DHAKA, April 3 (Reuters) - A student at an Islamic school was shot dead on Sunday during clashes between police and protesters rallying in western Bangladesh to support a countrywide strike called by an Islamist group to protest against government policies on women.
Police said the student had joined the rally in Jessore, 280 kilometers (175 miles) from Dhaka, in support of the strike on Monday proposed by the Islami Oikyo Jote (Unity Forum) group.
"Police did not open fire while dispersing the crowds nor did they see who did," said a police officer in Jessore. "But the boy was hit (by a stray bullet) and died."
He said at least 25 people including police were injured during the clashes.
The IOJ opposes the government's policy on women's development, announced last year but not put into effect yet, saying it will cause Muslim women to violate Sharia law as they seek equality with men in all respects including education, jobs and right to family property.
The government says the policy does not violate Islam. Qamrul Islam, the state minister for law, condemned the planned strike as "a politically motivated attempt to create chaos and disturbance".
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia did not formally support to the strike. "But we will back any protest against the (government's) anti-religion or anti-people policies," BNP acting secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.
In Dhaka, hundreds of women, many carrying banners and placards, took to the streets denouncing those opposing the policy.
"We support the policy framed to empower the women, which is fully consistent with what Islam taught us," said Ayesha Khanom, president of the Women Society.
"We urge the IOJ to withdraw the meaningless strike that will affect our economy."