Dhaka: Police in Bangladesh fired rubber bullets and tear gas on Sunday at Islamic activists who took to the streets campaigning for "absolute faith in Allah" to be restored to the constitution.
Scores of demonstrators and several officers were reported to have been injured during the anti-government clashes in the industrial towns of Fatullah and Kanchpur, outside the capital Dhaka.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and various Islamist parties enforced a strike from Sunday morning to protest against the removal of "absolute faith and trust in Allah" as a key pillar of the constitution.
Much of Bangladesh has been shut down for four of the last eight days.
Fatullah, home to hundreds of factories making clothes for top global retailers, was hit by hours of fighting as police battled with protesters who threw bricks and blocked highways.
"The activists attacked us. They beat seven of our officers who are injured. We shot rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the unruly crowds," Fatullah police chief Ainul Haq said.
Haq did not say whether any protesters were injured, but private Bangla Vision television put the injury toll at around 50.
At Kanchpur, police also used rubber bullets and tear gas to break up protests blocking a key road linking Dhaka with the port city of Chittagong, police said.
The secular government made changes last month to restore the secular character of the original national constitution of 1972. Islam however was retained as the state religion.
In a wave of renewed political unrest in Bangladesh, the BNP and its allies have recently enforced a series of nationwide strikes over changes to the electoral system that they say unfairly favour the incumbent government.
Across the country on Sunday shops, businesses and schools were closed. Police baton-charged protesters trying to march in central Dhaka, and at least 18 people were arrested.
Around 10,000 policemen were on patrol in the capital, police spokesman Masud Ahmed said, adding magistrates were on duty to hand out on-the-spot jail terms.
In Chittagong, 36 people were arrested in a pre-dawn swoop on the protesters, city police chief Meshbah Uddin Ahmed said.
Cargo deliveries were suspended at Chittagong port, which handles 90 percent of the country`s $50 billion foreign trade.