhaka south unit.

The conflict became evident when followers of both started a brawl over disagreements on getting on the stage at the inauguration of the Mouchak-Moghbazar flyover on Oct 26.

They again fought on Nov 1 at a meeting at the extended part of Dhaka south Awami League offices at the Bangabandhu Avenue, in continuation of the previous fight.

On Thursday’s events, Murad said: “We arranged a programme to collect members and renew membership. I don’t understand why someone would dump garbage to block our way and also start a clash with police.”

Alluding to Dhaka Ward-26 Councillor Hasibur Rahman, he said: “I heard that some people including a commissioner had a fight with the police. They even damaged the car of Dipu Moni (Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former foreign minister).”

“I cannot believe someone related to the Awami League can do that,” he said.

However, Hasibur Rahman said: “Our men did not go there to pick up a fight. They were near the bus stand. Murad’s supporters hurled brickbats on Dipu Moni’s car and vandalised and torched other vehicles.”

When asked about the piling of garbage in front of the venue, Mannafi said: “I do not own the wastes. Sometimes there is a scarcity of garbage-carrying vans, so the wastes piled up. They just need an issue to start a fight.”

About the previous clashes, he said: “They have insulted a freedom fighter. They are leaders of the Dhaka Awami League and so am I. We can hold programmes in protest.”