Logo of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh
Prothom Alo illustration

After reorganising it committee, Hefazat-e-Islam plans to put pressure on the government to realise certain demands. The organisation’s top leadership particularly wants cases against its leaders to be withdrawn and also the release of its top leaders before the forthcoming election. They feel that the government will not take these issues into cognizance unless they can create pressure in this regard.

Sources say that Hefazat leaders are under pressure, with cases against their leaders and activists all over the country and also about release of those who are incarcerated. Important Hefazat leaders Maulana Mamunul Huq, Munir Hossain Kasemi, Nur Hossain Nurani and Rafiqul Islam Madani are behind bars. Trials are already underway in the cases against Mamumul Huq and a few others. The leaders and workers are fed up with having to appear in court at regular intervals. They want to speedily resolve this by putting pressure on the government. They are urging the top leadership to reorganise Hefazat and take up programmes accordingly.

On 31 August this year, Hefazat-e-Islam reorganised its central committee with the inclusion of members of the committee that had been dissolved in 2020. The organisation’s ameer, Allama Shah Muhibullah Babunagari declared a 53-member advisory council and a 202-member central committee. Most of those from the dissolved committee have been accommodated in the same positions in the new committee or given a higher rank.

However, there are grievances within a large section of the leaders and activists over the newly furbished committee. Concerned persons say that while some of those from the old committee have been accommodated, many of the imprisoned and tortured leaders have not been duly evaluated.

It had been proposed that Manzurul Islam Afendi be made the naib-e-ameer and Sakhawat Hossain Razi the joint secretary general. However, Afendi was made joint secretary general and Sakhawat Hossain assistant secretary general. Also, Maulana Abdul Kuddus, Salahuddin Nanpuri, Khobaib and others known to be close to the government, have been placed in important positions. Hefazat’s former joint secretary general Mamunul Huq hasn’t been accommodated in the new committee. Son of the organisation’s founder ameer Shah Ahmad Shafi, Anas Madani, and his followers including Mainduddin Ruhi and Mufti Faizullah have not be included in the committee.

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Pressure from the grassroots to reorganise

Speaking to leaders at various levels in Hefazat, it was learnt that after the reoganisation process of the committee commenced, many had their eyes on the post of organising secretary. Azizul Huq Islamabadi had been in this post in the committee that was dissolved in 2020. Maulana Idris was then installed in this post. There had been pressure from within Hefazat and from outside not to bring back organising secretary Azizul Huq, central naib-e-ameer of the dissolved committee Abdur Rab Yusufi, assistant secretary general Sakhawat Hossain Razi and publicity secretary Zakaria Noman Farazi back into the committee. Four among them, including Azizul Huq, have been kept in the committee.

Sources say that it had been decided to keep Azizul Huq as organising secretary of the new committee in spite of the pressure to keep him out. However, they couldn’t just leave it at that. Later two former organising secretaries Azizul Huq Islamabadi and Mir Idris were made joint secretaries. Azizul Huq was recently released on bail after spending 21 months in jail in a case against Hefazat. Muhaddis of the Madaninagar madrassa in Siddhirganj of Narayanganj, Bashir Ullah, has been made the new organising secretary.

Basically it was under pressure from the grassroots that members of the defunct committee were included in the central committee of Hefazat-e-Islam. Actually it was under this pressure that the committee was reorganised. Many members of the dissolved committee feel that the present leadership of Hefazat has failed to take any effective measures for the release of those behind bars and also to free the leaders and activists from the lawsuits leveled against them. In fact, many of the top leaders are in cahoots with the government and the government camp. They have no visible plans or thoughts for the organisation outside of this. Under such circumstances, the anti-government quarters within the organisation are irate at the leadership. This quarter along with other quarters within Hefazat, put pressure on to reorganise the committee with the inclusion of the former leaders.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, however, Hefazat secretary general Maulana Sajidur Rahman said that they had taken initiative to reorganise the committee on their own accord, not under any pressure from the government or from within the organisation.

The organisation is also considering a revival of its 13-point demand which calls for a death sentence for blasphemy and to make hijab compulsory for women

13-point demand again

Hefazat-e-Islam emerged in 2020, protesting against the policy for women formulated by the government. At the outset, the leader of the organisation had been Hathazari Madrasa’s director general Shah Ahmad Shafi. Hathazari rose up in 2013 under his leadership. He was the Hefazat ameer till death. After his death on 18 September 2020, amid opposition from a section within the organisation, a 151-member central committee was formed on 15 November at the national council held at the Hathazari Madrasa.

When Indian prime minister Narendra Modi arrived in Bangladesh on a visit on 26 March 2021, Hefazat leaders and activists broke out in protest and violence and were arrested. In this backdrop, on 25 April night the organisation’s ameer Junaid Babunagari, though a video message, announced the dissolving of the central committee. Hefazat leaders and activists broke out in protest in Dhaka, Hathazari in Chattogram, Brahmanbaria and other places in the country, leading to 79 cases being filed against them. Over 69,000 persons were accused in these cases. The cases are still in place. Till the dissolution of the committee, 19 central and important leaders of the party had been arrested. In this situation, this Qawmi-madrasa-centric organisation’s leader, Junaid Babunagari, declared the committee void.

Now, almost two and a half years later, Hefazat has accommodated the leaders of the defunct committee and wants to become active in its demand for the cases to be withdrawn and its leaders and activist to be released from jail.

The organisation is also considering a revival of its 13-point demand which calls for a death sentence for blasphemy and to make hijab compulsory for women. Speaking to Prothom Alo, Hefazat’s joint secretary general Maulana Mir Idris said  meeting will soon be held to introduce the new leaders. The organisation’s plan of action and programmes will be determined there.

Hefazat leaders feel that they need to take a stern stance regarding their demands before the election otherwise no one will pay attention to Hefazat. Hefazat hopes to extract a statement from the government and the opposition political parties for the release of its leaders and activists and a withdrawal of all the cases. Unless this statement is made, no one will get their support in the election. No leader at any level within Hefazat, however, was willing to be quoted in this regard.

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