Armies of Liberation

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Thousands Protest in Bangladesh

Filed under: General — by Jane Novak at 7:40 pm on Saturday, December 11, 2004

Ukrainian style demonstration: thousands in the streets

Arab News: Tens of thousands of Bangladeshi protesters linked hands yesterday to try to form a “human chain” across the country in what the main opposition party described as its biggest-ever successful anti-government protest. Up to 100 people were injured in clashes.

The protest was staged by the Awami League-led 14-party alliance.
Reports from 18 districts said leaders, workers and supporters of the Awami League, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and National Awami Party took part in the one-hour demonstrations from 3 p.m….

The mid-afternoon protest held amidst heavy security halted traffic in some parts of Dhaka, forcing commuters to abandon buses and walk. Police helicopters hovered overhead.

“The human chain formation was absolutely successful,” Awami League Secretary-General Abdul Jalil said. “It proves the majority of the people don’t believe in this government.” JSD leader Hasanul Huq Inu said the opposition would remain united until the fall of the present government.

There was no estimate available from authorities of the number of demonstrators. Jalil initially said the opposition expected five million to take part but later said double that number participated.

The Awami League has been staging months of general strikes to try to topple the Islamist-allied government in the deeply polarized South Asian nation.

The human chain represented a change of style in its protests after the business community and international aid donors said the frequent calling of strikes was damaging the already impoverished economy.

The opposition protesters aimed to hold hands to form the human chain linking Teknaf in the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district to Tentulia in northwestern Panchagarh, winding through the capital Dhaka.

The government called out the country’s Rapid Action Battalion units, police and paramilitary forces to monitor the demonstrators. The heavy security was “to ensure law and order” for the hour-long protest, a police officer said.

Opposition parties charged police had rounded up over 1,000 activists in a bid to foil the protest. There was no comment from officials on the alleged detentions.

Earlier, Awami League leader Hasina Wajed called on supporters “to help build up a relentless anti-government movement” across the densely populated country of 140 million. Many banners were emblazoned with the words: “No more 21 August,” a reference to a grenade attack on an Awami League rally attended by Hasina that left 21 dead.

The demonstration was called to push a nine-point set of demands that included the opposition’s main call for mid-term polls.

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