Dhaka: Violence broke out during a BNP strike against a Bangladesh government decision to divide the 400- year-old capital into two zones, as the protesters burned vehicles and police retaliated with batons injuring eight, during the 'hartal' which affected normal life.
   
Ex-mayor of just split Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Sadek Hossain Khoka was detained briefly as clashes erupted between riot police and
activists as he led the protests at old part of Dhaka where the protesters torched a police van and a motorbike.
   
Television footage showed armed policemen escorting Khoka and later whisked away in a prison van while a police spokesman said he was detained for his "own safety" during clashes but was freed after an hour.
   
Witnesses said at least a dozen opposition activists were detained from the downtown court complex as they hurled brickbats at police, who retaliated with batons and tear gas canisters. Eight protesters were injured, according to reports.
   
"Nearly 100 tear gas shells were lobbed as the pro-opposition lawyers joined the BNP activists bringing out processions at the court complex," a photojournalist who witnessed the clash said.
   
Schools, big shopping malls and businesses were shut while traffic was very thin on the street with most transport operators and private car owners preferred to stay off the road during the day-long stoppage across the capital Dhaka as police with riot vans and elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) men kept a sharp vigil.
   
Meanwhile, BNP's acting general secretary Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told newsmen at the Nayapaltan party office alleged that nearly 100 of their workers were arrested and warned that such actions by ruling Awami League would only intensify the anti-government campaign.
   
The government, meanwhile, appointed on Sunday two bureaucrat "administrators" for the two city corporations while an official order said mayoral elections to the split municipal bodies would be held in next 90 days.
   
The Parliament last week passed into law a bill seeking to split the capital in the house being boycotted by the opposition and President Zillur Rahman gave his assent to the law on Thursday.

"The population of DhakaCity has increased to more than one crore. In this situation, it is very difficult provide services for the huge population by one city corporation. The city inhabitants are not getting the desired services and civic amenities," read the Parliamentary bill justifying the split.
   
The move automatically dislodged Khoka and the DCC councillors. Khoka, however, filed a writ in High Court earlier this week challenging the DCC's slicing saying it was split in defiance of constitutional provisions and court issued a rule upon the government and the Election Commission to explain in four weeks why the bill should not be declared illegal and unconstitutional.
   
BNP earlier said the government decided to slice the DCC fearing the ruling Awami League to lose the next mayoral polls under one city corporation as the opposition was likely to field Khoka again as their candidate for the mayoral election, considering his "massive popularity".
   
The more than 400-year old Dhaka found its first formal municipal body DhakaMunicipality in 1864 while its status was elevated as City Corporation in 1978.

The area of the City Corporation at present is about 360 square kilometers. The government decision to divide DCC also sparked violent protests as its employees two days ago clashed with armed police as a parliamentary standing committee gave its nod to the government decision.
   
But most local government experts and governance analysts said the decision was unlikely to yield the expected result while BNP called it a decision of "narrow political convenience" to defeat the opposition's nominee for the mayoral post in the next mayoral election.

(Agencies)