Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee has been conducting an extensive investigation on the much talked-about Islamist organisation Hefajat-e Islam since mid-May, the platform's Executive President Shahriar Kabir told The Daily Star in a recent phone interview.
Also a leading member of the study team, he said their field level work was almost done and they hoped to make their findings public through a white paper by the end of August.
The team has interviewed a large number of Qawmi madrasa students who had joined Hefajat's May 5 Motijheel rally in the capital, and the findings have come from their statements, he said.
“According to their accounts, they were threatened with physical assault to join the rally.”
Citing the preliminary findings, Shahriar said, “The madrasa teachers, who have the sole authority of signing the assessment papers, also threatened the students that they would not be allowed to pass the examinations if they did not attend the rally.”
The students were promised an allowance of Tk 500-1,000 plus conveyance and food expenses, he said. “However, most students complained that they did not receive the promised amount.
“Rather they were left to their own devices when they came to Dhaka. Some came to the city for the first time in their lives.”
Shahriar said from interviews of the Hefajat activists, it emerged that most of the Hefajat top brass fought alongside Islamist groups in Afghanistan at different times.
The interviews were recorded by about 50 field workers of Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee and local journalists in the country's seven divisions, he said.
“They have interviewed students of about 1,000 madrasas whose teachers or principals hold a district or thana (upazila) level organisational position in Hafajat-e Islam.”
Editor of the white paper, Shahriar said open and underground publications, including journals in different languages, booklets, CDs, and videotapes of Hefajat as well as other Islamic parties and different national and local media reports were used as the secondary source in the study.
He said many Hefajat and even former Jamaat-Shibir activists helped them with the research.
“Many madrasa students now facing police cases wish to return to a normal life,” he said. “We recommend that the government come up with plans to mainstream these young people.”
He said they had initiated the investigation and the process of publication of the white paper to make people aware of all the aspects of Hefajat's May 5 mayhem in and around the capital's Shapla Chattar.
Supervised by a 12-member team headed by Justice Amirul Islam, a former High Court judge, the study is a comprehensive and elaborate inquiry modelled after the Justice Munir Inquiry Report of Pakistan in 1953, claimed Shahriar.
The inquiry commission was formed to probe the disturbances in Punjab which threatened the existence of Pakistan's Ahmadiyya community.
Shahriar, secretary of the 12-member team, said the white paper with focus on Islamic militancy would also include the life sketches of Hefajat leaders, a section on Qawmi and Aliya madrasa education, and case studies on several madrasa students.
One section will present the perception of 32 Islamic organisations of the country on various political, social and economic issues. “None of those organisations could reach a consensus regarding the definition of Islam or the structure of an Islamic state,” he said.
Since 2001, Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee has been engaged in the research on Islamic militancy in Bangladesh and its regional and global network.