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Dhaka Tribune

Hefazat faces division over leadership

Update : 04 May 2014, 08:00 PM

Platform of Islamist parties pursuing 13-point demands, Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh has split into three apparent divisions centring leadership and political interest following last year’s demonstrations on May 5.

They have also been facing obstructions from the law enforcers who did not allow the group to hold rallies in the capital several times in the last one year.

Internal feud is also seen regarding the means of the movement to realise the demands that include death penalty for atheists, cancelling the women development policy and ban on free mixing of men and women.

The fractions are now blaming each other for carrying out negotiations with the government secretly and for destroying the movement that drew attention of the local and international media as well as gained support from different quarters including some ruling Awami League allies.

The Hefazat men campaigned in favour of the BNP-led alliance during the city corporation polls and afterwards.

Currently, Hefazat has three active factions. One of those is run by Hefazat chief Shah Ahmed Shafi and its Secretary Junaid Babunagari of Hathazari Madrasa.

Another section is led by Islami Oikya Jote Chairman Abdul Latif Nezami, also Hefazat’s adviser, and Secretary General Mufti Fayez Ullah, one of the conveners of Hefazat’s Dhaka unit. Operated from Lalbagh Madrasa, this group is known as pro-BNP-Jamaat. It led the May 5 Dhaka-siege programme.

On the other hand, Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Islam Secretary Nur Hossain Kashemi, who is also Hefazat’s Dhaka City convener, is leading the other group. Kashemi is also the chief of Baridhara Madrasa. Even though the party is an ally of the BNP-led 19-party alliance, this faction is known as pro-government.

When contacted, Fayez Ullah told the Dhaka Tribune that the real Islamist movement had been destroyed only for few people, “who do not want to realise the 13-point demands.”

Criticising Kashemi, he said: “After May 5, I cannot come outside in daylight, but they are moving freely and communicating with the law enforcement agencies. Interestingly, the government did not file any case against them. This is not a favourable symptom for the movement.”

Back from the May 5 rally at Shapla Chattar of Motijheel following crackdown of the law enforcers, Hefazat called rallies in the capital for more than three times, but the government did not allow them to do so.

The group called a rally for December 24 last year, only a week ahead of the national election amidst the anti-poll movement of the BNP-led alliance.

Kashemi cancelled the programme from a press conference in Baridhara saying that they had not got the government’s permission. He did it unilaterally, without consulting with Nezami and Mufti Fayez.

The statement came minutes after the police had barred Shafi and his deputy Babunagari in Chittagong on their way to the capital on December 23.

A senior Hefazat leader told the Dhaka Tribune, seeking anonymity, that the platform had clearly been divided into three factions centring political interest.   

Meanwhile, according to the leaders linked with the BNP-led alliance, the group is divided into two parts centring the general election.

Irked by the internal feud, Hefazat chief Shafi made two separate media statements. He said: “Some people are actively trying to break up our unity which is a very bad practice.” Alerting the leaders and activists, he said: “Everyone needs to be careful about the persons who are trying to divide the group.”

Shafi also urged all to inform him about any irregularities within the organisation. “If anyone wants to clash with us, even if it is an organisation, we will take action against them.”

The Hathazari-based organisation comprises Qawmi madrasa teachers and students. It was formed in 2010 when its supporters took to the streets demanding cancellation of the education and the women development policies. They surfaced again in February last year demanding death penalty for the organisers of Shahbagh movement terming them atheists.

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