Hefazat mayhem: Around 200 leaders of 21 districts on police list

Hefazat activists allegedly set fire at Sur Samrat Alauddin Sangitangan in Brahmanbaria during the 28 March hartal.
Prothom Alo

Police’s drive against the members of Hefazat-e-Islam in connection with the violent incidents in different parts of the country is being further expanded.

Although police made a list of 30 members of Hefazat before the drive, they have made a fresh list of 200 people. It contains the names of the leaders and activists of 21 districts including the capital Dhaka.

Some of the top leaders of Hefazat have been included in the list. Instructions have been sent to the concerned district police including Dhaka metropolitan police (DMP) to take legal action against them.

According to the police sources, they have identified the members of the organisation who were involved in the violence in different districts of the country or worked as the instigators and added them to the list.

Apart from this, names of some Hefazat leaders and activists who deliver provocative speeches through religious sermons (waz mahfils) and social media have also been included in the list.

Many of Hefazat's top and mid-level leaders on the list are also associated with other religious groups. The top leaders are from Islami Oikya Jote, Khilafat Andolan, Khilafat Majlis and Bangladesh Khilafah Majlis.

Hefazat-e-Islam nayeeb-e-ameer Ahmed Abdul Quader was arrested on Saturday. He is also the secretary general of the Khilafat Majlis of the 20-party alliance.

DMP commissioner Md Shafiqul Islam confirmed Prothom Alo that this list has been sent to the concerned districts centrally.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Saturday, he said they are collecting the names of the people involved in the violence by interrogating detained Hefazat leaders. Based on this, work is being done in two ways.

First, these names are being sent to the concerned districts and instructions have been given to arrest the people in the list after verification. Secondly, if the person concerned is an influential person, a team is being sent from Dhaka to arrest him.

According to a source, of the listed Hefazat activists and leaders, some 68 have been identified as important.

The highest number in the list is from Brahmanbaria and Chattogram, 39 from each district.

Besides, 20 are from Dhaka, 27 from Cox’s Bazar, 11 from Faridpur and seven from Narayanganj district.

Apart from this, Hefazat leaders and activists of Sylhet, Habiganj, Munshiganj, Kishoreganj, Feni, Manikganj, Gazipur, Cumilla, Noakhali, Khulna, Bogura, Netrakona, Mymensingh and Sunamganj are also included in the list.

The protest against Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh sparked violence in different places in the country from 26 to 28 March. Madrassa students in Chittagong's Hathazari staged a procession over the clashes after the jumma prayers on 26 March at Baitul Mukarram in Dhaka.

The procession sparked clashes with the police and several government offices, including police stations were vandalised torched. As many as four people died there after police opened fire.

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Following the deaths in police firing, the students of the madrassa started protesting in Brahmanbaria, and vandalism and arson attacks were carried out at several places including the railway station. On 27 and 28 March, devastating violence and vandalism broke out in Brahmanbaria. According to the government, some 13 people were killed in three days there. However, Hefazat-e-Islam claimed that 15 people had died during the clashes in Brahmanbaria.

Reports of 77 cases filed in connection with these incidents have appeared in the news media. The number of accused in these cases is more than 49,000. The law enforcement agencies did not take any immediate action against the leaders and activists of Hefazat.

Concerned sources said that the government has been preparing to take actions against Hefazat on the basis of the massive violence in Brahmanbaria.

On 3 April, Hefazat’s joint secretary general Mamunul got stranded in a resort with his “second wife” and his followers attacked the resort to snatch him. After this incident, law enforcement agency’s activities gained a new momentum.

Later on 11 April, Hefazat’s central organising secretary Azizul Haque Islamabadi was arrested by the detective branch (DB) of police in Dhaka. He was shown arrest in a case filed in 2013. From then on, news of the arrests of Hefazat leaders has been coming every day.

The government’s stern stance against Hefazat became clear after the arrest of Mamunul on 19 April. Till Saturday, Some 19 leaders of Hefazat’s central and Dhaka city committee have been arrested. Some leaders close to Mamunul Haque and waz (religion sermon) speakers have been arrested. A few more people close to Mamunul are also on the list of probable arrestees.

Mahbubul Alam, joint commissioner of the DMP's detective branch (DB), told Prothom Alo that he has listed the names of those found to be involved in the violence during the interrogation of Hefazat leaders. The police of the concerned district are being instructed to take legal action against them.

Among the names in the central police list of the accused living in Brahmanbaria, 19 are madrassa teachers. There are also six incumbent leaders in the list. Others in the list are supporters and activists of Hefazat.

Till Saturday, some 353 people have been arrested there. However, there is no one among them who is a leader of Hefazat or has his name in the list. Amid this situation, Mufti Abdur Rahim Quasemi, a member of the central committee of the Hefazat-e-Islam and joint general secretary of Brahmanbaria district committee, announced his resignation from the organisation. He also demanded those involved in the violence to be identified and brought to justice. However, sources confirmed that his name was also on the police list.

Hefazat’s ameer Junaid Babubnagari’s name is also in the list of police. There are names of several important leaders of different areas including the central committee of Hefazat. However, it was not immediately clear whether Babunagari would be arrested soon or not.

However, Hefazat secretary general Nurul Islam's name is not in this list. He lamented the "unintended accidents" in a statement last Thursday, saying Hefazat leaders needed to be more vigilant. In the future, the leaders and supporters at all levels of Hefazat would be more vigilant in such cases, he added.

In a statement, the secretary general of Hefazat demanded an end to “mass arrests”.

He also called on the government to find out the people responsible for the recent violence and incitement.

He also said that he would cooperate with the law enforcement agencies in these cases.

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu