Transport staff resist mobile court drive :5 cops among 50 hurt in Barisal clash

At least 50 people, including five policemen and a journalist, were injured yesterday in a clash between ruling party backed road transport workers and law enforcers over operation of a mobile court of environment directorate task force.

During the unrest, traffic on Barisal-Dhaka highway came to a halt for four hours between 12:30pm and 4:30pm.

A helicopter shifted police constables Mizanur Rahman and Nannu Mia to Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka as their condition deteriorated, police said.

Sub-Inspector Mujaffar Hossain, constables Rafiqul Islam and Rahat Hossain, journalist Faruk Hossain Litu of local daily Matobad and about 15 others were admitted to Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Hospital here.

Police detained at least 30 transport workers, pedestrians and passengers from the spot.

Witnesses said the mobile court, supported by Rapid Action Battalion, started to check fitness, detect hydraulic horn, black smoke spewing vehicles in front of Kashipur High School on Barisal-Dhaka highway around 11:30am,.

The court fined seven buses Tk 5,000 each and sentenced five drivers to one month's imprisonment, including a fine of Tk 1000 each. Md Qamaruzzaman, executive magistrate of environment directorate led the drive, said a press release of the directorate.

The court went into operation without any prior notice, claimed Aftab Hossain, president of city Shramik League and road transport workers' union.

It also physically assaulted transport workers and leaders who failed to pay the fine or protested its action, he added.

According to the workers, the situation worsened after the law enforcers assaulted Shah Alam, secretary of the workers' union.

Incensed, they assembled at Nathullabad central bus terminal, about a kilometre away from the mobile court spot and blocked the highway around 12:30pm.

The agitated workers attacked a police pickup while it was crossing the terminal area around 1:15 pm, witnesses said.

Six policemen were riding the van on their return trip from a protocol duty of ruling party whip ASM Firoj.

A strong contingent of riot police rushed to the spot and controlled the situation charging baton and lobbing huge number of tear gas shells around 2:30pm.

Police also raided houses of workers' leaders and ransacked offices of road transport workers' union, transport tickets booths, waiting rooms and shops in the terminal area, mentioned locals.

Binoy Krishna Bala, deputy inspector general of Barisal police, claimed police maintained highest restraint even after some of its members were injured seriously.

Denying any firing incident, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Abdur Rahim said law enforcers controlled the situation by charging baton and firing tear gas.

The mobile court did not inform the administration about its operation, noted Barisal Deputy Commissioner ASM Arifur Rahman.

The decision of operating the court near an SSC examination centre was imprudent, observed officials.

Leader of the mobile court Md Qamaruzzaman, however, said they duly informed the administration about the operation.

High officials of Barisal division, district and police visited the spot and hospital.

A group of road transport workers brought out a procession in the city yesterday evening demanding punishment of Aftab Hossain for the unrest.

News Source: 
The Daily Star