Islamist organisation Hefajat-e Islam has called a daylong shutdown for Monday protesting “obstructions” to people who tried to come to Dhaka to join a Hefajat rally at Motijheel Saturday.
The organisation, while announcing fresh agitation programmes, threatened the government of blockading Dhaka on May 5 if its six-point demand including stern action against what they called atheist bloggers is not met by April 30.
The leaders also branded prominent writer Muntassir Mamoon, Sammilito Sangskritik Jote President Nasiruddin Yusuf Bachchu and Gonojagoron Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarker as “atheists” and demanded their immediate arrest.
The city dwellers, like the government policymakers, had a sigh of relief as the so-called Islamist organisation refrained from floating a call for non-stop hartal (shutdown) as it threatened earlier.
“By creating obstructions to our long march programme, detaining our leaders and activists and filing cases, it (government) has proved that it is not an Islamic government,” Azizul Haque Islamabadi, Hefajat organising secretary, said while announcing the shutdown at the fag end of the rally that began at 11:00am.
The programmes were announced on behalf of Allama Shah Ahmad Shafi, the ameer of Hefajat, who led the six-hour-long rally. Maulana Anasmadani, publicity secretary and son of Shafi, read out the speech.
Hefajat leaders of various ranks delivered speeches whole day long, warning of different agitation programmes that could cripple the country unless the government gives in to their threats.
The government did not take adequate steps to ensure highest punishment for the “atheist bloggers who defamed Allah”, Anasmadani said.
“Instead, under the direction of the government, a Supreme Judicial Council was formed to harass a High Court judge who attempted to extend his help in this regard,” he added.
The government instigated the bloggers against Islam, Anasmadani said.
“They have shown audacity by submitting a memorandum to the House Speaker on banning Islam-based politics.”
The government formulated anti-Islam women and education policy, according to the speech.
Maulana Shafi warned through his speech that the government must meet Hefajat demands it wants to stay and return to power in future.
He strongly criticised the government for terming blogger Rajib, a Shahbagh activist who was killed near his house in Pallabi in the capital on February 15, a martyr. The parliament also paid respect to him, Shafi added.
The government has taken a clear stance against millions of Muslims of the country, he alleged.
“Today’s human sea proves that there is no place for atheists in this country. Only the believers have the right to control this country,” he said.
He warned of a tougher movement if Hefajat’s demands are not met.
“The fate of this anti-Islamic government will be like Pharaoh, Nomrud, Saddam, Haman, Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab,” he said.
“There is still time to save yourselves and the lives of the people of the country from Allah’s wrath by fulfilling our demands.”
Addressing the youths who joined the rally, he said, “You youths, you are the main source of Islam’s strength. You, like today, have to be ready in future to come out to the battle fields and sacrifice your lives to destroy the atheists and their movement”
The leaders addressed thousands of activists and supporters of Hefajat from a dais set up near the Shapla Chattar.
Dhaka’s business hub Motijheel turned into a human sea as thousands of people poured into the area to join the rally.
The first session of the rally started through recitation from the Quran and continued more than three hours.
The second session of the rally began just after the Johr prayers around 2:45pm, reported our correspondent covering the event.
Noor Hossain Kashemi, Dhaka city ameer and joint convenor of Hefajat, and Junaid Babunagari, secretary general of the organisation, is present at the makeshift podium.
Hefajat has received permission for the rally to voice their demands including punishment of some bloggers for “defaming” Islam and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The Shapla Chattar gathering spilled onto adjoining areas including Jatiya Press Club Ittefaq intersection, Arambagh, Dainik Bangla intersection and Fakirerpool areas.
Prior to start of the rally, the mid-level leaders of the group delivered their speeches demanding punishment to the ‘atheist bloggers’.
They also chanted slogans like “Jihad chai, jihad chai, jihad kore morte chai” (we want to revolt, want to die revolting).
Hefajat leaders withdrew a slogan demeaning Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina minutes after some activists chanted it loudly.
Despite attempts to thwart the Hefajat’s programme, hundreds of its supporters who assembled at Motijheel.
Tension has been brewing over the standoff between Hefajat and the pro-hartal organisation and Shahbagh supporters opposing the Hefajat programme.
Since morning, people kept marching towards their rally venue from different parts of the capital, defying blockades and hartal amid a tense situation, reported our correspondent covering the event.
Activists of the 23 pro-liberation organisations who enforced the 24-hour hartal since 6:00pm took position at 20 points in the city to resist the Hefajat activists from joining their rally.