Tabith Awal, BNP’s mayor candidate for Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), and his followers came under attack while campaigning in the capital’s Gabtoli area yesterday.
BNP leaders alleged the attackers were supporters of a local ward councillor candidate backed by the ruling Awami League.
AL leaders, however, denied their involvement in the incident.
Witnesses said a group of people started throwing brickbats at Tabith and his followers when they were electioneering in Gabtoli’s Bajarpara area around 11:15am.
Tabith suffered minor injuries. Several of his followers were also injured.
While continuing the campaign in nearby Kalyanpur area, Tabith told reporters that some 25-30 ruling party men, equipped with arms, iron rods and sticks, swooped on his men. The attackers were chanting “Joy Bangla” slogan, he alleged.
He said the attackers also threw brickbats and eggs at them.
“Like cowards, they attacked us from behind. I was their target. It is a matter of serious concern that the attack was carried out right in front of some police personnel,” he said.
Tabith said he was hit on the head while many of his supporters were beaten up by the attackers.
“We did not launch a counterattack as we believe in peace. We are still going to the voters as they will give a befitting reply on the election day by voting for ‘Sheaf of Paddy’,” he said.
“Sheaf of Paddy” is Tabith’s polls symbol for the city corporation election, which is scheduled to take place on February 1.
Contacted, Tofayel Ahamed, officer-in-charge of Darussalam Police Station, said the incident happened when mayor candidates from both the AL and the BNP were electioneering in the area.
“As they came face to face, they engaged in a scuffle. Police later dispersed them,” he said, adding that he was yet to receive any complaint over the matter.
BNP’s Publicity Affairs Secretary Shahid Uddin Chowdhury Anne, who was present during the incident, alleged that his party men were attacked twice by the ruling party men in Gabtoli area. He said at least 15 BNP men, including Tabith, were injured.
The party’s Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir condemned the attack and urged the Election Commission to hold the city polls in a free, fair and credible manner.
“It’s a pre-planned attack and an act of cowardice. As the voting day approaches, the criminal group of the ruling party is becoming more violent,” he said in a press release.
Fakhrul described the EC as loyal to the prime minister and alleged that the commission took a rigid stance on using electronic voting machines in the polls to fulfil the “evil desire” of the ruling quarters.
Tabith’s rival Atiqul Islam, however, termed the incident an internal clash of the BNP.
While electioneering at Beraid Muslim High School ground, the AL candidate said he was yet to hear about any attack. ”They [BNP men] clashed with each other.”
Talking to reporters at his Secretariat office, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud said he saw a conspiracy in yesterday’s incident.
A quarter is trying to create confusions centring on the election, he said. “Investigation is needed to find whether the quarter is involved here.”
Hasan, also joint general secretary of the AL, alleged that from the beginning, the BNP was trying to make the polls questionable.
The Daily Star could not contact the AL-backed ward councillor whose supporters, according to BNP leaders, attacked Tabith and his followers.
The Election Commission has instructed Abul Kashem, returning officer for the DNCC polls, to investigate the attack on Tabith.
Talking to reporters at the EC Secretariat in the capital, the commission’s Secretary Md Alamgir said Tabith complained to the EC right after the attack.
The returning officer was instructed to take steps following a proper investigation, he said.
In the latest development, the returning officer, in a letter, asked the OC of the Darussalam Police Station to take legal steps after investigation.
In another letter, the RO asked the executive magistrate concerned to take steps as per the rules and informed him about it.
The Daily Star obtained copies of the letters.