CEPZ erupts in violence, 4 killed

December 12, 2010

Clashes between readymade garment workers demonstrating against a decrease in pay after implementation of the new wage board and law enforcers in Chittagong, Dhaka and Narayanganj on Sunday left four persons dead and at least 185 injured, including 50 policemen.

During the clashes, police fired around 600 rounds of rubber bullet, lobbed 150 teargas canisters and charged batons to disperse the agitating workers who retaliated with brickbats, stones and sticks.

At least five vehicles were burned down and 90 others vandalised while the demonstrators ransacked 11 garments and different other factories and 20 roadside buildings. Traffic movement on Chittagong Airport Road and Dhaka Airport Road and Dhaka-Sylhet Highway remained halted for hours causing severe traffic congestion and sufferings to people.

The clashes forced closure of the entire Chittagong Export Processing Zone (CEPZ) in the morning. The production at three garment units in Dhaka and another in Narayanganj were also suspended.

The law-enforcers arrested at least 50 people, including 30 in Chittagong, reports our staff correspondent in the port city.

Four people, including a rickshaw puller, were killed during a clash between police and the apparel workers at the CEPZ in the port city of Chittagong where at least 60 other people, including 25 policemen and three journalists, were injured.

Of them, eight persons were bullet-injured. Ten of the injured were admitted to the Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

Two of the deceased were identified as rickshaw puller Ariful Islam, 35, and worker Ruhi Das, 45, of CM Superior Garments. The rest could not be named instantly.

Ruhi received injuries in front of the CEPZ main entrance while coming out of his factory around 11:00am.

Victim’s nephew Titu Das said Ruhi was rushed to a local hospital and later shifted to the CMCH where doctors declared him dead at about 1:30pm.

Ruhi, a resident of port city’s Pathorgata area, came out of his factory as its work was suspended following the clash at around 10:30am.

Cremation of the victim was completed at a local crematorium in the evening.

During the clash, Ariful fell on the road in front of the CEPZ at around 12:00pm and later police took his body to the CMCH.

Deputy Commissioner (Port) Kushum Dewan in Chittagong claimed that the rickshaw puller was killed after being hit by a brick during the clash, but employer of Ariful said that he was shot dead.

Witnesses said the entire CEPZ area turned into a battlefield for around five hours since 8:30am as garment workers engaged in sporadic clashes with police few hours after a Korean garment factory shut down for an indefinite period following workers’ unrest over wages.

The authorities of Korean Youngone Ltd in CEPZ shut all its 11 units for an indefinite period on Saturday.

Around 10,000 workers of the factories, who were unknown about the authorities’ decision, went to work in the morning and found the factory closed.

They tried to ransack the main gate of the factory and damaged gates and windowpanes of other factories. The workers of other garment factories joined them later.

Tanvir Arafat, assistant commissioner of police of Double-Mooring Zone in Chittagong, said the clash ensued at about 8:30am when police barred thousands of workers from different factories from blocking the Airport Road near the main entrance of the CEPZ.

To disperse the demonstrating workers, police charged truncheons on them who pelted brick chips on the law enforcers prompting them to fire gunshots and lob teargas canisters.

Transport movement remained suspended from Airport road to Agrabad Barik building as the demonstrators took position at different points on the road.

The chase and counter-chase took place between the protestors and law enforcers on two to three kilometers of the road.

Chittagong Industrial Police senior assistant director Rezaul Masud told The Daily Star that police fired a total of 519 rounds of bullet and 96 teargas canisters.

He also said the unruly workers set fire to a bus and a motorbike and damaged 30 other vehicles while ransacked at least 11 garments factories and 20 roadside buildings.

Police detained at least 30 people in this connection, he added.

Meanwhile, at least 100 people, including 25 law enforcers, were injured, as workers of three garment factories of Nasa Group clashed with police on Airport Road in Kuril Biswa Road area of the capital in the morning.

The disgruntled workers also vandalised at least 50 vehicles and set fire to a microbus, a private car and a taxicab during the two-hour clash, halting vehicular movement on the road for nearly three and a half hours.

Police fired around 40 rounds of teargas canister and 10 rubber bullets to disperse the clashing workers and picked up 30 people from the spot.

Officer-in-charge Mojibur Rahman of Badda Police Station said around 8,000 workers of three units –Kimia Garments, Sunseed Apparels and Eden Apparels—of Nasa Group thronged near Kuril Biswa Road at about 8:00am demanding implementation of the new wage structure recently announced by the government.

The workers alleged that the authorities were not following the new wage board in payment of their salary. They added only Tk 500 with the salary of each of the workers after the new wage board was declared by the government.

Police resisted them while they were trying to block the road at about 9:00am that triggered a clash, said Badda Police Station OC Mujibur Rahman.

A chase and counter chase took place between the workers and police as the law enforcers charged baton on the workers to bring the situation under control.

The angry workers also pelted brick chips on the law enforcers. In reply, they lobbed teargas canisters and fired shotgun bullets, turning the Joar Sahara Market-Kuril Biswa Road and Radisson Hotel area into a battleground.

Transport movement on the road resumed at about 11:30am.

At one stage, the workers left the Airport Road and returned to their factories and ransacked all the three factories.

Talking to The Daily Star, Managing Director of Nasa Group Abdullah and its director Saiful claimed that some outsiders were involved with the unrest.

They also talked to the angry workers and assured them of fulfilling their demands by paying them according to the new pay scale.

Gulshan division additional deputy commissioner Nizamul Huq Mollah told The Daily Star that they fired 37 rounds of teargas canister and three rubber bullets and arrested seven persons in connection with the incident.

Our Narayanganj correspondent reports: At least 25 people, including five cops, were injured as police charged batons on the demonstrating readymade garment workers and during a chase and counter chase between them.

Police picked up five people in connection with the attack.

The workers of Robin Tex BD Limited located at Bhulta Gausia village in Rupganj upazila of Narayanganj blocked the Dhaka-Sylhet Highway for an hour and ransacked at least seven vehicles in the morning protesting closure of the factory following Saturday’s violence.

The workers of the factory went to work at about 8:00am and saw the authorities’ notice that the factory was shut for an indefinite period.

They tried to go on berserk but was resisted by law enforcers as a huge contingent of police has been deployed in front of the factory after the violence on Saturday that left 10 people injured.

Later, the workers went to the highway at about 9:00am, put barricade and ransacked the vehicles, halting transport movement for an hour.

Vehicular movement on the highway resumed at about 10:00am after the law enforcers charged batons on the workers and lobbed 15 teargas shells to disperse them. They also shot 38 shotgun bullets to bring the situation under control.

A source of the factory said the authorities decided to keep the factory shut, as it is not possible to go on production on Sunday following Saturday’s violence as the workers ransacked huge machineries and computers.

Workers claimed that the authorities set Sunday to hold a meeting with the workers but they found the factory closed in the morning.

Officer-in-Charge Forkan Shikder of Rupganj Police Station said the workers became agitated after getting the closure notice and blocked the highway.

On Saturday, the workers blocked the highway and ransacked five vehicles alleging the authorities were not following the new salary scale.

This entry was posted in resistance and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.