THE massive gatherings in Dhaka and Chittagong organised by Hefajat-e-Islam have made a powerful statement. It has strongly voiced its resentment against the Shahbagh bloggers and government's alleged obstructionist policy towards their long march.
The government's duplicitous approach of allowing Hefajat-e-Islam's long march programme including rally at Shapla Chattar vis-à-vis cutting off the capital city from the rest of the country gave a wrong signal about its sincerity. This was accompanied by a 24-hour hartal that 25 organisations under the banner of Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee and Sammalita Sangskritik Jote had called for.
In spite of the portents of provocation and intimidation, the massive event generally passed peacefully, and for the size of it, with a sense of relief. In a way, our worst fears have been allayed. Hefajat-e-Islam kept its promise of nonviolence by and large barring the deaths two Awami Leaguers at the hands of demonstrators which should have been avoided.
What is particularly significant, and somewhat hope-giving, too is that the Islamic platform's threats for continuous hartal notwithstanding, the organisation has called hartal only on Monday. The other parts of its newly chalked out programme are a deadline until 30 April for the government to meet their 13-point demand, which in due course we wish to dwell on, as well as announcing May 5 to stage a siege of Dhaka on.
It merits mention that Hefajat-e-Islam leaders successfully blocked two attempts by its overzealous activists to break the cordon around Shahbag Chattar. This underlines a scrupulous and responsible avoidance of confrontationist foray on the part of the organisers of the huge rally.
The pressing need of the hour is constructive and sincere engagement between the two contending sides. It is absolutely necessary for the government now to shake off all inhibition and initiate a serious move for a dialogue to settle core differences urgently. Such a move from the government should be matched by a healthy flexibility on the part of Hefajat-e-Islam and its ally BNP.