Hazrat Ali was selling grocery items at his shop on the first floor of Shegunbagicha kitchen market when a bus was set alight near Aziz Super Market in the capital’s Shabagh area around 1:40pm on Thursday.
Ali, vice-president of Ward-20 BNP, is the prime accused in a case filed by Shahbagh police following the arson attack.
The 75-year-old was unaware of the case until around 9:00pm on Thursday night when some plainclothes men identifying themselves as detectives picked him up from his shop — Al Amin Store.
“My father went to the shop early in the morning on Thursday and stayed there the whole day. He took his lunch inside the shop. Yet, police intentionally implicated him in the case only to harass him and our family,” Ali’s son Al Amin told The Daily Star.
“His fault is that he is a BNP leader … He is not active in politics due to his old age and present political situation,” he added.
Speaking to The Daily Star, many traders of the market gave similar narratives and claimed Ali was at his shop the entire day.
The complainant of the case, Sub-Inspector Kazi Jahangir Alam of Shahbagh Police Station, however, mentioned in the case statement that Ali along with 36 others, mostly leaders and activists of the BNP and its affiliates, and some unnamed people set the bus on fire.
Contacted, Jahangir refused to make comments and asked this reporter to talk to SI Sujan, the investigation officer of the case.
Sujan said they were investigating whether Ali was involved in the arson attack.
Another shopkeeper Moin Uddin, the accused No-2 in the case, was also picked up from Shegunbagicha kitchen market at that time.
“Police might have included Ali’s name in the case from the list of local BNP leaders without verifying who were behind the arson attack,” said a trader on condition of anonymity.
Over a dozen cases were filed in the last couple of days after about 12 buses were torched and several crude bombs were exploded in the city on Thursday, the day of polling in the by-pools to Dhaka-18 parliamentary seat.
Police in the cases mentioned that BNP men were attempting to foil the election.
The charges brought against several hundred accused, mostly BNP men, includes attempted murder by torching buses, sabotage attempt, exploding bombs and possessing explosives.
Speaking to this newspaper, many leaders and activists of the BNP and its front organisations alleged that police named their men in the cases to harass them.
This correspondent visited Bangshal, Shahbagh, Chawkbazar, Sutrapur, Kotwali and some other areas of the capital after the filing of the cases, but hardly found BNP leaders and activists, including those not accused, in their houses as there were many “unnamed accused” in the arson cases, locals and relatives of the BNP men said.
Jahanara Begum, a 60-year-old cancer patient, said his son Rolex Parvez Happy was supposed to take her to a private hospital for treatment, but he went into hiding as Bangshal police accused him in an arson case.
Rolex claimed that he went to a Dhaka court on Thursday, the day when the arson attack took place in Naya Bazar area, to appear before it in a case filed on September 19, 2018, but police accused him.
“Whenever any incident happens in my area, police include my name in a case,” said Rolex, an accused in 35 cases, over the phone.
Contacted, SI Dulal Chandra Kunda, who filed the case, said the bus was torched from a procession and that was why the number of accused was big.
But at least 20 residents of Naya Bazar told this correspondent that no procession was brought out in their area on that day.
MORE CASES FILED
More cases have been filed against BNP men over torching buses and exploding crude bombs in the capital on Thursday.
Two cases were lodged with Uttara East Police Station on Friday — one over the arson attack on a bus in Azampur area, and another over exploding crude bombs in front of a polling centre, police said. Police named 19 and 28 people in the cases respectively as accused. Nine people were arrested in the cases.
BNP’s SM Jahangir, who was defeated by the Awami League candidate in the by-polls, was named as the mastermind of one incident, police said.
Jahangir, along with 27 others, was accused in another case filed with Airport police station over torching a bus.
More than 100 people were accused in another case filed with Khilkhet police station over setting a bus on fire.
Earlier, at least 10 cases were filed with seven police stations in the capital over Thursday’s arson attacks. Nearly 500 people were accused in those cases.