| Police fire rubber bullets as the body of the protester who was run over by the police car lies on a Dhaka road. (AP)
Dhaka, Nov. 13: One demonstrator in Dhaka was crushed to death today by a police van that ploughed through thousands of protesters calling for the resignation of election officials whom they accuse of bias.
The violence near the five-star Sonargaon hotel also injured 50 people as riot police battled Awami League activists with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons.
The violence took place on the second day of a nationwide strike called by the 14-party alliance led by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s Awami League.
Protest leaders said that a man was killed after a police car drove through a crowd that had defied a ban on demonstrations in the capital.
“It was a peaceful gathering. But the police started firing in the air, and before we realised, the police car came straight toward us,” said a protest leader adding that authorities appeared to be letting the situation deteriorate so the army could be called in.
Thousands of protesters continued to block roads, highways and railway lines, paralysing public transport.
Police and protest organisers declined to give estimates of the size of the crowds who had gathered in batches at several spots.
The alliance, led by the Awami League, said the caretaker government — headed by President Iajuddin Ahmed — has failed to take steps to ensure that the January polls will be free and fair.
They demanded the resignation of the chief election commissioner and his deputies. In a news conference late yesterday, the alliance said it would continue with protests, blocking transport for a second day today.
However, contrary to earlier reports, the caretaker government has decided not to deploy the army in Dhaka and elsewhere and said that it was willing to hold talks with Hasina’s alliance to end the standoff.
Earlier, an army officer said they had received directives yesterday “to remain on alert to help the civilian administration with law and order”. Yesterday, protesters in Tongi near Dhaka blocked rail tracks and torched a train. All the passengers escaped and firefighters quickly doused the blaze.
Protesters attacked another train in Brahmanbaria district, 80 km east of Dhaka, ATN Bangla television said.