DHAKA, April 4 (Reuters) - Dozens of people were injured and over 50 detained as Bangladesh police on Monday clashed with Islamists protesting against a government policy to empower women in the mainly Muslim country, police and witnesses said.
Police used tear gas, batons and water cannons to disperse activists of the Islami Oikyo Jote (Unity Forum) who had barricaded a highway linking the capital, Dhaka, with Bangladesh's main port of Chittagong.
The road blockage on Dhaka's outskirts, part of a daylong strike called by the activists, had left buses and lorries stranded for hours. Protesters, holding sticks and copies of the Koran, squatted on the highway and chanted demands for scrapping the policy on women.
On Monday, authorities deployed hundreds of extra police in the capital, where clashes with strikers occurred in several places.
"We are keeping a strong vigil against attempts to disrupt economic activities and damage property," one police officer said.
On Sunday, a student at an Islamic school about 280 kilometers (175 miles) west of Dhaka was shot dead during clashes between police and protesters rallying in support of Monday's strike.
Police said the 22-year-old man was hit by a stray bullet and died while at least 25 people, including some police officers, were injured in the violence in Jessore.
The IOJ opposes the government's policy to promote women's development, which was announced last year but not put into effect yet. The group says it will cause Muslim women to violate Sharia law as they seek equality with men in all respects, including education, jobs and the right to family property.
The government says the policy does not violate Islam. "Anyone trying to mislead people in the name of religion and trying to create chaos will be dealt with under laws of the country," Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told a rally in southeastern Cox's Bazar on Sunday afternoon.
"We will not tolerate any attempt to destabilise the country or hurt the economy," she added.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia did not formally support the strike.
"But we are with any protest against the government's undemocratic, unilateral and acrimonious policies," Khaleda told her supporters late on Sunday after returning from a visit to Saudi Arabia.