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Over 20 injured as police, protesters clash over Modi's visit

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Police and protesters clashing over Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit in Dhaka’s Motijheel area on Thursday, March 25, 2021

More than 20 people, including seven law enforcers, have been injured in a clash between the police and demonstrators in Dhaka's Motijheel protesting the upcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Indian premier is scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on Friday morning on a two-day state visit to attend the twin mega celebrations, marking the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of Bangladesh's independence.

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Protesters set fire on wooden furniture during the clash in Motijheel area

Police said they detained 32 people over creating chaos in the capital during the demonstrations.

Bangladesh Students' Rights Council, led by Nurul Haque Nur, former vice president (VP) of the Dhaka University Central Students' Union (Ducsu), brought out a procession on Thursday morning in protest at Modi's Bangladesh visit.

Activists of Juba Adhikar Parishad (Youth Rights Council), youth wing of the Students' Rights Council, also joined the procession that began from Bijoynagar.

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Bangladesh Students' Rights Council staging a protest procession against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh on Thursday

As the protesters wanted to move towards Muktangan around 11:30am, the police intercepted them. 

Being obstructed, they went to Shapla Chattar in Motijheel and burned an effigy of Modi around noon, triggering a clash in the area.

Police baton charged the crowd to disperse it even as the protesters hurled brickbats at the law enforcers. The police also lobbed tear gas shells to bring the situation under control.

The protesters claimed that police had arrested over 30 of them before and during the clash.

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Police attacking a protester during the clash in Motijheel area on Thursday 

Rashed Khan, acting convener of Students' Rights Council, said 10 to 15 of their activists, including Nur, were injured in the police action.

Nur stated in a Facebook live video that he was injured when police personnel lobbed tear gas shells.

He urged the people of the country to raise their voice against what he called the fascist government and Indian aggression.

Nur also announced that a protest rally would be held at Shahbagh around 3pm on Friday to demand the release of the detained activists.

Police conducting drives to detain ex-Ducsu VP

However, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Deputy Commissioner (Ramna division) Sazzadur Rahman said: "The protesters were inciting chaos centering on the Indian prime minister's forthcoming visit to Bangladesh. As they attacked the police, a few of them were detained."

DMP Deputy Commissioner (Motijheel division) Syed Nurul Islam said seven policemen, including the officer-in-charge of Paltan police station, were injured and four of them were undergoing treatment at Central Police Hospital in Rajarbagh.

"As many as 32 people have been detained in connection with creating chaos. They will be prosecuted after checking their identities," he said, adding that police were conducting drives to detain the former Ducsu VP over his role in creating unrest and chaos.

Nurul Islam also said the protesters were removed from the Motijheel area around 1pm and the situation was under control.

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Police using tear gas to disperse the protesters during the clash in Motijheel area on Thursday

In another development, Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) police outpost in-charge Inspector Md Bachchu Mia said the protesters beat up Paltan police station Sub-Inspector (SI) Raihan in front of the emergency department of the hospital around 3pm.

They snatched their injured fellow protester Abul Kalam, 35, from police custody.

Kalam was being taken to the hospital by the police officer.

SI Raihan is currently undergoing treatment at the hospital, Bachchu Mia added.

Vehicular movement at Bijoynagar, Paltan Crossing, Shapla Chattar and Dainik Bangla Crossing came to a halt for half an hour from 12:30pm due to the clash, causing heavy sufferings to commuters.

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Few Islamic groups staging a protest procession on the premises of National Mosque Baitul Mukarram on Thursday

Meanwhile, a few Islamist groups also staged demonstrations on the premises of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque on Thursday.

In another event, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said the elite police unit was closely monitoring the anti-Modi activities.

Lt Col Ashique Billah, director of RAB's legal and media wing, told a press conference at its Uttara headquarters that there was no risk of any kind of sabotage during the celebrations of Bangabandhu's birth centenary and golden jubilee of independence.

He urged all to refrain from holding anti-Modi rallies in the interest of the country's image.

On Tuesday, at least 25 people, including two photojournalists, were injured when the Bangladesh Chhatra League, student wing of the Awami League, attacked the activists of left-leaning student bodies who staged demonstrations on the Dhaka University campus to protest Modi's visit.