• Thursday, Nov 14, 2019
  • Last Update : 11:04 pm

Tension runs high in Bhola as protesters push 6 demands

  • Published at 12:25 am October 22nd, 2019
bhola-protest-hefazat-e-islam-Mehedi-Hasan000010002.jpg
United forum for Qawmi madrasas of Mohammadpur brings out a protest rally and then hold prayers at the Mohammadpur bus stand area in Dhaka on Monday, October 21, 2019 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Indefinite ban on public gathering; Minister says police fired in self-defence; Protesters claim police trying to mislead; Three sent to jail in Digital Security Act case; Facebook notified about hacked profile

Tension ran high in the Bhola district on Monday, amid threats from religious groups of tougher agitations and local administration’s efforts to mitigate the outrage over the death of four people during Sunday’s clashes in the Borhanuddin upazila.

Religious group Shorbodolio Muslim Oikya Parishad pushed the authorities again to meet their six-point charter of demands on Monday, while police deployed additional forces, alongside Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Bangladesh Coast Guard Personnel, in all upazilas to enforce a ban of the district administration on public gathering.

The Oikya Parishad had sought permission to hold a protest rally in Bhola town, but their plea was turned down as the administration’s attempt was to avert further untoward situation.

The group’s Convener Maulana Bashir Uddin said they postponed the rally at the Bhola Government School playground following requests from the local administration and lawmakers. He claimed the administration has also assured them of considering their demands.

However, Bashir said, they also plan to hold rallies at all upazilas on Tuesday, a human chain at the district town tomorrow, and prayers for the deceased on Friday.

The Oikya Parishad made the six demands at a meeting at Borhanuddin police station on Sunday night, and then repeated them at a press conference at the Bhola Press Club on Monday morning.

They are:

1.    Withdrawal of Bhola’s SP and Borhanuddin police OC within 72 hours and punishment of those who ordered to open fire on the protesters

2.    Enactment of law to try those who defame Allah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and Islam

3.    Capital punishment of the Hindu youth who they claimed is responsible for the conversation defaming the prophet

4.    Compensation to the families of those who died in the clashes

5.    Bear the treatment expenses of those injured in the clashes

6.    Unconditional release of those arrested in connection to the clashes

The protesters also claimed that the administration was informed about the demands and gave 72 hours to meet them.

Later in the afternoon, police’s Barisal Range Deputy Inspector General Md Shafiqul Islam told reporters that police departments concerned would take steps after scrutinizing the demands.

“The investigation into the clashes is ongoing. Appropriate legal steps will be taken after our probe ends,” he added.

Meanwhile, a High Court bench on Monday commented that the Bhola incident was a conspiracy against the state. It said that the court will only interfere in the matter if the government failed to provide justice.

Three sent to jail

A Bhola court on Monday sent three people, including Biplob Chandra Baidya Shuvo, to jail in a case filed over the Facebook conversation that led to Sunday’s protest demanding Biplob’s punishment and clashes between police and the protesters.

Senior Judicial Magistrate Farid Alam sent them to jail after they were produced before his court.

The other two are Md Emon, 18, and Rafsan Islam Sharif alias Shakil, 18. Both are from the Borhanuddin upazila.

The case under the Digital Security Act was filed against the trio and seven to eight unknown others at Borhanuddin police station on Sunday, said the station’s OC Enamul Haque.

Biplob is the youth from whose reportedly hacked Facebook profile the conversation defaming Allah and Prophet Muhammad had originated.

Biplob on October 19 had filed a general diary with Borhanuddin police, claiming his account was hacked. Police later detained suspected hackers Emon and Sharif.

Why death for Biplob?

In the face of Sunday’s protests, police had detained Biplob too — a move some legal experts questioned, saying the youth should have been given protection instead as the allegations against him are yet to be proved.

Despite confirmation from police that Biplob’s Facebook account was hacked and he was not behind the hateful conversation, Muslim Oikya Parishad has demanded the capital punishment for the youth.

Asked why, the group’s Joint Member Secretary Maulana Mizanur Rahman told Dhaka Tribune: “We blame Biplob. He should have at least declared through someone else’s Facebook profile that his account was hacked.

“But he did not do that. He went to the police only the conversation went viral on Facebook.”

He continued: “Police said they have arrested two hackers. This should have been made clear by the Police Headquarters or Home Ministry. Instead of doing that, local police are claiming that Biplob is not responsible.

“This is why we think police are trying to mislead all.”

Case filed, situation under control

Borhanuddin police OC Enamul said a case was filed in the early hours of on Monday against 5,000 unidentified people over the attack on police during Sunday’s clashes.

Bhola’s Assistant SP Sheikh Sabbir Hossain said at least 30 policemen were injured in the clashes, and 10 of them were still undergoing treatment.

Until on Monday, police had arrested 15 people.

"However, the situation is under control now," said OC Enamul.

Since on Monday morning, Bhola Sadar and Borhanuddin upazilas were found abnormally quiet, with most of the shops and businesses remaining closed.

Huge number of law enforcement officials from police, BGB and coast guard were seen patrolling the areas.

‘Police fired in self-defence’

Meanwhile, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Monday said prima facie evidence suggested that police had opened fire on the demonstrators in self-defence, reports UNB.

“However, investigation into whether there was any negligence of duty on the part of police or others is on and legal action will be taken against anyone found guilty,” he told reporters in Dhaka.

The minister said he talked to the local MP and the OC of the police station concerned, and came to know that some 300 people from Sunday’s protest rally ran amok and tried to break the door of a room where the OC, other police officers and the UNO had taken shelter.

He said that they heard the UNO had ordered to open fire at that time. Kamal, however, added that they would know for sure who ordered to open fire after the investigation.

The home minister also said that they have already sought assistance of the Facebook authorities to find out the real culprit who made derogatory comments.

“We have sent necessary information to Facebook’s Singapore office and details will be known within two or three days,” he added.

BNP, Hefazat announce protests

BNP on Monday announced nationwide programs for tomorrow in protest against the casualties that occurred during Sunday’s clashes in Bhola.

Announcing the programs at a press briefing at the party’s Naya Paltan office, BNP Standing Committee Member Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain also condemned the firing on protesters and demanded punishment of those who opened fire.

Describing Sunday’s clashes over the blasphemous Facebook post from a hacked account as a premeditated one, the party also demanded a fair investigation into the incident to uncover its real reasons.

Meanwhile, Hefazat-e-Islam is set to demonstrate nationwide after the Zohr prayers on Tuesday.

The radical Islamist group’s Secretary General Maulana Babu Nagari, at a media call in Hathazari, Chittagong on Monday, said they wanted punishment of the person who made the hateful comments on Facebook, and compensation for the families of those killed and injured during the clashes.

Babu Nagari said they would also investigate the matter on their own.

Protest in Dhaka

A group of students and teachers of different Qawmi madrasas in Dhaka also demonstrated in the Mohammadpur area on Monday, protesting against Sunday’s clashes.

They blockaded the road adjacent to Allah Karim Mosque and Town Hall around 11am, and demonstrated peacefully until 12:30pm, said Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s (DMP) Assistant Commissioner (Mohammadpur zone) Shibli Noman.

Witnesses said the protesters also demanded a ban on the activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon).

Dhaka Tribune’s Ashif Islam Shaon, Mizanur Rahman, Arifur Rahman Rabbi, Anwar Hussain and Tanjir Rahman contributed to this report