Dhaka, April 23:

Riot police used batons to beat back hundreds of opposition activists trying to march through the Bangladeshi capital during an anti-government general strike today.

Elsewhere in the city, police arrested about a dozen activists gathering for a separate protest. About 300 demonstrators tried to overrun barbed wire barricades, prompting police to charge them with batons at Dhaka’s uptown Mahakhali district. Several people were hurt in the violence.

An opposition alliance of 14 parties organised the nationwide strike to demand electoral reforms and the resignation of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s government. The alliance accuses the government of corruption, incompetence and authoritarianism — allegations Zia denies.

The opposition parties often call strikes to highlight their demands and embarrass the government of this impoverished South Asian nation.

“Khaleda Zia is an autocrat. She has ordered police to suppress the opposition,” Tafail Ahmed, a leader of the main opposition Awami League, told the protesters before police swooped in. “We shall not leave the streets.”

In western Dhanmandi district, police arrested about a dozen protesters as they gathered for a rally.

Dozens of other protesters gathered outside the Awami League’s downtown headquarters as police watched them from trucks. No clashes were reported.