Published: Monday, May 6, 2013

Flushed out

Law enforcers swung into action early today to flush out Hefajat-e Islam activists occupying Shapla Chattar in downtown Dhaka.
Rapid Action Battalion, police and paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh personnel commenced firing teargas shells and shots in the air around 2:30am to disperse the Hefajat activists from Motijheel, over 12 hours after they had held a rally there.
The Islamists retaliated with brick chips but around 3:00am they were forced to leave Shapla Chattar.
Around 2:00am, several hundred Rab personnel, backed by Border Guard Bangladesh personnel, joined police and took position at strategic points about 100 metres away from Shapla Chattar.
As Rab personnel joined police near Dainik Bangla intersection and Notre Dame College end, Hefajat leaders began delivering provocative speeches before their activists who had occupied downtown Dhaka since morning.
Around 30 platoons of BGB men were positioned about 100 metres away to provide cover to police and Rab personnel.
Around 2:20am, Deputy Commissioner (Ramna) Maruf Hasan of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, who was leading the drive, briefed his force.
He ordered them to prepare to disperse the Hefajat activists who had been occupying the roads. He asked them not to use bullets unless it was absolutely necessary.
With no power in Motijheel, Paltan and surrounding areas, the demonstrators were burning makeshift roadside stalls and paper to light the area.
Earlier, Hefajat activists broke road dividers and used the rubble to block roads. In the afternoon, they went on the rampage in Motijheel, Paltan, and Shanti Nagar areas.
Yesterday, the government said leaders and workers of Hefajat-e Islam must leave the capital peacefully by yesterday evening or else it would go tough on them.
LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Syed Ashraful Islam, also general secretary of the Awami League, said the Hefajat men would no more be allowed to hold programmes in Dhaka.
“If necessary, they won’t be allowed to come out of their houses,” he said at a press briefing at the AL president’s political office in Dhanmondi.
Ashraf went on, “The so-called Hefajat has unleashed a reign of terror by torching and vandalising political party offices, vehicles and public property. The government is ready to take any action to maintain law and order.”
The minister said BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefajat are “one and the same” and a large number of BNP and Jamaat men joined the Hefajat’s programme yesterday.
The government has so far been patient but that does not mean the government and the AL are weak, Ashraf said, adding his party alone could resist Hefajat if it resorted to violence any more.
The ruling party leader termed Hefajat men “sons of Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams and believers of Pakistani ideology”. He blasted them for using “vulgar and offensive language” against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at their Shapla Chattar rally.
“It was not expected that the ulema [religious scholars] will use vulgar words,” he said, asking them to use decent language.
The minister also said many of the Hefajat’s 13-point demand have already been met in the constitution.
He criticised the Islamist group for discouraging women from joining various professions.
A highly placed source said top leadership of Hefajat had earlier promised the government that they would leave the capital by yesterday evening after holding their rally.
As they failed to keep their promise, Ashraf spoke of tough action, said the source.
Officials of an intelligence agency had been trying to pursue the Hefajat chief to honour his word but he declined to budge after getting support from the BNP high command.

  • Abul Khan

    Their creditibility as constitutional opposition is at stake. However govt may still show accommodation to BNP as far as possible while opposition should respond to govt’s invitation to sit in dialogue.People need to be relieved of hartal followed by lawless situation.