Police raids leave mess dwellers in disarray

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People staying in boarding houses and messes in the capital Dhaka are passing a fearful time as the joint forces started raiding such dwelling places in different areas.
The police said that at least 25 people had been picked up on the first night of such raids.
Many young people, living in messes at Fakirerpool and surrounding areas, alleged that law enforcement officials had asked them to not stay in their messes for the next few days.
‘Our security guard told us this morning that we will need to leave the mess for the next four days,’ Anwar Mostafa, who lives in a mess at Fakirerpool, said. ‘All boarders in this 10-storey building have become nervous since then.’
The police started raiding messes more than a month ago when election-related violence broke out. They instructed owners of houses not to rent out rooms or messes afresh before the forthcoming elections scheduled for January 5.
The police in Sylhet also distributed leaflets to mosque-goers on December 20 asking house owners to collect detailed information on tenants, provide the police with such information.
The police that time told New Age that they had instructed house owners to improve vigilance on the
existing tenants and not to rent rooms to new tenants.
A number of recent recovery of crude bombs, gun powder, ammunition and bomb-making material from messes and the arrest of Islami Chhatra Shibir activists at these places have prompted the heightened attention on messes, the police said.
An estimated 15 lakh people, mostly young men with no family in the city, live in messes mostly in areas such as Azimpur, New Paltan, Lalbagh, Maghbazar, Bangla Motor and Jatrabari, both for short and prolonged stays.
New Age this month spoke to a number of young people who said that they were struggling to find residence in the city after the law enforcement instructions for house owners.
Rayhan Uddin, who lives in a mess at Hatirpool, said that his landlord had asked him and all his room mates to give detailed information on their background.
‘The landlord has also told us that we will not be allowed to keep friends and relatives in our rooms for the next few months,’ he said.
Mahfuzul Haque, who lives in a mess at Mohakhali, said that he along with his room mates were trying to move to New Paltan but house owners at Azimpur told them, ‘We are afraid we cannot rent you any room for security reasons.’
Shahabuddin Shah, a landlord at Jartabari, told New Age that the police had asked them not to rent out rooms any longer. ‘The police also asked us to vacate old messes, if possible,’ he said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police officials said that the temporary decision was made to ensure security in the city as they had seized a huge amount of explosives from different messes around the city.
The police said that they had intensified their raids on the areas where many messes are located as a large number of Shibir activists live in these areas.
Imtiyaz Ahmed, deputy commissioner of the Mirpur division police, told New Age on November 27 that they had requested landlords to ensure the security of their houses and not to rent, if possible, new messes before the elections.
Imtiyaz said that they had instructed landlords to collect photocopies of national identity cards of the dwellers, enlisting their details and to give them to the police.
‘We have discouraged landlords not to rent new messes before elections,’ Imtiyaz said.
Demra zone assistant commissioner Md Minhazul Islam also said that they had intensified their raids.
Ayatullah Akhter, secretary general of the Bangladesh Mess Organisation, expressed concern about the issue.
He told New Age that it would be unethical if law enforcers harassed them because of a small number of miscreants.
Some mess dwellers also alleged that many landlords had increased the mess charge excessively cashing in on the situation.
Some landlords are demanding more than Tk 1 lakh in deposit before renting the house, a sufferer alleged.
Golam Sarwar, a student of Titumir College, said that they had to face many queries from landlords about their political affiliation, probable link with Islami Chhatra Shibir and political affiliation of the family.
The law enforcement agencies in several hauls seized a huge amount of crude bombs, gun powder, ammunition, and bomb-making materials from messes and areas close to where many of the messes are located.
Around 400 crude bombs and bomb-making materials were seized from Azimpur and Kathalbagan areas on November 11.
Law enforcers seized 1.5 kilograms of gunpowder, 3 sacks of stone, 5 to 6 kilograms of metal pieces and hundreds of small containers from a flat at Fakirerpool on October 9 after there was an explosion.
Rapid Action Battalion personnel in a drive seized 17 crude bombs and two petrol bombs from Mirhajirbagh at night on November 27.
Detectives said that they had raided at least 12 dens of opposition activists where they had gathered explosive. ‘There are 50 more dens of explosives in the capital,’ said Detective Branch additional deputy commissioner Sanwar Hossain.
The police on December 6 arrested 10 medical students, who were also Shibir activists, at Kalyanpur and Mirpur in possession of 12 bombs and three laptops.
The police said that the activists had used the flat as the control room of their activities in the capital ‘to carry out subversion.’
DMP deputy commissioner (media and public relations) Masudur Rahman, however, denied that they had asked any mess dwellers to evacuate.

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