Aim was to oust govt
The BNP-Jamaat led 18-party alliance patronised the Hefajat-e Islam's May 5 rally at Motijheel's Shapla Chattar with the aim of toppling the government.
Junaid Babunagari, detained secretary general of Hefajat, revealed this in his confessional statement to Metropolitan Magistrate Harun-ur Rashid of Dhaka in the sub-inspector Shahjahan murder case yesterday afternoon.
The 62-year-old blamed some members of Hefajat, Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamaat's student wing Shibir and the pro-BNP Chhatra Dal and Jubo Dal for the mayhem in and around Shapla Chattar and Baitul Mukarram mosque.
Arrested on May 6 in the capital, the Islamist leader also named Hefajat's 14 leaders who had financial dealings with the 18-party alliance and who let the May 5 rampage go on.
"I came to know from our volunteers assigned at the rally that apart from some of our activists, Jamaat-Shibir men as well as some members of the Chhatra Dal and Jubo Dal, having no beards, were on the rampage and were looting in Motijheel, Paltan and Baitul Mukarram areas," a source, who had access to the statement, quoted Babunagari as saying.
"At one point, information came that those unruly people were torching book shops and the Quran Shareef. We got nervous at hearing such news," Babunagari was quoted as saying. He also said that rowdy elements had engaged in vandalism, arson, exploding bombs, looting and attacking police.
On getting instructions from Hefajat Ameer Shah Ahmed Shafi, who left for his organisational base Hathazari madrasa in Chittagong the next day, Babunagari asked volunteers to collect information about those engaged in violence.
Both leaders were in Lalbagh Madrasa at the time.
Babunagari told his chief about the violence unleashed in certain areas, including Baitul Mukarram, Purana Paltan and Bijoy Nagar, by some Hefajat men along with some unruly people since the morning on May 5.
On ascertaining the details, he contacted the 14 top leaders of Hefajat and asked them to stop the violence. They refused, asking him to keep his mouth shut.
"[Those leaders] even said, 'Our movement was not only to press for the 13-point demand only. Now this will be a movement to oust the government. The 18-party men will provide all sorts of assistance -- money, food and water. We have an understanding with the 18-party leaders," said the Hefajat second-in-command in the statement.
Babunagari went to Shapla Chattar after Maghrib prayers. There, the 14 leaders insisted that the sit-in at Shapla Chattar continue till their 13-point demand was met and the government was ousted from power.
Babunagari claimed he had asked the leaders to refrain from delivering such speeches. But they did not listen to him.
"When I asked them if they had received money from any source, the leaders told me that it was the 18-party alliance. It would give more money, if needed.
"Those leaders told me, 'The next day, May 6, the former Dhaka mayor and an 18-party alliance leader would supply us with breakfast and lunch during our stay at Shapla Chattar. Don't worry. Insha'Allah [God willing], we will stay at Shapla Chattar until the fall of the government'," Babunagari said.
Babunagari said he saw flames around the venue at around 10:00pm.
Hefajat men had joined the peaceful rally place at Shapla Chattar with placards and clothing, he added. "Our peaceful rally had turned violent because of the provocative speeches of those  leaders."
The Hefajat leader, in his two-and-a-half hour statement, also said, "I received information that the Jamaat-Shibir had attacked the police and torched and vandalised vehicles.
"Unruly activists of the Jamaat-Shibir and Chhatra Dal-Jubo Dal put up barricades on road by felling trees. They burnt the holy Quran Shareef."
He is now “repentant” for all the disturbances that occurred on that day.
The daylong mayhem on May 5 spread panic among the people across the country as they witnessed the violence on private television channels. The violence claimed the lives of 11 people, including SI Shahjahan.
From a rally on April 6 at the same venue, Hefajat had announced its 13 demands, among which were the introduction of an anti-blasphemy law, execution of “atheist bogglers” and a stop to the free mingling of men and women.
The Hefajat leaders threatened the government with an ultimatum to meet their demands, failing which they would observe a Dhaka Siege programme on May 5.
The BNP and Ershad-led Jatiya Party extended their support to the Hefajat rally on April 6.
BNP leaders Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain and Sadeque Hossain Khoka and Jatiya party leader Kazi Zafar Ahmed were even seen on the stage along with Hefajat leaders during the rally.
HM Ershad, chairman of the Jatiya Party, a component of the ruling grand alliance, distributed water and fruits to the Hefajat activists.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia asked her party men on the evening of May 5 to extend support to the Hefajat men at the rally at Shapla Chattar.
Khaleda from her 18-party alliance rally on May 4 at Shapla Chattar gave a 48-hour ultimatum to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to make an announcement accepting the opposition demand for restoring the caretaker government system. “Otherwise, we will declare such programmes that you will have to flee or quit power.”
The next day, a Hefajat leader in his speech at their rally asked the ruling party leaders to think where they could escape after that night.
Hefajat, a Qawmi madrasa-based organisation, has taken centre stage in recent days as an opposite force to the Shahbagh Gonojagoron Mancha from where youths have been demanding the death penalty for war criminals.
It, however, was not on the scene when the Shahbagh movement commenced on February 5. Its presence was felt with the killing of a blogger, who was branded an atheist.