Clashes between police, refugees leave 50 hurt in Dhaka

Bangladeshi police clashed with more than 2,000 ethnic minority refugees attempting to reach Pak Embassy to seek citizenship.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2006 11:17 IST

Bangladeshi police clashed on Thursday with more than 2,000 ethnic minority refugees attempting to reach Pakistan's Embassy to seek citizenship, leaving at least 50 people injured, police said.

Officers fired tear gas and clubbed protesters with batons after the crowd began hurling stones at police, Dhaka Metropolitan Police official Gias Uddin said.

More than a dozen policemen were among the injured, and at least 12 protesters were detained, police official Nazmul Hossain said.

The violence began after the refugees -- known as Biharis -- tried to break through a barricade set up by police on the way to the embassy.

"We had no other option other than to charge with batons to bring the situation under control," Hossain said.

But Shawkat Ali, a spokesman for the Stranded Pakistanis General Repatriation Committee, said the procession was "peaceful," and that police entered a nearby refugee camp and began beating residents with batons.

Police denied the allegation.

About 500,000 Urdu-speaking Muslims fled to modern-day Bangladesh after the Indian subcontinent's partition in 1947, when Britain's two-century colonial rule collapsed.

Bangladesh, formerly the eastern province of Pakistan, gained independence in 1971 after a bloody war involving India.

The Biharis have been stranded without citizenship in Bangladesh since it gained independence.

Language is the major difference between Bangladeshis, who speak Bengali, and Biharis, who speak Urdu.

Pakistan took in about 250,000 Biharis until 1993, but the rest remained in Bangladesh after the immigration process was halted by authorities in Islamabad.

In recent years, some have applied for Bangladeshi citizenship, but Dhaka has rejected their requests and instead asked that Pakistan restart its immigration process.

About 250,000 Bihari refugees now live in 64 crammed and filthy refugee camps across Bangladesh with high unemployment and no voting rights.

First Published: Feb 03, 2006 11:17 IST