November 6, 2023
DHAKA – As the BNP and its like-minded parties intensify their street agitation, the government prepares to go for a stricter crackdown on the opposition activists to quash the anti-government movement.
The police are making lists of BNP activists and leaders down to grassroots for arrest, said police sources.
Md Anwar Hossain, deputy inspector general (operations) at the police headquarters, told The Daily Star, “We held a special meeting with all the metropolitan commissioners, and the range DIGs and instructed them to arrest the accused in FIRs and those with outstanding warrants.
“We have already taken steps to make a list of troublemakers, and lawful actions will be taken … .”
At least 89 cases were filed with 32 police stations under the Dhaka Metropolitan Police after the October 28 BNP rally and the violence that ensued, according to the DMP.
In those cases, 2,172 people, including BNP leaders and activists, and the party’s top brass, have been arrested.
DIG Anwar told this paper that 1,600 to 1,700 people have been detained every day over the last eight days in connection with different crimes, including arson, drugs, mugging, theft, etc.
While law enforcers clamp down on opposition activists, the Awami League plans to have a firm grip on the streets. It is working to step up its vigilance on the streets and continue its “peace and development” rallies until the national polls.
About the party’s strategy to deal with the movement, AL Joint General Secretary Bahauddin Nasim told The Daily Star, “Election will be held in due time and no one would be allowed to foil it. If anyone tries to resist the election, we will do whatever is required.”
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday asked transport workers to resist those who torch their buses and trucks. “If a thief enters your house, you try to catch him; if a robber attacks your house, you try to resist; then why do you remain idle when someone torches your buses or trucks?” he said at a rally at the Mohakhali bus terminal.
“You have the right to self-defence. Don’t you have sticks? Beat them. … It’s your source of income. They will attack [your vehicles] and you will just observe it! It should not be the case.”
Police sources said instructions have already been issued for gathering information on the “masterminds and financiers of the troublemakers” and monitoring their activities in real life and in the digital sphere.
Police officials are preparing profiles of these people, and actions would be taken against them, they said.
Law enforcers fear that even though the BNP has kept its movement limited to blockades, hartals, and rallies so far, it might go for attacks on government establishments, including key point installations, in the days ahead.
They believe the blockade, if it continues for a long while, will eventually run out of steam but the party’s movement will continue until the election.
But now that the transport system is grinding to a standstill, the police plan to escort long-haul buses and trucks to keep people and goods moving, said officials at the police headquarters.
They had escorted vehicles during the BNP-led 18-party countrywide blockade in 2013.
A highly placed source at the police headquarters told this paper that district superintendents of police (SPs) have been ordered to ensure the smooth movement of vehicles in their jurisdictions. To make sure the SPs do what they are told, the police headquarters told them that they would be evaluated on their success or lack of success in doing this job.
Meanwhile, the DMP and district police yesterday started holding meetings with representatives of transport workers — drivers’ assistants and conductors — during which the workers were asked to identify the arsonists and keep sand and water in the vehicles to douse fire.
They were also asked to interrogate suspicious passengers and not take the vehicles off the road or leave them unattended.
The police are planning to install dashcams and CCTV cameras on public vehicles, especially city buses, to identify arsonists, according to police officials.
DIG Anwar said the arsonists disguised as passengers were torching buses. “At a meeting with the transport owners and staffers, we have asked them to keep an eye on passengers’ movements and take photos … .”
The police believe there could be more attacks on law enforcers and there could be strikes on police and government establishments, said sources, adding that security for key point installations, government establishments, police stations, and DCs’ and SPs’ offices have been beefed up.
The DMP yesterday asked all its crime divisions to keep ambulances, doctors, and nurses on standby.
Meanwhile, the AL is to continue its electioneering alongside countering the BNP’s programmes.
The ruling party plans to notify its nominees in advance so that it helps dissipate any possible commotion among other AL ticket aspirants and the party-sponsored candidate gets enough time to campaign, said AL sources.
They said the notifications would be issued even before the election schedule is announced.