B`deshi villagers clash with army over land acquisition

At least 30 people were injured in clashes between villagers and the army over land acquisition for a military housing scheme in Bangladesh`s Naraynganj district, forcing the authorities to use helicopters to evacuate the troops.

Updated: Oct 23, 2010, 23:59 PM IST

Dhaka: At least 30 people were injured in clashes between villagers and the army today over acquisition of land for a military housing scheme in Bangladesh`s Naraynganj district, forcing the authorities to use helicopters to evacuate the troops.

Police and witnesses said several hundred villagers attacked a makeshift army camp at Rupganj sub-division apparently to reoccupy the land the government earlier acquired for a planned housing project for army officers, prompting the troops to fire at the protesters.

They said several policemen were injured when police in riot gears intervened.

Officials said the people ransacked and looted the army camp and set on fire two military vehicles, including a truck. Some 60 soldiers were evacuated using four helicopter sorties in the afternoon.

Police intelligence officer Shamsuddin Ahmed said some 500 people from two unions raided the camp to oppose the planned acquisition. The villagers were reportedly protesting against the "low valuation" of the land.

Residents and witnesses said the clash erupted after an army team arrived at the spot to acquire some 6000 bigh land for the project.

The villagers also torched tyres on the road, ransacked a number of vehicles and disrupted transport movement on the road.

Mahbubul Alam Hanif, Joint General Secretary of the ruling Awami League and party spokesman, however, accused the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of instigating the people.

"They (BNP) instigated the people to clash with army troops," Hanif said.

He claimed that BNP was seeking to hit back at the government after an army cantonment board notice asked party chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia to vacate her residence inside the protected area. The order was upheld by the country`s court.

Hanif said even if there was a problem with the housing project it could be solved "in a proper way".

Four of the injured ? two policemen and two villagers, were admitted to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital while others were treated at the local health complex.

No statement was issued immediately by the army but the inter service public relations (ISPR) officials said they were preparing one.

PTI