Hundreds of riot police patrolled streets of the Bangladeshi capital on Sunday as main opposition BNP enforced a nationwide general strike protesting against the "eviction" of its leader and ex-premier Khaleda Zia from her cantonment residence, leading to arrest of nearly 24 party activists.
The dawn-to-dusk strike forced closure of shops, businesses and schools in all major cities while millions of people, who planned to visit their village homes ahead of Wednesday's Eid-ul Azha festival, were stranded as transport operators suspended inter-district services to evade wrath of the opposition activists.
Witnesses said baton-wielding policemen chased the protesters at several areas of the city as they pelted stones on vehicles for defying the strike call and set on fire a police van at the downtown Sadarghat river port terminal area.
Police said that they arrested nearly 24 opposition activists in sporadic incidents of clashes during which protesters also set on fire a police bike at central Bangla Motor area after damaging dozens of vehicles in the city in an apparent attempt to create grounds for forceful enforcement of the countrywide stoppage.
"The people have lost their confidence in the government and spontaneously observing the 'hartal' across the country," BNP secretary general Khandakar Delwar Hossain told newsmen in front of the party's central office at Naya Paltan, where BNP leaders staged street rallies.
Hours after her eviction on Saturday from the cantonment residence which was allotted to her under a controversial lease agreement 29 years ago following her husband and ex-president Ziaur Rahman's 1981 assassination, 66-year-old Zia told newsmen that she was "humiliatingly" dragged out of the house in single clothing.
"I was driven out of the house ... I feel harassed, humiliated and ashamed of the way I was thrown out of the house," she said with tears in her eyes at her Gulshan office on Saturday night.
She called an army statement claiming she voluntarily vacated the house as "totally false."