Narayanganj city Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy and around 50 others were injured as supporters of local Awami League lawmaker Shamim Osman attacked Ivy and her followers, leading to a clash on Bangabandhu Road in Narayanganj's Chashara.
The entire area turned into a battlefield as the followers of the two leaders got locked in chase and counter-chase.
There had been tension in the city over the last few days as Osman took a stance against the mayor's decision to evict illegal hawkers from footpaths, locals said.
At a rally on Monday afternoon, the AL lawmaker said the hawkers could not be evicted until they are rehabilitated, and that they would do business on footpaths from 5:00pm to 10:00pm on Tuesdays till February 21.
Ivy, meanwhile, declared that she would not allow hawkers to occupy footpaths.
Around 4:15pm yesterday, Ivy along with city councillors and her followers took position in front of the Nagar Bhaban. They then marched in procession towards Chashara where several groups of hawkers had already taken position.
When the procession reached Sayam Plaza in the area around 4:30pm, some of Ivy's followers tried to evict hawkers from the footpaths, leading to an altercation.
As the two sides got involved in a scuffle, Jubo League leader Niazul Islam, who is loyal to Osman, came forward and threatened Ivy's supporters brandishing a firearm.
At this, Ivy's supporters got agitated and roughed him up, said locals.
Minutes later, Awami Swechchhasebak League city unit President Jewel Hossain, also loyal to Osman, arrived at the scene and Ivy's supporters also beat him up.
When local AL leaders and activists -- loyal to the AL MP -- arrived at the scene, the hawkers joined them. They then attacked Ivy and her followers, leading to chase and counter-chase.
Brickbats hurled by Osman's supporters and hawkers hit Ivy's leg. Her supporters shielded her and took her to Narayanganj Press Club.
Narayanganj Press Club Secretary Sharifuddin Sabuj was also injured during the clash.
Gunshots were heard and some were seen brandishing firearms at that time. Panicked pedestrians ran for cover and shopkeepers shuttered their outlets, locals said.
Later, police swung into action, fired blank shots and charged baton. The law enforcers eventually brought the situation under control.
When Osman's followers gathered in front of Haque Plaza, about 200 yards from Sayam Plaza, around 5:00pm, the AL lawmaker came out of the Rifles Club and addressed them.
He alleged that shots were fired at his leaders and workers, leaving many of them wounded.
“We did not take the law into our own hands,” he claimed.
At a press briefing at Narayanganj Press Club in the evening, Ivy said, “We were attacked without any provocation. From the Rifles Club, Shamim Osman gave the order to shoot. His men fired shots one after another.
“He launched the attack on innocent people with the help of the administration. I demand withdrawal of the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police.”
She said Jubo League leader Niazul, who was spotted brandishing a firearm, is Osman's follower.
Talking to a private TV channel, Osman refuted the allegations against him.
He, however, said he knows Niazul, who is the owner of a big market.
“Even though he was seen brandishing a pistol, it is to be ascertained whether he fired any shot or not,” he added.
Niazul, a resident of the city's Chadmari area, worked as a contactor from 1996 to 2001.
According to police, he had been accused in a case over the murder of a local BNP leader in 1988. But the case was withdrawn later.
Niazul, who introduces himself as a Jubo League leader, is brother of Jubo League activist Nazrul Islam alias Sweet, who was killed in a shootout with law enforcers.
Asked about Ivy's allegation, Narayanganj Additional Superintendent of Police (administration) Mohammad Mostafizur Rahman said, “We did not take any sides. We tried to prevent the feuding groups from attacking one another. We performed our duties”.
“The situation is normal now. Some police personnel were also wounded during the clash,” he added.
Of the injured, at least five were sent to Dhaka Medical College Hospital in a critical condition. Thirty others were treated at Narayanganj General Hospital, said Asaduzzaman, medical officer at the hospital.
Meanwhile, Narayanganj Union of Journalists and Narayanganj Press Club said they would stage a demonstration in the city this morning, protesting the attack on the press club secretary.