No let-up in Ashulia unrest


Several thousand garment workers again fought pitched battles with law enforcers in Ashulia yesterday, fuming over the shutdown of all garment factories in the industrial belt.

At least 50 people, including several police personnel, were injured in the clashes.

Agitating workers put barricades on the Dhaka-Tangail highway bringing traffic on the motorway to a halt for nearly three hours from 8:30am. They demanded that garment factory owners immediately reopen the factories in Ashulia, on the outskirts of the capital.

Leaders of different garment workers’ organisations also protested the shutdown and called upon the owners to reopen the factories immediately.

RMG factory owners on Saturday decided to shut all 350 factories in Ashulia for an indefinite period as garment workers continued to stage violent demonstrations from June 11 demanding a hike in their wages.

The entire industrial belt had witnessed a spate of violence between June 11 and June 16, as thousands of workers clashed with police leaving around 500 people injured. At least 300 vehicles were damaged and 200 factories were vandalised in six days.

Witnesses said several thousand workers took to the street at about 8:30am yesterday after they found their factories shut.

The agitating workers put blockades on the Dhaka-Tangail highway protesting the shutdown of factories, said Mokhlesur Rahman, inspector of Ashulia Industrial Police.

A group of youths wearing masks vandalised several vehicles on the highway. Angry workers hurled brickbats at police and clashed with them as the law enforcers tried to remove blockades from the highway.

Police cleared the highway by 11:30am after fighting pitched battles with angry workers.

The clashes later spread to Nischintapur, Ghoshbag, Shimultola, Bypile, Jirabo and Narasinghapur.

Police fired around 20 rounds of rubber bullets and teargas canisters, and charged baton to disperse the agitating workers.

Police and Rab personnel stood guard at factories in the industrial belt to ward off vandalism.

Hafizur Rahman, sub-inspector of Ashulia Police Station, on Saturday night filed a case against 11 local BNP leaders and several hundred unidentified people on charges of vandalising vehicles and obstructing police from performing their duties.

On Friday, Ashulia police filed another case against 10 local BNP leaders, including Yarpur union parishad chairman Dewan Moyeen Uddin Biplob, for provoking workers to resort to violence.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity and Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers’ Federation in separate statements denied their involvement in the labour unrest in Ashulia and Narayanganj.

Kalpana Akter, executive director of Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity, said, “A vested quarter is trying to pin the blame on us for the untoward incident that we had condemned.”

She said there was no link between the killing of labour leader Aminul Islam and the unrest in the garment sector.

Kalpana demanded that all factories are reopened immediately.

Garments Sramik Trade Union Kendra and Bangladesh Garments Shramik Oikya Parishad called for reopening the factories as soon as possible.

In a statement, Rafez Alam Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Garments Accessories and Packaging Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGAPMEA), expressed his concern over the recent events in the garments sector.

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