Trashing the claim of 800 to 3,000 casualties, Dhaka Metropolitan Police yesterday said 11 people, including a policeman, died during Hefajat's rampage and the law enforcers' operation to flush them out of Motijheel between Sunday and early Monday.
The DMP's statement comes on the heels of a propaganda campaign on different platforms, especially social networking websites like Facebook, that law enforcers killed up to 3,000 Hefajat men during the operation.
“Where did they get that so many people were killed there?” DMP Commissioner Benazir Ahmed asked, referring to the propaganda campaigners.
A vested quarter had been spreading the rumour, he said at a press briefing at the DMP Media Centre in the capital.
If so many people had died during the day-long clashes and the operation, their parents, siblings or relatives would have come looking for them, he said.
“But none has come unlike the case of Rana Plaza collapse in Savar.”
Visiting 13 hospitals in the capital, The Daily Star gathered that bodies of 13 people, including a policeman's, were taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital between Sunday and early Monday.
The DMP chief also dismissed the rumour that the law enforcers who took part in the drive fell ill.
Justifying the operation, Benazir said the DMP had intelligence that Hefajat men would attack the secretariat, Bangladesh Bank, other banks and shopping centres if they could stay put at Motijheel till morning.
“They had plans to loot the banks.”
He said a decision was made to use only non-lethal weapons to avoid casualty. And eventually, the law enforcers were able to limit the casualty to a small number.
Before carrying out the operation, the law enforcers urged the demonstrators over loudspeakers to leave Shapla Chattar around 1:00am on Monday.
As they paid no heed to the call, the law enforcers launched the operation from the directions of Notre Dame College and Dainik Bangla intersection, keeping the roads on the east and south side open to allow them to leave the area.
"During the 10-minute drive, we used non-lethal weapons and logistics -- water cannons, and sound, gas and smoke grenades, and rubber bullets."
The operation was carried out in the dead of the night so that commuters or pedestrians come to no harm, he said.
“Extra caution was taken considering that many orphan madrasa students were taken to the rally.”
Police found four bodies wrapped in cloths near the stage of Hefajat rally, three at different points of the rally venue, three more of pedestrians and one of a policeman on Sunday and early Monday, he said.
On rumours that they hid bodies, he said, "Two TV channels aired the drive live. Many reporters were there. City residents from rooftop watched it and took photos with their cell phones."
“How was it possible to hide bodies?” he questioned.
Asked why they allowed Hefajat to hold rally in the heart of the capital, he said they gave the permission out of respect to Islamic clerics, despite having intelligence that Hefajat men could create mayhem and stay there beyond the time granted.
“They are madrasa teachers and students. People respect them. They promised us many times that they would leave the capital by 5:00pm after offering prayers.”
BNP REJECTS DMP STATEMENT
Criticising DMP commissioner's statement, BNP spokesperson Shamsuzzaman Dudu said people did not subscribe to the DMP's version.
He also demanded a government statement on the issue immediately.
“Is it a statement of the police or someone else has imposed it on them?” he asked.
BGB BINS CLAIMS
Maj Gen Aziz Ahmed, chief of Border Guard Bangladesh, refuted the claims that hundreds or even thousands of bodies were taken to the Pilkhana BGB headquarters.
“Had even a single body been brought inside, the whole Pilkhana would have been sealed off.”
He said such claims were made to tarnish the image of the disciplined force.
THE DAILY STAR FINDINGS
Visiting 13 hospitals where bodies and injured Hefajat men were taken, The Daily Star learnt that 12 bodies were sent to the DMCH and one to Sir Salimullah Medical College morgue.
Bodies kept at the DMCH included that of a policeman, a shop employee and a bus helper. The rest were of Hefajat activists'.
In the meantime, Baraka General Hospital Ltd in capital's Rajarbagh claimed it received six bodies but declined to give any details.
Islami Bank Central Hospital at Kakrail claimed three bodies were brought to the hospital but it couldn't substantiate the claim.