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The Night of The Mullahs

May 12, 2013

The debris of Rana Plaza has not yet been cleared. An aura of mourning still exists in the country. Dead bodies are still being found in the rubble. The agonizing wait of missing workers’ dear ones continues at Adhar Chandra High School in Savar. Media are still busy on covering the Rana Plaza disaster.

But on May 5, Hefajat-e-Islam’s Dhaka blockade became the top news of the country. In the end , Hejajet leaders failed to keep their word; the rally did not remain peaceful. BNP-Jamaat-Hefajat, determined to bring this shocked government on its knees, carried out their pre-planned ‘political program’.

Burnt books and bank documents

Burnt books and bank documents

On May 5 and the early hours of May 6, Motijheel looked like a theocratic country, not the commercial center we are familiar with. The rampage took place there was beyond anyone’s imagination. The battered road dividers, torched vehicles, demolished ATM booths and broken windows of commercial offices are the grim reminders of what happened at the night of May 5. Worried and terrified Dhaka residents watched light posts and chopped trees were used to make road blockade. Journalists were again deliberately targetedStreet vendors who flanked the both sides of the road at Purana Paltan lost everything in this rampage. Jamaat-shibir and Hefajat activists set their merchandises on fire. Even the holy books were not safe. Hundreds of Holy Qurans were burnt into ashes in this BNP-Jamaat-Hefajat madness. Jewelry shops were looted. . BNP leaders stoked their wahabi zeal by calling the residents of Dhaka to stand beside the Hefajat-Shibir activists. It seemed for a moment Motijheel had been cut off from Bangladesh.

A burnt bus in front of the National Mosque

A burnt bus in front of the National Mosque

As the Hefajat declared to continue their sit-in unless their 13 points are met, Police and Boder guards stepped in. They cleared out Motijheel in 10 minitues. Few rounds of rubber bullets were fired to disperse them. BNP-Jamaat claimed that thousands of mullahs were died because of the security operation, but till today not a single relative come forward to look for a missing mullah!

One day later, I visited Purana Paltan and saw the ugly faces of terror that was unleashed on May 5. In front of the Northern gate of national mosque, the remaining of a burnt bus stood still. Mukti Bhavan, central office of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, was one of the attackers’ targets. Powerful explosive was used to break the gate of underground parking lot. Later, gun powder was used to torch the parked vehicles and shops inside the building. The fire completely burnt at least three floors. Initial estimate indicates that BDT 30 million worth of property was destroyed. When I entered the underground parking lot, it was pitch dark inside and the air was filled with overpowering smell of burnt cars. Those trapped inside during the attack managed to escape to the adjacent building.

A burnt shop at Mukti Bhavan

A burnt shop at Mukti Bhavan

The small strip of road, stretched from Purana Paltan to Dainik Bangla intersection, is the very spot where back in 2006 the fourteen party alliance and Jamaat-shibir locked into clashes. Four people were died in that clash. Later, footage of that clash was disseminated by Jamaat-Shibir among the international community. This footage played, however insignificant it may be, a role to use the clash as a pretext for installing an Army backed civilian emergency rule on January 11, 2007.

There might be similar evil motive behind the incidents of May 5. Right from the beginning, two party mouth piece TV channels broadcast live the grand rally of Hefajat from Motijheel.

Had there been deaths of hundreds of Mullahs at the hands of ruling party activists and law-enforcement agencies, they would have used this again as a cause to initiate another 1/11.

Widespread bloodletting did not happen. Partly because Awami League did not bring out any counter street procession on that day; nevertheless, sixteen people died, including one transport worker and three law-enforcement persons.

Follow up reports published in the print media point out finger at both ruling and opposition party MPs.

Hefajat did not go home bare hand; Law-enforcement agencies shut down Gono Jagoron Mancha, the stage of Bangladesh’s most successful non-violent movement so far, to calm them down.

Shahbagh never incited any violence. It demands justice and it speaks for people. But the shockwave it sent angered the communal establishment of Bangladeshi politics. The Hefajat’s rampage at the night of May 5 was part of their violent reactions to Shahbagh. By dismantling the Shabagh stage, govt. simply surrendered to their violent politics. Shahbagh movement will not die down so easily. Shahbagh once again shows how strong non-violent movement can be.


From → Analysis

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