Hefazat-e-Islam is reintegrating members of its dissolved committee in the central committee under pressure from the grassroots. Sources said that one of the reasons for this pressure is that many of the leaders of the dissolved committee have become exasperated with cases filed against them. Meanwhile, many leaders of the organisation including Mamunul Haque have long been behind the bars. The decision to restructure the committee was mainly taken due to pressure from this quarter.
Several members of the dissolved committee think that the current leadership of Hefazat failed to take effective measures in freeing their jailed leaders and other leaders and activists from the tangle of lawsuits. In addition, many of the current leaders have good rapport with the government and ruling quarters.
The current leaders of the organisation do not seem to have any visible concern or plan. This has irked the anti-government section against the current leadership of Hefazat. A section within the organisation has mounted pressure on the current leadership.
Several sources said one faction of Hefazat was not willing to reconstitute the committee. A section of the government was with this faction. These two quarters pressured the Hefazat leadership not to include the members of the dissolved committee. But the Hefazat top brass decided to reconstitute the committee fearing the organisation might split otherwise. That quarter sent the names of 11 persons to the Hefazat leadership to be inducted into the committee. They also sent four names and asked the Hefazat leadership not to include them in the committee.
Hefazat sources said the four persons who were asked not to be included in the new committee are—dissolved central committee’s nayeb e amir Abdur Rob Yousufi, assistant secretary general Shakhawat Hossain Razi, publicity secretary Zakaria Noman Foyezee and organizing secretary Azizul Haque Islamabadi.
Among them ,the three except Abdur Rob Yousufi were recently released after spending a long stint in jail.
Those who were suggested to be included in the committee are Maulana Junaid Al Habib, Khaled Saifullah Ayyuubi, Haroon Izhar, Ataullah Amin, Habibullah Mahmud Qasemi, Fazlul Karim Qasemi, Nasiruddin Munir, Jalaluddin Ahmad, Ahmad Ali Qasemi, Manzurul Islam Effendi and Inamul Hasan Farooqi. They held various important positions in the defunct committee. The Hefazat leadership, however, decided to reintegrate all from that committee.
Hefazat secretary general Maulana Sajidur Rahman denied any pressure.
“We took the decision on our own, not due to any pressure. We thought the elders formed that committee unanimously. We (decided to) integrate all from that committee. We will restructure the committee excluding those who have died or have left voluntarily.”
On 25 April, then ameer (chief) of Hefazat Junaid Babunagari announced through a video message that the organisation’s central committee was dissolved in the context of the arrest of Hefazat leaders and activists centering violent protests against Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh.
At least 79 cases were filed against Hefazat leaders-activists in Dhaka, Chattogram’s Hathazari, Brahmanbaria and different districts in the incidents of violent protest against Modi’s visit. Over 69 thousand people were accused in those cases. Till the date of dissolving the committee, a total of 19 central and influential central leaders were arrested. Junaid Babunagari then dissolved the committee of the Qawmi-madrasa based organisation.
Within just three hours of dissolving the committee, a five-member convening committee was formed making Junaid Babunagari the convener. Pressure was mounted on Hefazat not to keep anyone with political affiliation in the committee. On 7 June, a 33-member committee was declared keeping Babunagari in the helm. Junaid Babunagari died on 19 August 2021 and later Muhibullah Babunagari was made the new ameer. Later, a total of 29 persons were included in the committee. The organisation’s central committee now consists of 62 members.
The defunct committee’s organising secretary Azizul Haque Islamabadi told Prothom Alo, “My life has become hell from making court appearances for cases in Dhaka and Chattogram. For an incident (clash) on 26 March 2021, 63 cases have been filed in Brahmanbaria, 13 in Hathazari and nine in Dhaka. Even though Hefazat didn’t have a programme on that day. We are living in a strange country.”
Currently, there are 30 cases against Azizul– 17 of them are in different police stations in Dhaka and 13 are in Chattogram. He has recently secured bail in the cases.
Hefazat-e-Islam is a non-political Qawmi madrasa organisation, whose founding chief was Shah Ahmad Shafi. After his death on 18 September 2020, a new central committee with 151 members was announced on 15 November that year after a national conference amidst opposition from one section of the organisation.
The new committee, led by Junaid Babunagari, didn’t include Ahmad Shafi’s son Anas Madani or any of his followers. Babunagari later added another 50 people in the committee, extending the number of committee members to 201.
On 25 April 2021, under special circumstances, a committee was declared void. But the current leadership of Hefazat has decided to include the members of that committee into the current committee.
The organisation’s central committee took that decision on 5 August in a meeting at Khilgaon in the capital. To implement this decision, a 12-member sub-committee led by Maulana Sajidur Rahman was formed. However, the sub-committee is yet to have a meeting to reinstate the old members.
Sources said that the grassroots leaders and activists of Hefazat were angered by the pro-government activities of Hefazat. A section of them were trying to step away from Hefazat and gather under a new banner. On 22 July, a few thousands Qawmi alems (Islamic scholars) gathered under the banner of ‘Shaykhul Hadith Parishad’ for a meeting in Dhaka. Hefazat chief Muhibbullah Babunagari and representatives of almost all Islamic parties took part in the meeting.
This is an organisation formed by the students, followers and well-wishers of the deceased Shaykhul Hadith Allamah Azizul Haque. Most speakers in the meeting gave scathing speeches about the government’s use of force to oppress. Many are viewing this as a bad sign for Hefazat and sense that this is the reason why Hefazat has decided to include members of the defunct committee into the current committee.
Hefazat leader Mamunul Haque, who is currently incarcerated, was the joint secretary general and Monir Hossain Qasemi was the finance secretary in the defunct committee. In the new committee, both were axed.
But after the new decision, both will get reinstated in the organisation’s central committee. The sub-committee will have a meeting next week to decide the post of the leaders.