Hindus tensed high this time in Bangladesh

The Hindus of Kornai village in Dinajpur gather for a discussion a day before the third phase of the upazila elections today. The minorities had become victims of communal violence just after the national elections and yesterday a hay stack was torched spreading panic in the locality. Photo: Star

The Hindus of Kornai village in Dinajpur gather for a discussion a day before the third phase of the upazila elections today. The minorities had become victims of communal violence just after the national elections and yesterday a hay stack was torched spreading panic in the locality. Photo: Star

Eighty-one upazila parishads go to polls today amid tension over continued violence during the electioneering in some areas, which bodes ill for a peaceful voting atmosphere.

Tension runs high this time

In the previous two phases of the polls last month, the ruling Awami League men’s unruly activities, including snatching of ballot papers and capturing of polling stations during the voting, had tainted the polling process.

In the third phase, law and order in some areas worsened even days before the voting as the ruling party men clashed with their rivals.
In Sreepur of Gazipur, the situation went out of control following such clashes and the Election Commission has suspended the polls there.
During the campaign in the upazila, two rival groups of the AL were locked in fierce clashes, killing one person.
Similar clashes were reported by our correspondents in Narail, Bhola, Pirojpur and Dinajpur yesterday.

The EC has so far failed to take appropriate measures to check violence and rowdy activities, drawing widespread criticism.
There are also allegations that some district administration officials are turning a blind eye to law violations by the ruling party men.
On Wednesday, the Satkhira returning officer withdrew seven presiding officers from election duties over allegation that they were biased towards the anti-government quarter.

Election Commissioner Abdul Mobarak on Thursday claimed that the EC had taken all steps to prevent violence during today’s voting. But he said the commission “cannot guarantee” that the polling will take place in a completely peaceful atmosphere.
Meanwhile, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has threatened to lay siege to the EC if it favoured the AL-backed candidates.
He alleged the government was conspiring to win the election through rigging.

“The Election Commission has totally failed to protect the BNP-backed candidates from violent attacks by the ruling party men,” Fakhrul told reporters in the capital yesterday.
He said his party would fare better in today’s polls if the voting was held in a free and fair manner.
Contacted, AL Joint Secretary General Mahbubul Alam Hanif said the government and his party would not interfere in the polls and that it would be held freely.

According to him, AL-supported candidates will do well this time since the party grassroots have made vigorous efforts at campaigning and persuaded party rebels into quitting the race.
In the 81 upazilas that go to polling today, there are over 1.33 crore voters, who will elect a chairman and two vice-chairmen, including one reserved for women, in every upazila.

The upazila polls, which are being held one and a half months after the January 5 national elections that the BNP-led alliance boycotted, have become a prestige issue for both the AL and the BNP. The outcome of the polls will indicate the gain or loss of their popularity.

In the first two phases on February 19 and 27, elections were held in 213 upazilas. The BNP-supported contenders secured 93 of the 213 chairmen posts and the AL favourites bagged 81.
To win more upazilas this time, the two archrivals have made frantic efforts to persuade their rebels into quitting the race. But rebels in many areas have refused to stand aside.

Both the parties have more rebels in today’s polls than those in the first two phases. AL has at least 79 rebel candidates for the chairman posts in 47 upazilas while the BNP has 60 in 36 upazilas.

This means the AL has been able to pick single candidates for chairman posts in 34 upazilas and the BNP in 42. The BNP did not field chairman candidates in three upazilas, where it favoured its ally Jamaat-e-Islami candidates to run.

Both the main parties also have dissidents vying for the vice-chairmen posts in several upazilas.

In the second phase, the AL had 57 rebel chairman candidates in 42 of the 117 upazilas and the BNP had 51 rebels in 41 upazilas.
Meanwhile, the government has deployed army personnel alongside members of police, Ansar and Border Guard Bangladesh, to ensure peaceful voting.

In Pirojpur sadar upazila, at least seven people were injured when supporters of AL rebel Shamim Hasan attacked on Jalalbari and Kuriana villages on Thursday night. The two villages are Hindu populated.

Interestingly, two Hindu men loyal to Shamim led the attacks to create panic in the area so that the Hindus refrain from voting, locals said.
Shamim’s supporters also attacked former AL lawmaker Shah Alam and his supporters on the same night when Shah Alam was campaigning for AL-backed candidate Abdul Haque at Ganokpara village.

In Shariatpur, at least 15 people were wounded in separate clashes between supporters of chairman aspirants in sadar and Naria upazilas on Thursday night.
In Dinajpur sadar, unidentified miscreants set fire to the heaps of paddies of Hindus in Kornai village early yesterday.
The incident triggered fresh fears among the Hindus, who are yet to overcome the memories of attacks on their community by alleged Jamaat-Shibir men following the January 5 election.

In Tazumuddin upazila of Bhola, at least eight people were injured in a clash between supporters of the AL-backed chairman aspirant and the party rebel in Khaser Hat Bazar area on Thursday evening.

In Lohagara upazila of Narail, AL men held a rally and brought out a procession in support of the party-backed chairman aspirant, violating electoral code of conduct.

At least eight people, including four polling officials and a journalist, were injured in a clash between supporters of AL-backed chairman aspirant and AL-rebel candidate of Nagarpur upazila in Tangail yesterday.

The incident happened at Nagarpur bus station around 7:30pm.
Polls to Nagarpur upazila will be held in the fourth phase, on March 23.

Source: The Daily Star