Bangladesh: Fifty garment workers beaten by hired thugs

Unrest - Bangladeshi garment workers fight back in the Tejgaon Industrial Area

Dozens of workers at a clothing factory were injured on Wednesday when over 200 outsiders, allegedly hired by the factory authorities, attacked the workers who were protesting against the bosses' beating of two of their leaders.

The Bangladesh Daily Star yesterday reported that the attackers, led by police informant and local hoodlum Mobarak, beat up the workers, mostly women, and also confined five workers to the office of an executive on the third floor of the seven-storey Padma Poly Cotton Knit Fabrics Ltd.

Police took away the five - Joynal, Ashraf, Momin, Yousuf and Rakib - in an unconscious state five and a half hours after the incident. However, they came round shortly afterwards.

The workers alleged that the outsiders also molested the women workers during the two-hour attack from 4:00pm.

The police team stepped in after the attackers left the factory at around 6:00pm.

The workers alleged that they informed and pleaded with Sub-Inspector Abdul Bari, who was patrolling the area at that time, to come to their rescue, but to no avail.

When contacted, Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Tejgaon Industrial Area Police Station Mahbubur Rahman said that SI Bari informed him of the incident after 6:00pm. He also said it is clear that the outsiders were hired by the factory authorities.

When the attackers left the factory, over 2,000 workers and their relatives laid siege to the factory following a rumour that the five workers were beaten to death inside the office room.

However, they were found lying unconscious when the security guard unlocked the room following pressure from the workers.

Police arrested Executive Director of the factory Shahid Ahmed Zia and three others.

The workers said they did not do any work in the factory yesterday in protest as the authorities sacked Majibar Rahman, one of their leaders on Sunday and the hired thugs beat up two other leaders - Sayeed and Ashraf - on Monday night who were protesting the termination.

The workers also said Sayeed has been missing since Monday's incident.

The savage repression follows weeks of unrest in Bangladesh's garment industry in which wildcat strikes and riots have rocked the country with demands for a decent minimum wage. Widespread rioting has also taken place over inadequate electricity supplies.

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