Police probe into 58 cases filed over the May 5-6, 2013 Hefajat mayhem remain stalled as the investigators await further instructions from the government on the next course of action.
A total of 83 cases were lodged in connection with the incident. Of them, 53 were filed in the capital against more than 50,000 people after members of Hefajat-e Islam, a Qawmi madrasa-based Islamist organisation, got involved in deadly clashes with law enforcers and the ruling Awami League men, turning Motijheel and Paltan areas into a battlefield.
Hefajat men set fire to hundreds of shops, vehicles and police checkpoints and looted shops, including those having Islamic books.
Some 30 more cases were filed in Narayanganj, Dhaka, Bagerhat, Barisal and Chittagong on May 6 and the next couple of days over fierce clashes. Police have so far submitted charge sheets in 20 of the cases to two courts in Narayanganj and Bagerhat.
As many as 3,416 people, including leaders and activists of Hefajat, Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP, were named in the 83 cases. Besides, 81,560 anonymous people were also made accused.
Of the 53 cases, including seven for murder, recorded in the capital, 15 were being probed by the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police and 33 by different police stations, said DMP sources.
“Investigations remain stuck as the government is not showing any interest in taking the cases forward,” a top official at the police headquarters told The Daily Star requesting anonymity.
He said they would move the cases forward only after receiving a decision from the higher authorities. Charge sheets could be placed in some of the cases, but it would take time, added the official.
DMP Additional Commissioner Monirul Islam said they couldn't complete the investigations as it was taking time to identify many of the anarchists from across the country and ascertain their role in the mayhem.
“Police identified the masterminds, but were yet to identify those who directly took part in the attacks,” Monirul, also the DMP spokesperson, told reporters on Tuesday.
Hefajat-e Islam Organising Secretary Azizul Haque Islamabadi said their movement was not against the government, but against the atheists.
He claimed that the government used police to attack their “peaceful rally” which led to the deaths of some and injuries of several hundred other Hefajat leaders and activists.
“During a recent meeting with the prime minister, our leaders requested her to withdraw the false cases,” he told The Daily Star.
Although Hefajat claimed that 2,000 of its leaders and activists were killed in the incident, the government put the death toll at 13, including three policemen.
The Hefajat could not provide names and addresses of its men who it claimed to have been killed.
As police and other security forces flushed out several thousand Hefajat men from the capital's Shapla Chattar at dead of night on May 5, they clashed with law enforcers at different places while returning home.
The police, government officials, relatives of the victims, Islamist leaders, businessmen, shop owners, employees of different offices and political parties filed the 83 cases against Hefajat and Jamaat men.
The charges in the cases include overstaying in Shapla Chattar area, attacking law enforcers and people with firearms and explosives, attacking police stations with firearms and crude bombs, attacking government offices, banks and setting those on fire, torching the holy Quran, Hadith and other Islamic books, looting such books and hurting the religious sentiments of the Muslims.
According to police, law enforcers arrested 107 accused, including some Hefajat leaders. However, most of them are on bail now.
Hefajat General Secretary Junaid Babunagari, the main accused in the sub-inspector Shahjahan murder case, was arrested on May 6 in 2013. He secured bail on May 29 that year on health grounds.
Shahjahan was killed during a clash between Hefajat men and law enforcers in Motijheel.
During interrogation, Babunagari admitted to police that activists of Hefajat, Jamaat, BNP and its front organisations were involved in the anarchy, said court sources.
Harun bin Izhar Chowdhury, son of Hefajat's Nayeb-e-Ameer Mufti Izharul Islam, was also arrested. But he too was freed on bail.