Under pressure due to the ongoing crackdown on its top leaders, Hefajat-e-Islam is now trying to negotiate with the government.
In a bid to convince the government and gain its confidence, a delegation of Hefajat met Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal at his home Monday night and assured him that Qawmi madrasa students will not be involved in any anti-government or anti-state activities.
The crackdown followed countrywide mayhem by Hefajat men in late last month. Hefajat's Joint Secretary General Mamunul Haque was arrested, among others. He in police remand yesterday said he tried to grab state power using madrasa students who had been provoked by his speeches and sermons, sources told The Daily Star.
To make good, Hefajat has engaged its senior and, apparently known as, apolitical figures to negotiate with the government with an aim to stop the arrest of its leaders and to have the ones arrested released, sources said.
The delegation that met the home boss includes Hefajat Nayeb-e-Amir Ataullah Hafeji and Hefajat Secretary General Nurul Islam Jihadi. They emphasised that Hefajat men were not involved in the three-day-long violence. Rather some third party was involved.
Meeting sources said despite the Hefajat leaders' assurance, the government has decided to take legal action against Hefajat men involved the recent mayhem that killed at least 17 people.
The two sides, however, agreed to hold more meetings soon, a Hefajat leader, who was present at the meeting, said wishing anonymity.
The leaders in the meeting said they want to bring an end to the "misunderstanding" that has arisen between the government and the organisations centring the protest that coincided with the celebrations of golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence.
They also requested reopening the Qawmi madrasas, which were closed upon government directives to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
In the meeting, Hefajat leaders insisted that the organisation is a non-political and will remain so.
Interestingly, Nurul Islam Jihadi, who was accused in a case filed with Paltan Police Station in connection with the violence at the Baitul Mukarram mosque on March 26, was present at the meeting with the home minister.
Asked about the meeting, Home Minister Asaduzzaman told this newspaper that it was not a formal meeting.
"They [Hefajat] just came to meet me and I spoke to them," he said. He refused to elaborate further.
Different madrasa authorities have already instructed its students not to join any kind of anti-government activities.
Anamul Hasan, hostel superintendent of a Qawmi madrasa in Brahmanbaria, told this newspaper that they have instructed their students to not join in any anti-government activities and political programmes.
"Our students will only protest if any anti-Islamic activities take place," he added.
ARREST IS ON
A day after the meeting between the Hefajat delegation and the home minister, the drive to arrest its leaders was ongoing and around 10 people were arrested yesterday, including a Dhaka city Hefajat leader.
Maulana Korban Ali Kasemi, joint secretary general of Bangladesh Khilafah Majlis and also the vice-president of Hefajat-e-Islam Dhaka Mahanagar committee, was arrested by the Detective Branch (DB) of Gulshan Division Police from the capital's Bashabo area at 5:30pm.
Around 10 top leaders of Hefajat were also arrested by police for their involvement in the 2013 violence.
Besides, some 400 people, mostly supporters of Hefajat, were arrested from different parts of the country for their involvement in the violence between March 26 and 28 of this year.
Over 160 cases have been filed since 2013 till date centring violence involving Hefajat. The cases were against 1.30 lakh unnamed people.
MAMUNUL'S FIRST DAY IN REMAND
Mamunul on the first day in police remand said he was forming a support group by criticising the PM and ruling party men through provocative statements.
He actually "wanted to be in power or achieved political post through these support groups", Harun-Or Rashid, deputy commissioner of Tejgaon Division Police, quoted Mamunul as saying.
Mamunul is now on a seven-day police remand.
DC Harun, while talking with The Daily Star yesterday, said, "Mamunul actually had a kind of purpose. He wanted to seize state power by relying on Hefajat supporters."
Hefajat's recent violence was aimed at toppling the government, Muhammad Ilias Hamidi, central assistant finance secretary of Hefajat, said in a confessional statement before the Dhaka Chief Judicial Magistrate's Court yesterday.
Ilias was placed before the court after the end of his five-day police remand in a case filed under the anti-terrorism act with Keraniganj Police Station. He was arrested on April 15 while holding an anti-government meeting at a house in Keraniganj.
Court sources said in his statement, Ilias said that Hefajat's protest against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bangladesh was planned.
Hefajat top leaders, including Mamunul Haque, Azizul Haque Islamabadi and others, were making provocative speeches at mahfils to incite madrasa students as a part of their bid to stage a major movement, reports our court correspondent.
Ilias further said he was at Baitul Mukarram when the violence began.
He said in the first week of April, the senior leaders of Hefajat met at the Hathazari madrasa in Chattagram and decided to topple the government using the excuse of violence at Baitul Mukarram, in Narayanganj and Brahmanbaria.
In his statement, Ilias identified Hefajat Amir Junayed Babunagari, Mamunul Haque and a few other leaders as the main instigators.
The court sent him to jail after recording his statement.