12:48 AM, May 07, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:34 AM, May 07, 2013

Puzzling claims

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Rashidul Hasan

Rumours ran wild in the capital yesterday over the casualty figures centring around the Hefajat-e Islam rally in Motijheel and its aftermath.
At least 13 people, including a policeman, died during the Hefajat mayhem in Motijheel until they were driven away from Shapla Chattar by law enforcers early yesterday.
However, how many died in the law enforcers' operation early yesterday was the talk of the town. Since daybreak, rumours of hundreds to 2,500 people getting killed at the hands of the law enforcers spread like wildfire in the capital.
Hefajat-e Islam in a press release yesterday claimed that 2,000 of its leaders and activists had been killed and 2,500 others had been injured during the joint operation carried out by members of Police and Rapid Action Battalion and Border Guard Bangladesh. They also claimed that the law enforcers took away many bodies on Dhaka City Corporation vehicles.
Signed by Mohiuddin Ruhi, the press release said Hefajat was yet to determine how many of its leaders had been killed, injured and had disappeared.
Even the BNP-Jamaat-led 18-party opposition alliance joined the bandwagon of rumour-mongering and claimed that over 1,000 Hefajat leaders and activists were killed during the law enforcers' operation in the wee hours of yesterday. It claimed that many bodies were made to disappear.
Different pro-Jamaat-e-Islami organisations, including pro-Jamaat student body Islami Chhatra Shibir, launched a social media campaign to spread the rumours as well. They claimed that hundreds of Hefajat leaders and activists had died.
In “newbasherkella”, a Facebook page run by Chhatra Shibir, several posts were made claiming that 2,500 people were killed in the law enforcers' operation early yesterday and the bodies of many were made to disappear.
One Motiur Rahman sent e-mails to different individuals, rights organisations and newspapers and news agencies saying that Rab, police and Border Guard Bangladesh took away the bodies of many people after killing them during their operation at Shapla Chattar early yesterday.
There were some who were very eager to fuel the rumours, which appeared to have confused some.
Two roadside vendors yesterday morning asked The Daily Star correspondent if it was true that many bodies were floating in the Buriganga and Turag rivers.
Another asked if it was true that the law enforcers had killed 6,000 people at Shapla Chattar.
Meanwhile, people claiming to be from two renowned city hospitals last night called The Daily Star on their own accord to say that a total of 10 Hefajat activists had died in the hospitals.
The hospitals, however, failed to provide anything in detail regarding the alleged bodies in their possession.
Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir yesterday told reporters that the identity of one person killed during the law enforcers' operation at Shapla Chattar early yesterday could not be found.

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