DOZENS of people were injured and more than 100 arrested today as Bangladeshi police fired rubber bullets during a strike by Islamic parties against a proposed law to give women equal property rights.
Police also fired teargas in clashes with protesters, mainly students at Islamic schools or madrassas, who brought much of the nation to a standstill by blocking roads.
The parties, known as the Islamic Law Implementation Committee, called the strike to protest the government’s move to pass laws ensuring equal property and inheritance rights for women in the Muslim-majority country.
About 1000 protesters blocked the main Dhaka-Chittagong highway 10 kilometres south of Dhaka, provoking violent clashes when police tried to remove them, local police chief Badrul Alam said.
At least nine police officers were injured across the country while trying to break up crowds, while 118 people were arrested, police sources told AFP.
“Up to 1500 protesters suddenly attacked us with stones and bamboo sticks. They torched one of our lorries,” inspector Shahidul Haq of central Nagarkanda town told AFP.
Most shops, businesses and schools in the capital Dhaka were shut and major roads in and around the capital were almost deserted. A senior Dhaka police officer said around 10,000 police had been deployed in the capital.
“Security is tight to prevent any violence. We have sufficient deployment across the capital,” Dhaka police commissioner Benazir Ahmed said.
Thousands of Islamists in skullcaps marched through Dhaka’s major roads, chanting slogans against the planned policy.
Yesterday a madrassa student was killed in the southwestern city of Jessore after police opened fire on a crowd of protesters.
At least a dozen others including six police officers were injured in yesterday’s violence, police said, adding three officers were in serious condition after being attacked with bamboo sticks.
Small Islamic groups led by firebrand cleric and ex-lawmaker Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini have been staging sporadic protests since the government announced its plan on March 7, arguing that it goes against the Koran, Islam’s holy book.
Bangladesh, whose population is 90 per cent Muslim, has a secular legal system but in matters related to inheritance and marriage Muslims follow sharia law, which enjoys popular support in conservative, rural areas.
Sharia as practised in Bangladesh’s inheritance law generally stipulates that a woman would inherit half of what her brother gets. Women’s groups have long protested against the disparity and demanded equal rights.
Speaking at a public rally yesterday in the southeastern beach town of Cox’s Bazar, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the government’s proposed law was not against the Koran.