• Saturday, February 24, 2024

BANGLADESH

Poll booths set on fire, train arson ahead of Bangladesh general elections

The ruling Awami League and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party blamed each other over the tragic train fire in which at least four persons were killed.

A Bangladeshi rescuer shines his torch out from a window as he searches a burnt out carriage of the Benapole Express in Dhaka on January 5, 2024. Five people were killed in Bangladesh after a passenger train which was arriving in the capital Dhaka from the western city of Jessore, caught fire on January 5, 2024, with police suspecting an arson attack during unrest ahead of national elections boycotted by the opposition. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

BANGLADESH witnessed violence two days ahead of its national elections on Sunday (7) that resulted in deaths of at least four persons, including two children. They were killed in a fire in a train that the country’s Awami League government called an arson aimed at destroying democratic values.

The fire broke out in Benapole Express train on Friday (5) night around 9 pm local time. It spread to four compartments of the train which was going to capital Dhaka from Benapole bordering neighbour India, leaving eight passengers injured. The incident happened when Bangladesh’s main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is boycotting the elections. The injured were undergoing treatment in a hospital in Dhaka. All the injured had their respiratory tracts burnt in the fire.

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen slammed the incident saying the timing of the tragedy showed “an absolute intention” to hurt the festivity, safety and security of the country’s democratic processes.

Read: EXCLUSIVE: ‘Bangladesh opposition BNP made a mistake in boycotting election’

Bangladesh train fire ahead of general election 2024
The remains of a passenger trying to escape a deadly train fire is seen hanging from a window of a burnt out carriage of the Benapole Express in Dhaka on January 5, 2024. (Photo by ABDUL GONI/AFP via Getty Images)

He also took an indirect jibe at the opposition saying the incident was orchestrated by those who showed malicious intent and strikes at the very heart of Bangladesh’s democratic values.

Read: Why India matters in Bangladesh general elections

The BNP urged the people of the country to skip the election and called a two-day strike across the nation from the day of the election.

It called the train fire an act of sabotage and blamed prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling party for it. The BNP, which also boycotted the 2014 election, alleged that the Awami League was trying to legitimise a sham poll to gain a record fourth term.

In December, four persons were killed in a similar train fire set by protesters during a countrywide strike called by the opposition.

There were also incidents where at least five elementary schools, including four polling booths, were set on fire, the police said on Saturday (6).

While investigating the fires that started in Gazipur, located on the outskirts of Dhaka, the police said those behind them were trying to disrupt Sunday’s election.

About 800,000 security officials will guard the election booths on Sunday, while armed personnel were deployed nationwide to maintain peace.

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