Immediate past Ameer of Hefazat-e-Islam Junaid Babunagri was charged with violence yesterday, a day after he had dissolved the platform's committee amid the crackdown against its key leaders since the violent protests in March.
The central committee of Hefazat-e-Islam was dissolved due to "pressures from within the platform and outside" as part of an initiative to reorganize Hefazat with non-political Islamic scholars, insiders said.
Junaid Babunagari announced the dissolution of the current committee in a video message posted on social media Facebook at 11pm on Sunday. An hour later, he announced a new convening committee with his maternal uncle Allama Muhibullah Babunagari as chief adviser.
Within hours of his announcement, other Hefazat leaders came on Facebook Live and disclosed the names of two more people. A few more people have been included in the convening committee and their names will be released later.
Two cases filed against Babunagri in Hathazari
Two cases have been filed against Junaid Babunagri, the ameer of the recently dissolved Hefazat-e-Islam committee and current convener, for his alleged involvement in the recent violence in Chattogram's Hathazari.
A total of three cases have been filed over the incident including these two cases. Though the three cases were filed with Hathazari police station on Thursday, it was learned on Monday.
Hathazari Police Officer-in-Charge (OC) Rafiqul Islam confirmed the matter.
In the case filed by Constable Md Solaiman of District Special Branch (DSB) of Chattogram Police, Hefazat leaders Babungari, Mir Idris, Nasir Uddin, Zakaria Noman and Ahsan Ullah and 16 others, along with 150 to 200 unidentified people, have been named as accused.
According to the case statement, Solaiman was detained from in front of Hathazari District Council guest house on March 26 and held at the Hathazari Madrasa. He was threatened with death there.
In another case filed by Hathazari Police Station Inspector Amir Hossain,Hefazat leaders Junaid Babunagri, Zakaria Noman and 84 others including Amir of Hathazari Upazila Jamaat, along with 2,500 to 3,000 unidentified, have been named as accused.
Hathazari police station SI Harun Aur Rashid has filed the third case. BNP executive committee member Mir Helal Uddin, Chattogram North District Juba Dal vice-president Syed Iqbal, Upazila Hefazat-e-Islam joint general secretary Emran Sikder and 58 others have been named in the case along with 250-300 unidentified accused.
According to the statement of case, during the strike called by Hefazat-e-Islam, the accused created unrest at Ichhapur Bazar in Hathazari Sadar by setting fire to vehicles and creating walls in the streets. During three days from 26 March to 28 March, the accused attacked the police stations and land offices, and set them on fire.
Five months ago, when Babunagari was declared Amir of the committee, there was a demand to remove political leaders from the organisation. But the situation went beyond the control of Hefazat leaders at that time under pressure from their allies, the BNP-led 20-party alliance.
The government has recently taken a hardline against Hefazat leaders due to their movement protesting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh in March. This led to the resignation of several top Hefazat leaders.
Mufti Harun Izhar, education and cultural secretary of Hefazat-e-Islam, told The Business Standard, "From the beginning, the government has been concerned about the affiliation of political parties with Hefazat. Not only the government, but a section of Hefazat leaders were also against the inclusion of political leaders in the organisation. This initiative has been taken to get out of the situation created under political pressure."
Abu Raihan, a student of Hathazari Madrasa, who led students in the Hefazat restructuring movement in 2020, said, "Before the 15 November council, Hathazari Adarshik Chhatrasamaj submitted a memorandum to the council president with two demands. The two demands were to form a Hefazat free of a syndicate, and free of political leaders. But it was not possible at that time under pressure of various political parties. We want the new Hefazat committee not to be a political agenda tool."
On condition of anonymity, a Hefazat leader said, "Law enforcement agencies have given strict conditions to form a new committee excluding leaders of political parties from Hefazat. But Babunagari first took a stand not to dissolve the committee. At that time, a faction tried to bring Ahmad Shafi's followers into the leadership of the organisation, excluding Babunagari. In this context, the president and MP of a political party, which is an ally of the 14-party alliance, took a strong stand in favour of keeping Hefazat in the hands of Babunagari. At his request, Junaid Babunagari agreed to dissolve the committee at the last minute."
Nasir Uddin Munir, joint secretary general of the dissolved committee, said, "The central and metropolitan committees of Hefazat-e-Islam have been dissolved considering the current volatile and fragile situation. Considering the overall situation, the Hefazat-e Amir had no choice but to dissolve the committee. The five member committee already announced, will soon announce the full convening committee."
Law enforcement agencies have compiled a list of 30 top Hefazat leaders involved in the violent movement in March, protesting Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh. Till Sunday, at least 19 leaders on that list were arrested. Besides, the leaders of Hefazat-e-Islam broke down under various pressures including the controversy over Mamunul Haque.
After several failed attempts to come to terms with the government, many Hefazat leaders expressed reluctance to remain active in the organisation. Some Hefazat leaders even resigned to prove that they had no involvement in the violent movement.
Mufti Harun Izhar said, "Though Hefazat-e-Islam is a non-political organisation, its demands have global and international implications. Hefazat had no affiliation with the movement against the arrival of Narendra Modi, but the movement has created pressure. We think there is a local and foreign conspiracy behind this."
Meanwhile, four Hefazat leaders have left the organisation in the last 15 days after the police arrests began. They are Nayebe Amir of the dissolved committee and Mudarris of Lalbagh Jamia Korania Arabia Madrasa, Maulana Habibur Rahman, President of Bangladesh Faraji Movement and Pir of Bahadurpur, Maulana Abdullah Mohammad Hasan, Co-Finance Secretary of the Hefazat Dhaka Metropolitan Committee, Maulana Nasir Uddin, and central committee member Mufti Abdur Rahim Qasemi. A dozen other leaders of the central and district committees of Hefazat were also preparing to resign.
On condition of anonymity, a Hefazat leader said, "The organisation had no idea about the government's tough stance. In the face of the mass arrest, the whole leadership, including the high command, collapsed. Everyone became busy trying to avoid arrest. Some have even announced they will leave Hefazat to save themselves from being arrested."
A 151-member full-fledged committee of Hefazat-e-Islam was formed on 15 November last year at a Hathazari Darul Ulum Madrasa conference with Junaid Babungari as Amir and Nur Hossain Qasemi as Secretary General. Hefazat formed the new committee after the death of its founder, Amir Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi. After the death of Secretary General Nur Hossain Qasemi on 13 December, Hefazat appointed Nayebe Amir Allama Nurul Islam Jihadi, as the acting secretary general.
Leaders and activists of Hefazat-e-Islam staged protests in different parts of the country on 26 March against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh. At least 17 people lost their lives after those protests turned violent. At least 77 cases have been filed against Hefazat leaders and activists in different districts of the country for the protests and violence. More than 69,000 people have been accused in these cases. So far, 19 central and important leaders of Hefazat have been arrested in these cases.
Two dead named accused in case filed by police in Brahmanbaria
Meanwhile Police filed a case against two dead people, named in connection with the mayhem caused by Hefazat-e-Islam in Brahmanbaria.
The case was filed a few days after the accused were shot dead.
The accused are Asadullah Ratin, 16, an SSC exam candidate from Suhilpur union of Brahmanbaria Sadar upazila, and Kamal Mia, 31, a rickshaw driver from Majlishpur union.
Kamal was shot on 27 March in a clash between law enforcement and Hefazat-e-Islam activists in Nandanpur of Brahmanbaria Sadar upazila, and he died at Cumilla Medical College Hospital on the morning of 28 March. Ratin died at Dhaka Medical College Hospital on the night of 29 March.
Sub-Inspector (SI) of Brahmanbaria Sadar Model Police Station, Md Sohrab Hossain, filed a case on the night of 31 March in connection with the 27 March violence. Along with 400-500 unidentified people, 21 people were named and made accused in the case. In the case file, Kamal has been named the 10th accused in the case with his age mentioned as 32 years. Ratin has been named the 15th accused with his age given as 25 years old.
However, the plaintiff did not mention the name of the father of either of them in the case file, and only Suhilpur is mentioned in the address. Police have so far arrested 10 people in the case.
According to the case file, police saw three injured people lying on the road after Hefazat-e-Islam activists, locals, and police clashed on 27 March. They were later taken to hospital for treatment.
Hosna Begum, Kamal's mother, said, "Kamal left the house after someone called him on the afternoon of 27 March. Kamal was reportedly shot after Maghrib prayers. When I went to Brahmanbaria Medical College Hospital, another injured person said the police had taken Kamal to Cumilla. The next day, on the morning of 28 March, Kamal died at Cumilla Medical College Hospital. We buried Kamal in the village cemetery on the night of 29 March."
Ratin's father Shafiqul Islam said, "Ratin went to fetch medicine for his mother on 27 March at around 4.30 pm and never returned home. I heard Ratin was shot in Suhilpur and the police had taken him to Cumilla. Later, we took Ratin to Dhaka Medical College Hospital where he died at 12:55 am on 29 March. They performed an autopsy on Ratin's body there, but we were not given any autopsy documents."
Asked why the dead were named accused in the case, plaintiff SI Md Sohrab Hossain said, "I saw the incident on 27 March. They were present at the scene then and may have died later."
The case investigating officer, Sadar Police SI Md Jahangir Alam, said, "I went to Suhilpur to investigate the case and heard from locals that one accused named Ratin had died in the clash. The plaintiff named the accused in the file and if someone is dead, then their name will be removed from the charge sheet."
Activists and supporters of Hefazat-e-Islam staged a massive protest in Brahmanbaria from March 26 to 28 against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh. They attacked, vandalized, and set fire to several public and private establishments. At least 11 people were killed in three days of clashes with law enforcement agencies. A total of 55 cases have been filed with 414 named accused and more than 35,000 unnamed accused. As of Monday (26 April), police have arrested 369 people.