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Deaths as Bangladeshi authorities crack down on protests against Narendra Modi’s visit

BANGLADESHI authorities opened fire and used tear gas today to disperse thousands of protesters who were enforcing a nationwide general strike .

The strike was called over police violence against demonstrations opposing the weekend’s visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which marked the country’s independence day on March 26 — the anniversary of its declaration of independence from Pakistan.

At least one man was shot in Sanarpara in Narayanganj district after thousands of protesters, mostly students from Islamic schools, blocked a major highway connecting Dhaka with the southeastern port city of Chattogram, said Mohamamed Zayedul Alam, the area’s police superintendent. 

Witnesses said scores of people were hurt in clashes with police, which started after protesters set fire to a number of vehicles. Police killings were also reported from the eastern city of Sarail but could not be confirmed. 

Security forces killed at least four people in clashes on Friday, when Mr Modi arrived. Further demonstrations and clashes with police occurred on Saturday.

Bangladeshi protesters say the Indian government’s assault on Kashmiri rights and bid to strip Muslims in Assam of citizenship should make Mr Modi unwelcome in a Muslim country.

The Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam, which has a network of Islamic schools across Bangladesh, announced the nationwide general strike.

But the Left Democratic Alliance, which includes the Communist Party, also condemned what it called “infernal attacks” by police on protests against the Indian leader’s visit.

It called “black flag rallies” against Mr Modi, branding him an “extremist communal rioter” and pointing to his complicity in the butchery of hundreds of Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom when he was the state’s chief minister. 

Communist Party of Bangladesh general secretary Mohammad Shah Alam said Bangladeshis were always grateful for India’s assistance in their war of independence, but that Mr Modi’s Hindu chauvinist ideology represented everything the war had been fought against. He accused the Indian prime minister of killing “Muslims, Dalits and tribal peoples.”

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