Hundreds of members of a radical Islamic group Hefazat-e-Islam attacked Hindu temples and a train in eastern Bangladesh on Sunday, as violence spread across the country in the wake of a visit by Bharatiya PM Narendra Modi.
As per a Reuters report, local police and doctors have said at least 11 protesters have been killed since Friday in clashes with police during violent demonstrations organised by the Islamists against PM Modi’s visit. Violence has raged on even after Modi’s departure on Saturday as anger swelled over the deaths and Hefazat called for a dawn to dusk hartal or strike.
Quoting from the Reuters report –
“On Friday, dozens of people were injured in the densely-populated capital Dhaka as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters. Thousands of Islamist activists marched down streets across Bangladesh on Sunday.
Activists with the Hefazat-e-Islam group attacked a train in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria, resulting in ten people being injured, a police official said. Several government offices, including the land office and a government-sponsored music academy, were set on fire and several Hindu temples were also attacked, said Javed Rahim, a journalist in Brahmanbaria town.
Islamist activists also set alight two buses in the western district of Rajshahi on Sunday, while hundreds of protesters clashed with police in several places, pelting them with stones, three police sources in three districts said.
Protesters used electric poles, timber and sand bags to block roads and police retaliated with rubber bullets and tear gas, leaving dozens injured in Narayanganj, just outside the capital, Dhaka, one police official said. Protesters also vandalised and burned several buses in Dhaka as they blocked many roads, a police official said.”
Bangladeshi new outlets Daily Star reports that the protestors carried out processions in various parts of Dhaka. The report adds –
“…hartal supporters engaged in clashes, vandalism and arson attacks in different districts, leaving many people injured damaging vehicles, destroying different offices and public property.
Three people were killed in two separate clashes between Hefajat-e-Islam activists and police in Sarail upazila and Brahmanbaria district town today. In Kishoreganj town, around 50 people, including 10 policemen, were injured in separate clashes during the dawn-to-dusk hartal.
Meanwhile, 15 people, including the officer-in-charge of Sirajdikhan Police Station, were injured in a clash between police and Hefajat-e-Islam activists in Sirajdikhan upazila of Munshiganj this noon. In Narayanganj, at least 30 people were injured, including one with bullet, in a clash between hartal supporters and members of law enforcement agencies in Mouchak area of Siddhirganj upazila.
Some students of Al Jamiatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam Madrasah cut roads and created a number of holes on Chattogram-Khagrachhari highway early today, disrupting communications on the road.”
The president of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of ruling Awami League party, has accused the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka of ‘secretly funding’ the hardline Islamist organisation Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh to stage protests against Bharat and PM Narendra Modi.
State visit by PM Modi to commemorate 50th Bangladesh Independence Day
Modi had visited Dhaka to mark the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s nationhood, in which Bharat played a key role. Bangladesh had declared Independence from Pakistan in the wee hours of 26 March 1971 after West Pakistan refused to hand over political power to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led Awami League which had won the 1970 general elections in Pakistan.
Instead, on 25th March, the Pakistani Army started the worst genocide since WWII under ‘Operation Searchlight’ in which Bengali Hindus were the primary target – a total of 3 million Bengalis were murdered, 2.5 million of which were Hindus. The Bangladeshis started a guerilla war with support of Bharat, and later the Indian Army comprehensively defeated Pakistan and forced their Army to surrender on 16 Dec, 1971.
Despite Bharat freeing their country from Pakistan’s tyranny, Islamists hate everything about Hindu-majority Bharat. Even the fact that PM Modi gifted their country 1.2 million COVID-19 vaccine shots made no difference to them.
Hefazat-e-Islam: yet another Deobandi, quasi-terror group
Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh (HIB) has been behind many anti-Hindu pogroms, the most recent of which occurred in Sumanganj, Sylhet. It was established in 2010, right after Sheikh Hasina won the general elections in 2009 for her second stint as PM, by Islamic maulana Shah Ahmad Shafi, a product of the infamous Sunni revivalist seminary Darul Uloom Deoband located in Western UP, Bharat.
It is claimed that Sheikh Hasina had a hand in establishing and funding HIB, which seems plausible as Hasina would be keen to have a separate Islamist group to counter her prime opponent – the hardline BNP party led by Khaleda Zia which is in alliance with the Islamist org Jamaat-e-Islami.
HIB, which claims to be a non-political advocacy group, rose to public consciousness in May 2013 after staging mass protests and sit-ins in Dhaka as a counter to the secular Shahbag protests which demanded maximum punishment for convicted Jamaat-e-Islami war criminals, and to raise a 13-point list of Islamist demands such as capital punishment for blasphemy.
Following the police raid at a HIB rally in 2013 in which several students from a madrasa were killed, the Awami League government was forced to negotiate with the group in order to deter further unrest. Since then, Hasina has been pursuing a policy of appeasement and concessions toward Hefazat and similar groups, that have only emboldened these radicals.
Today Bangladesh stands at a crossroads. While political stability brought by Hasina’s uninterrupted ruled since 2009 has allowed her to generate greater economic prosperity, the nation as a whole is turning increasingly Islamist and unchecked anti-Hindu pogroms and religious cleansing should impact relations with Bharat at some point and invite international sanctions as well.
Hasina also has clouds hanging over her government’s legitimacy as the last 2 general elections in Bangladesh have been marred by reports of rigging, state violence and Opposition boycotts. A new investigative documentary has revealed how Hasina has nurtured a criminal gang of brothers, the Ahmed clan, for decades. One of those brothers, Aziz Ahmed was promoted to chief of army staff in June 2018.
For her own political survival, and to prevent the whole region from further falling into a spiral of religious violence and chaos, it is in Sheikh Hasina’s interest to immediately start de-radicalisation of Bangladeshi society and disband groups like Hefazat-e-Islam and the network of hate-indoctrinating madrassas they have created. Bharat should also make this clear to the Bangladeshi government, notwithstanding the public homilies about partnership and development.
(Featured image source: Twitter)
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