The top leadership of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh has been perplexed due to various pressures including the arrests of leaders in different old and new cases, controversies over the activities of Mamunul Haque and drives after severe violence in several places including Brahmanbaria and Hathazari.
Amid this turmoil, a section of the organisation, supporters of late ameer Shah Ahmad Shafi’s son Anas Madani, is demanding a reshuffle of the central committee.
Again, a section has emerged in Hefazat who frequently shows their power and influence within the organisation. It has become difficult to control them. And due to the pressures from within and outside the organisation, the policy making body of Hefazat is in turmoil.
Besides, there are pressures from one section to negotiate with the government to stop arrests. As a result, a delegation led by Hefazat’s secretary general Nurul Islam Zihadi had a meeting with home minister Asaduzzaman Khan at his residence in Dhanmondi on Monday night.
According to the sources, before the meeting with the home minister, Hefazat leaders met with an official of the special branch of police on the same day at noon. The meeting with the home minister was conducted on the basis of the previous meeting. Earlier, they took permission from Hefazat’s ameer Junaid Babunagari. However, it is not clear that who was the initiator of these meetings?
Hefazat leaders are claiming that the meetings were held by the initiatives from both sides. However, the Hefazat leaders were seen waiting outside the home minister’s house for about an hour before the meeting.
Nurul Islam Zihadi, secretary general of Hefazat-e Islam, declined to comment on this issue to Prothom Alo. However, a source present at the meeting said that at that meeting, the leaders of Hefazat conveyed the message to the minister that the relationship between Hefazat and the government should continue as before.
At the same time, they assured the home minister that Hefazat has no connection with BNP-Jamaat. Besides, their movement was not against the government. So there is no point in treating them as the enemy of the government. Therefore, they requested the minister not to extend this issue any further. The Hefazat leaders also requested the minister to open the madrassas after Ramadan, not to obstruct their activists and arrest anyone else.
Seeking anonymity, a Hefazat leader present at the meeting told Prothom Alo that the home minister seemed to be pleased with their statements. However, he did not make any commitment.
However, about the meeting, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told Prothom Alo that Hefazat leaders went to meet him. He told them that the police are not harassing any innocent people. They are arresting only the people, who were involved in the vandalism and violence. Everything is going on in compliance with the law.
After the meeting with the home minister, 52 supporters of Hefazat, including four leaders, have been arrested in Dhaka in the last two days. Earlier, some important leaders were arrested too. Many have lost contact due to this drive.
People affiliated with Hefazat are saying that their leaders could not imagine that the government would take such stern actions amid the holy month of Ramadan. At present, the Qawmi madrassas are closed after the annual examination. Admission in Qawami madrassas usually starts after Ramadan. In this situation, the Hefazat leaders are not being able to decide what to do. The top leaders of Hefazat are perplexed.
However, in reply to the questions in writing by Prothom Alo, Hefazat’s ameer Janaid Babunagari claimed that it is not right at all that the Hefazat leaders are disconcerted. Instead, amid the holy month of Ramadan and the lockdown, the police are unjustly cracking down on the leaders and activists of Hefazat. The Hefazat leaders have protested against this. An idealistic organisation cannot be suppressed by means of unfair repression.
Demand for reshuffle of Hefazat’s central committee
On Friday, former joint secretary general of Hefazat-e-Islam, Mainuddin Ruhi, published a Facebook post titled as “We want reform in Hefazat”. He is also active in this regard in media and talk shows.
Ruhi and another former joint secretary general Mufti Faizullah were ousted from the central committee of Hefazat formed after Ahmad Shafi’s death.
According to multiple sources, a section of the organisation including Mainuddin Ruhi, Mufti Faizullah and Abu Hasnat Aminee, son of late Mufti Fajlul Haque Amini, are trying to reshuffle the committee. This section supports the younger son of Ahmad Shafi, Anas Madani. Supporters of Anas Madani are known within the organisation as close to the government.
After the death of Ahmed Shafi, a new committee of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh was formed last November with Junaid Babungari as the ameer. Right after that, this section including Mainuddin Ruhi and Mufti Faizullah attempted to reform the organisation. However, due to lack of support, their attempt failed.
This section of Hefazat became proactive again in the wake of violence in different parts of the country in protest against Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh and police’s drive to arrest Hefazat activists involved in this. They have started demanding for the reform of the organisation again.
According to multiple sources, Anas Madani is in Singapore now. After his return to the country, the process of reform would be intensified.
Already an attempt has been made to form an alternative committee with a principal of a renowned madrassa in the capital as the ameer. However, he denied getting involved in this, according to the family members.
Apart from this, the supporters of Anas Madani are also keeping contact with some of the nayeb-e-ameers of the current committee. Already they have a resignation letter from one of the nayeb-e-ameers. He is a senior teacher of Lalbagh Jamia Arabia Madrassa. They are also in touch with the disciples of Ahmad Shafi.
Speaking to Prothom Alo last Tuesday, Mainuddin Ruhi said, “There is no need to change the entire committee of Hefazat. Only some parts of the committee need to be reformed. We want to implement the principles and ideals of Allama Ahmad Shafi and his non-violent works. The current leadership of Hefazat-e-Islam is being held hostage by political ambitions.”
However, as many as 39 people commented on Mainuddin Ruhi’s post saying that he wanted the reformation of Hefazat. Of these, 38 were negative comments.
Regarding the demand for reform, Junaid Babunagari said that Hefazat's new committee has been formed with the consent of all the representatives of the organisation at the central council on 15 November. The demand of the so called reform by a few isolated groups outside the organisation at the instigation of anti-Islam clique is ridiculous.
Focus on Lalbagh
Meanwhile, police have arrested two central assistant secretary generals of Hefazat - Jubayer Ahmed and Sakhawat Hossain Razi. Both are teachers of Lalbagh Jamia Arabia Madrassa. They are the son-in-laws of late Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini. Police are also looking for another teacher of this madrasa named Jasim Uddin. He is also a son-in-law of Mufti Amini and the vice-president of Hefazat's Dhaka city committee.
Jasim Uddin's son spoke to Prothom Alo over the phone from Cairo in Egypt. He said, “Police went to our house twice in the last three days to arrest my father. I think they have different motives behind harassing these persons.”
Concerned individuals said there may be a motive to establish control or authority over the Lalbagh Madrasa behind the arrest of Jubayer Ahmed and Sakhawat Hossain in the cases filed on the allegations of violence and the attempt to arrest Jasim Uddin. It is because the group of Jubayer and Sakhawat is more powerful than the other group in the organisation. Hasanat Amini and Mufti Faizullah are in the other group.
Several assumptions surrounding Hefazat
Speaking to some senior leaders it was found that they are thinking the government has several plans about Hefazat. Some people in the government want to put pressure on the current leadership to establish control in the organisation. Some are in favour of restructuring Hefazat with people of their choice. There have also been discussions to regulate everything concerned through Qawmi Madrassa Board of Education (BEFAC) and Hayatul Ulaya. After the death of Ahmad Shafi, Mahmudul Hasan, Khatib of Gulshan Azad Mosque and principal of Jatrabari Madrassa became the chairman of these two organisations.
Attempts were made to contact Mahmudul Hasan and five other leaders of Befaq and Hefazat. Four of them did not pick up the phone. One declined to comment. He said talking about these issues at the moment means getting noticed by the administration and bringing danger.
*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu