Around 20,000 Islamist hardliners, mainly members of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, marched in Dhaka on Monday in protest against the violence that has driven out a large number of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine State to Bangladesh.
After a rally at the north gate of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, Hefazat also submitted memorandums to the United Nations Offices and the Myanmar embassy in the capital on Monday afternoon, demanding an immediate stop to the violence.
The turnout eclipsed a similar rally of last Friday, when 15,000 demonstrators urged the government to go to war with Myanmar and liberate Rakhine for the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority who are reviled and denied citizenship there, reported AFP.
Hefazat had planned to lay a siege to the Myanmar embassy after the rally on Monday, but police halted their march at Shantinagar before it reached the mission at Baridhara.
After that, the radical group’s Vice-President Nur Hossain Kashemi led a 12-member delegation to submit the memorandums.
“The genocide of Rohingya Muslims at Arakan is worse than all barbaric incidents in history. The military junta of Myanmar did not stop even after the international community reprimanded them,” Kashemi told the rally, using Rakhine State’s former name, reported the Bangla Tribune.
He said the government would have to take sterner diplomatic measures to protect the Rohingya refugees.
The UN says over 410,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh since August 25 in the face of a brutal crackdown by the security forces after insurgents attacked a number of police posts and an army base in Rakhine, reportedly killing dozens.
After that, the military and their local collaborators burned down many Rohingya villages, raped and killed the residents in what the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
“But, if diplomacy fails, military action will become a must to free Arakan. The people will support Bangladesh government,” said Kashemi, who heads Hefazat’s Dhaka unit committee.
He also added that their movement will continue until Arakan was freed from oppression. “We will even declare a long march towards Myanmar if necessary.”
Hefazat leader Maulna Azizul Haque Islamabadi said that the government showed a submissive foreign policy by taking no strong action after Myanmar’s military drones and helicopters violated Bangladesh’s airspace several times.
Police had strengthened security in the city before on Monday’s rally, deploying extra officers amid fears the demonstrators could turn violent.
"Around 20,000 people joined the protest," said Anwar Hossain, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, adding that there was tension but the crowd slowly dispersed, reported AFP.
Hefazat leaders, however, put the attendance figure much higher.
The plight of the Rohingya has also roused emotion across the Islamic world, with protests held in Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, reported AFP.