Parents take their children to school on foot yesterday at Jamal Khan area of Chittagong. The port city had a ban on public gatherings but law enforcers did not let any vehicles ply the Jamal Khan road. Photo: Anurup Kanti Das
A team of Gonojagoron Mancha organisers was forced to cut its journey half way to Chittagong city after the police gave them a security warning yesterday.
Imran H Sarker, the spokesperson for the movement for death penalty to war criminals, and his team were to hold a dialogue with radical Islamists who had branded Gonojagoron Mancha organisers as atheists.
A day earlier, Imran announced a decision to hold talks with leaders of Hefazate Islam Bangladesh, a Qaumi madrasa-based Islamist organisation, to clarify their position and that they were not against any religion.
The Islamist organisation had declared that it would resist "atheist" bloggers, including Imran, from entering their “holy city” of Chittagong.
The Gonojagoron Mancha decided to postpone its Tuesday rally in Chittagong amid threats from the radical groups and imposition of section 144 there by police. At the same time, its organisers spoke of holding talks with representatives of the groups, including Hefazate Islam, in Chittagong,
Imran and his team set off from Dhaka in the morning in two cars, said Bangladesh Chhatra Moitree President Bappaditya Basu, one of the organisers.
"The delegation was stopped by the police when they were near Feni and requested them to return to Dhaka to avoid any untoward incident in Chittagong," said Basu.
Our Feni correspondent reported that Imran reached Feni around 2:00pm and the police took them to the Feni Police Line. After an hour of discussions, the team was asked to return to Dhaka.
Superintendent of Police Poritosh Ghosh confirmed that Imran and other organisers went to Feni.
Police warned the bloggers of unsafe conditions in Chittagong, a senior police official told The Daily Star on conditions of anonymity. Imran and his team returned to Dhaka, considering the situation, he added.
But the group in another car comprised of representatives of different student bodies reached Chittagong in the evening and vowed to continue their efforts to ease the tension in the port city.
DIALOGUE CALL, REJECTION
Gonojagoron Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarker yesterday called upon the Hefazate Islam of Chittagong to sit for discussion to resolve the disagreement.
"The allegation of us being atheist is false and baseless. The movement of Gonojagoron Mancha is against no religion and nobody made any derogatory comment on any religion here," he told reporters around 10:30pm, after returning from halfway to Chittagong.
"We want a peaceful resolution of the problem through discussion and are ready to sit with them [Hefazate Islam] whenever and wherever they want," said Imran.
Meanwhile, Hefazate Islam yesterday said the protesters of Gonojagoron Mancha had made no attempts to contact any of their leaders for a discussion.
Talking to The Daily Star, its Organising Secretary Azizul Haque Islamabadi claimed that the bloggers, in a bid to mislead people, are spreading rumours that they had contacted Hefazat leaders.
Shah Ahmed Shafi, ameer of Hefazate Islam, dubbed the news about a dialogue between the two groups as "a new conspiracy to confuse the believers”.
During a meeting in the morning with the leaders of the organisation, Shafi ruled out any possibility of holding dialogues with "atheist" bloggers.
Azizul stated that they had already expressed their demands and sentiments to the administration, adding the bloggers could speak to the administration if they wished.
"Our stand is clear -- that as long as the 'atheist' bloggers, who have made derogatory comments about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), will not beg pardon from Allah and from the Muslims of the country, we will not forgive them."
He claimed that the organisation had evidence that Rajib killed recently and four other bloggers had made derogatory comments about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) in their blogs.
Hefazate Islam has no complaints against other bloggers as long as they don't stand by the "atheist bloggers".
"The other bloggers are observing programmes along with the 'atheist' bloggers and are extending support to them. So they have sinned equally," Azizul said. There would be no untoward situation in Chittagong if the "atheist bloggers" of Shahbagh, where the movement had been launched, did not come to Chittagong, he added.
SECTION 144 IN CTG
Following the imposition of Section 144 in Chittagong city that bans any rally and procession, organisers of both Gonojagoron Mancha and Hefazate Islam refrained from taking to the streets.
Tensions mounted in the port city during the last two days as both organisations called a rally and a counter-rally at the same venue yesterday.
But the organisers announced the postponement of their programmes on Tuesday night following imposition of Section 144 in the city from 6:00 am to midnight yesterday.