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Saturday, October 31, 2009

2 killed, 100 hurt as police fire into RMG workers in Bangladesh


Two people were killed as the police fired into garment factory workers rallying for pay unpaid for three months at Ershadnagar in Gazpur on Saturday. More than a hundred, including law enforcers, were injured.
The killing and the firing into the workers of the Nippon Garments Industry Limited, who had blocked the Dhaka–Mymensingh Road for about four hours, led to further clashes between the workers and the lawmen in the Tongi Industrial Area.
The Tongi police officer-in-charge, Tapan Chandra Saha, late Saturday night confirmed the death of two — a rickshaw-van puller and an unnamed pedestrian.
According to spot accounts, the police charged with truncheons at the workers who blocked the highway to push for their pay for three months in arrears. As the clash began, the lawmen fired gunshots, rubber bullets and teargas shells into the workers.
Vehicles remained stuck spanning 10 kilometres on both ends of the road stretch.
The workers, however, claimed four of their fellows were killed in the police firing. They alleged the police had taken away the bodies, but the local administration brushed aside any such allegation of taking away any bodies.
Witnesses said the deceased were rickshaw-van puller Mohammad Babul Sheikh, 35, and an unnamed pedestrian aged about 45 years.
Witnesses and local residents said several hundred workers of the garment factory, located near the Ershadnagar bus stand went to work about 7:30am, but the authorities with the help of the police stopped them from entering the factory.
The workers then went out on demonstrations and the authorities pasted a notice on the main gate announce a lay-off at the factory till November 29. The notice further said salaries would be paid on November 10.
The workers immediately took to the streets and blocked the Dhaka–Mymensingh Highway about 8:15am.
As the police charged at them with truncheons, the workers pelted the lawmen with stones, which led to a series of clashes.
They damaged the glasses and windowpanes of at least 50 vehicles stranded on both ends of the road stretch and set fire to a bus used to carry workers and a motorcycle parked in front of the factory.
The workers took control of the Nippon Garments Industry premises and kept clashing with the lawmen in several small groups.
The Gazipur police superintendent, Mahfuzul Haque Nuruzzaman, in the afternoon said, ‘We reinforced police deployment inside the factory Friday night as requested by the garment factory management.’
The workers alleged the owner had announced the lay-off after the police deployment without any notice and without paying their salary in arrears.
Rabeya, a worker of the factory, said, ‘The police beat us ruthlessly and assaulted female workers by confining them to the factory premises.’
The situation eased a bit at 11:30am after the deployment of additional police and Rapid Action Battalion personnel at the spot. But sporadic clashes continued as the rumour that four of the workers were killed in police firing spread.
Rokhsana Begum, a worker of the factory, said, ‘My husband was killed in the police firing. He was coming to take me back home from the factory after he heard of the clash.’
Several thousand workers then gathered again on the road and clashed with the police, deployed there from Friday night.
They became angry hearing that the police were trying to take away the bodies of the people killed in the firing.
Personnel of the police, Riot Police, Ansars and the Rapid Action Battalion again fired gunshots and teargas shells to disperse the workers.
Many were injured with the bullets and truncheons. A place inside the factory was stained with blood and there was a piece of brain, which the workers believed was of a worker who was killed the firing.
‘We fired gunshots to control the situation,’ said a policeman on the spot.
Once the situation calmed down, about 1:30pm, some people in the area started looking for people who they said had been missing since the clash began.
The injured were admitted to Gazipur General Hospital, Dhaka Medical College Hospital and other local clinics.
The inspector general of police, Nur Mohamamd, and the Rapid Action Battalion director general, Khandaker Hassan Mahmood, visited the spot.
Local lawmaker Zahid Hasan Russel and Tongi municipal mayor Azmatullah also visited the place.
A tense situation was prevailing in the area and a huge number of policemen were deployed in and outside the factory to stave of further troubles.
The incident took place a day before the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association holds Batexpo garment workers’ fair ’09 at the Bir Shreshtha Shaheed Sipahi Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium at Kamalapur in Dhaka today.