NARAYANGANJ (Bangladesh): Activists of Islamist group Hefazat-i-Islam, wielding sticks and chanting anti-government slogans, enforce a daylong strike on Sunday.—AP
NARAYANGANJ (Bangladesh): Activists of Islamist group Hefazat-i-Islam, wielding sticks and chanting anti-government slogans, enforce a daylong strike on Sunday.—AP

NARAYANGANJ: Two people died in fresh clashes between protesters and Bangladesh police on Sunday, raising the death toll from protests against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to 13, officials said.

The protesters — mostly from the Islamist group Hefazat-i-Islam — were angry at the visit of Modi as Bangladesh marked 50 years of independence, accusing him of stoking communal violence against Muslims in his own country.

Five people died on Friday, and another six the next day, after police shot at demonstrators in several major districts across the Muslim-majority nation of 168 million people.

Two others — a 19-year-old and a 23-year-old — died in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria after officers opened fire in clashes in the rural town of Sarail on Sunday, a police spokesman said.

“They (protesters) stor­med a highway police station, torching it and injuring at least 35 policemen. Police opened fire in self-defence,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman did not say if the pair had been shot dead by police.

He said some 3,000 pro­testers, mostly Hefazat supporters, had blocked a highway and attacked police with bricks and stones.

Another person was feared dead, Sarail’s government administrator, Ariful Haq Mridul, said.

Bangladesh’s home minister Asaduzzaman Khan called for the protests to be halted.

“Our security forces are observing this with patie­nce,” Khan told reporters on Sunday. “We think if this is not stopped, we’ll take necessary actions.”

At another protest in Narayanganj just outside the capital Dhaka on Sunday, Hefazat supporters chanted “action, action, direct action” as they blocked the key highway linking Dhaka with the port city of Chittagong.

Hundreds of demonstra­tors burnt furniture and tyres on the roads as they chanted anti-Modi slogans and called on authorities to investigate the earlier shootings. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets after the protesters barricaded parts of the highway.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2021

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