Hefajat to get a committee today | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 07, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:18 AM, June 07, 2021

Hefajat to get a committee today

AL-leaning activists to be in it

Hefajat-e Islam will announce today its new committee comprising of what insiders said would be the leaders sympathetic to the ruling Awami League.

The previous committee was disbanded around one and a half months ago amid a government crackdown on Hefajat leaders following the islamist organisations's violence across the country that started over Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh in late March.

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"The new Hefajat committee will be announced at a press conference at 11:00am at Boro Jame Masjid at capital's Khilgaon Chourasta," Rashed Bin Nur, elder son of Nurul Islam Jihadi, member-secretary of the interim convening committee, told The Daily Star.

A leader of the organisation, requesting not to be named, said the government influenced the formation of the new committee and made sure it included "several followers of former Hefajat chief Ahmad Shafi" who was known to be close to the Awami League. His allies were excluded from the leadership roles after his death in September last year.

Junayed Babunagari and Nurul Islam Jihadi, who were the amir and secretary general of the now-defunct committee, will continue to be in the posts, intelligence officials and Hefajat sources said.

Soon after the last committee was dissolved on April 25, a five-member convening committee of Hefajat was announced with Junayed Babunagari and Nurul Islam Jihadi as its convener and member-secretary.

Hefajat has been under tremendous pressure from the government to restructure its central committee without the leaders who might have been involved in the violence in March, sources said.

Several Hefajat leaders arrested in recent months, told officers that they aimed at toppling the government.

Officers also found involvement of several top Hefajat leaders with banned militant outfits, including one based in Pakistan.

At least 17 people were killed in clashes between Hefajat men and law enforcers in different parts of the country, especially in Brahmanbaria from March 26 to 28. At least 154 cases were filed against Hefajat men in the following days.

At least 1,230 people, including more than 30 top Hefajat leaders, were arrested, according to police headquarters data.

The Detective Branch (DB) of police, Criminal Investigation Department and Police Bureau of Investigation are investigating the cases.

BD officers are also investigating 14 of the 83 cases filed with different police stations accusing Hefajat leaders of vandalism and arson attacks on shops, government facilities and a police outpost on May 5, 2013. The organisation's demands at the time included laws against "blasphemy" and death penalty for atheists. 

Of the 83 cases, police pressed charges in 18 and submitted final reports in two. Investigations of the 63 remaining cases have been stalled until the latest incidents.

Following the recent crackdown on Hefajat, some of its leaders started trying to negotiate with the government in the hope of avoiding "arrest and harassment".

In November last year, weeks after Shafi was dead, Babunagari was declared the new amir.

Soon after the 249-member committee was formed, certain Hefajat spoke against the construction of Bangabandhu's sculpture in the capital and gave anti-government statements.

The resulting tension between the government and Hefajat was eased following meetings between the two sides.

Not long afterwards, Hefajat opposed Modi's visit to Bangladesh on March 26, the day the country celebrated the golden jubilee of its independence.

The islamist organisation first made healines in 2009 by protesting a draft national women development policy that provided equal inheritance rights to women.

It is often said that former chief Shafi and the AL government became allies after 2013. This caused a rift within the organisation as a faction, led by Babunagari, strongly opposed Shafi's "soft approach" towards the government.


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