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POSTED AT 10:21 AM 21-12-2018

Bangladesh Opposition goes underground

Supporters of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League distribute leaflets to people during the General Election campaign.

BANGLADESH: Subrata Chowdhury, an opposition candidate in the looming Bangladesh election, is too scared to leave his party office as campaign deaths and threats mount.

The Dhaka lawyer should be out on the streets handing out leaflets on meet-and-greets. But he says it is too dangerous while his party insists authorities are doing nothing to protect candidates.

“We were attacked by ruling party men as we tried to hang these posters,” said Chowdhury in his glum headquarters amid stacks of unused flyers and banners.

“The police were just silent spectators, or actively supported them.” At least six people have been killed in campaign clashes between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Election authorities have deployed more than 20,000 paramilitary personnel across the country to boost security ahead of the December 30 vote. Army troops are due to join them.

But the BNP is not reassured.

It says at least four party activists have been killed -- including one who fell to his death from a Dhaka rooftop last week in suspicious circumstances -- and thousands hurt in the past week.

The party claims that 152 out of 300 opposition candidates have been attacked while campaigning and more than 8,700 activists, including 14 candidates, have been detained in the past month.

The opposition says its rallies have been broken up by police firing pellet guns and tear gas, terrifying voters turning out to show solidarity with the beleaguered movement.

Candidates like Chowdhury, trying to boost their visibility, have been threatened on the campaign trail by ruling Awami League followers wielding metal bars.

Two Awami League followers have also been killed in fights with the opposition.

Police have denied interfering in rallies or harassing opposition campaigners and authorities say those detained in recent weeks -- which opposition figures say are in the thousands -- had outstanding warrants for their arrest.

Obaidul Quader, general secretary of the Awami League, said the party did not tell its workers to attack opponents.