Dhaka: Four BNP supporters were shot dead in Bangladesh on Monday in street clashes with ruling Awami League activists on the first anniversary of the controversial polls, forcing deployment of paramilitary forces as Opposition leader Khaleda Zia announced an indefinite nationwide blockade.
Two Bangladesh Nationalist Party activists, in their 20s, were killed during clashes in northwestern Natore district.
In Kansat town, another protester died of his wounds after clashes with police and border guards, the police said.
The fourth death was reported from northwestern Rajshahi where police fired live rounds at hundreds of protesters who attacked them.
According to reports, at least 200 people were injured in violence in different parts of the country while police arrested some 600 activists of the BNP and its crucial ally fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami.
Zia, the chief of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) who had refused to participate in the January 5 elections branding it as “farce”, remained cordoned off inside her Gulshan office here since Saturday night. Security forces, including women police, were deployed outside the building.
The opposition had planned nationwide rallies today to mark the first anniversary of what they describe as “Democracy Killing Day”. The election last year led to re-election of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The arch-rivals—Hasina and Zia—ruled Bangladesh for most of the last 30 years.
Dozens of Zia supporters today tried to break the siege of her office, but were prevented by police who lobbed pepper spray at them. Several people reported injured in the incident.
Zia, 69, after failing to get out of her office, called for an indefinite blockade of roads, railways and waterways across Bangladesh until further notice.
“The non-stop blockade will continue across the country until the next announcement,” Zia told reporters.
Zia later cautioned police about the “consequences” of not letting her go out of the office and said even their own family members would not appreciate their behaviour.
Attired in a cream coloured sari, Zia got into the car and waited for the gates to be opened but police did not respond to her instruction.
“This government has not only confined me, they turned the entire country into a jail…the movement against the illegal government will continue,” the two-time former premier said.
“We will set the next course of action after the situation clams down.” Zia, however, did not elaborate on the next course of action.
Meanwhile, authorities overnight called out paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) troops after BNP vowed to stage nationwide protests.
Police in riot gears took positions in Naya Paltan area in Dhaka to prevent their planned rally. They carried raids in narrow lanes in the neighbourhood in search of “troublemakers”.
Amid the heightening tensions, all Dhaka-bound buses and ferries from across the country were grounded, stranding hundreds and thousands of passengers.
Prime Minister Hasina described as “drama” Zia’s move to stay in her office after announcing her party’s programme.
“She can certainly go home if she wishes,” Hasina told a delegation of her party’s youth wing yesterday.
Police yesterday issued an order banning all rallies in the capital “until further order” to evade law and order situation as the ruling Awami League too was scheduled to stage rallies coinciding with the anniversary.
At least seven vehicles were torched in the capital and Mymensingh yesterday by protesters, leaving 10 people injured.
More than 500 people were killed in the political violence in 2013, making it the bloodiest year since the 1971 independence war with Pakistan as BNP took to the street vowing to resist the “farcical polls”.