Feature Img
Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

The departure of the Hifazat-e Islam from Dhaka which they threatened to take over overnight after an evening and night of violence also means that they were overestimated, had no plans, caught in the crossfire of national politics and ultimately looked like a bunch of fools as they surrendered to the powers of the state. If there was one case of sound and fury signifying very little, it was the Hifazat-e Islam. These children of peasants who are locked in a miasma of hopelessness and a mind that feels more comfortable in an era when people thought the earth was flat, were literally kicked out by the joint operations of RAB, police and the BGB. The area was pit under a blackout, pepper sprayed and then the frightened Hifazatis were chased out in one of the most anti-climactic turn of events.

The Hifazat had promised to take over Bangladesh the night before and by the middle of the night they had disappeared from their location of power. However, the events also displayed how weak the state had become and how difficult it has become to protect its citizens as the evening contributed to death, blood and fire. The sequence of events that led to the midnight raid indicates that more rather than less of the same are to come.

* * *

How a non-existent entity like Hifazat became so significant in a matter of days should point to the problem of things falling apart in the state. It’s no secret that it’s a force of reaction, a reaction to what was sold to this crowd as anti-Islamic decisions taken by various quarters including the party in power. That conflict arose out of the larger AL-BNP + Jamaat-e-Islami conflict brought to a head by the war crimes tribunal.  But something went deeply wrong with the process and preparation of the events that has led to a crisis which could be much bigger than we expect. The fleeing Hifazatis don’t mean that the problems that birthed them have fled away. However, for the moment people in Dhaka are feeling relieved. They didn’t turn into a medieval Islamic Republic overnight.

* * *

Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

Watching the events it seems that the Hifazat does have two streams. One, the militant fire-lighters who battled the police and vandalized the area of their congregation. Two, the hapless caught in the middle — the madrassah men who gathered at Motijheel and once the  clearing options were  exercised left docilely holding up their hands in the most pathetic display of  confusion and innocence. These people are the ones who are being used to show crowd power by the Opposition while those accused of being Jamaat-e-Islami supporters went on the rampage. There is very little chance that a rural cleric or his son will attack the police. Villagers are extremely scared of them. Burning shop including book shops that stock the Holy Quran is much more of a Jamaat modus operandi. They did so in Pakistan and it’s happening here again.

What Hifazat-e Islam may have allowed is to let Jamaat activists back to Dhaka in what is increasingly becoming a final desperate phase. But the kind of crowd power they thought would impress Dhaka has in fact scared them and in many ways the Islamic forces have lost the ‘goodwill’ generated by the unhappiness with the AL particularly the Savar crisis. They are increasingly looking more keen in militancy than ever before which is understandable given the fact that the options are swiftly shutting down for them. Whether Jamaat’s actions will bring them more trouble is not a question, it will. How damaged Bangladesh will get as a result of that clash is another but for the moment it does look like the Hifazat option has faded and lost its sting.

The sight of a fragile old man escorted by the police to a waiting plane is hardly the image of a man who had hoped to come to power by today. It’s not the delusion that is disturbing; it’s that the Maulana too is as deluded as the rest of the lot.

* * *

85_Hifajat Rally_Paltan Clash_050513None seem more lost than the BNP  who have now more or less tried everything but just can’t get to a point from where they can leap to power. BNP itself tried to steal the elections of 2007 by trying to manipulate the caretaker government system and the AL is trying to do the same by ending it. In a state which has no credibility and no belief in the legitimate power transfer system, this is going to happen again and again. The AL was saved by the Fakhruddin-Moeen government but the military hasn’t shown any interest so far in stepping in. So the BNP doesn’t really know what to do next. Its support to the Hifazat-e Islam was a sad show of lack of political imagination. At least they realise that hartals no longer deliver any political message and people are simply not convinced that it has a political case.

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Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist, activist and writer.

Afsan Chowdhuryis a bdnews24.com columnist.

27 Responses to “Hifazat: They came, we saw, they fled. But…”

  1. PeaceManMomin

    A True-Muslim never could KILL Ashraf-ul-Muklukat/INSAN which is HARAM nor could take the Judgement-of-ALLAH in his own Hand but could go to the State-Court of any wrong doing against ISLAM is HALAL that he/she believes In! All Muslim’s has AL-Quran in their Hand and go’s to the Mosque while BRITISH Divide-and-Rule is a Politics to Make us FOOL & RULE! BLOOD brings BLOOD is ALSO HARAM! OK!

    • icebergz

      I was perplexed with the theory from the beginning, especially when the propaganda machine said ‘ Taking Judgement of Allah in your own hand is haram , Islam do not need anyone to take care ( hefazat ) it and so forth , because Allah promised to do so ‘ so forth and so on …..

      If your father was insulted on the raod you will react and but if your prophet gets insulted you prefer to sit back and enjoy the show ?

      You talk about the british dividing the Muslim’s . Guess who brought up the Berlevi / Deobondi issue on TV supporting the
      strange notion that most people in Bangladesh are Berlevi ?
      Berlevi, hardly 3% of the population of Bangladesh , their scholars with no repute getting generous Air time .

  2. russel

    They know they are armed. But passionately they tried to fight.This is the symbolic power of blood that flows in bangladeshi people.(although absurd movement).This was one kind of barbarity they created at Motijhel area.But one thing i admit, they are uprising perverted group.Pls Mr. X minister, take a concern look on those extremists. Remember-
    “it is not the size of dog in the fight,it is the fight in the dog that matters”.

    -Thanks Mr. Afsan.

    • icebergz

      You got to understand the Hefazat Islam movement is based on such a strong conviction , They belive in what they belive in . Somewhat confusing as it may be to many of us , regardless if you like them / hate them , Agree / Disagree . Partially support / not support at all – they are sincere in their standing.

      Now compare that to the average ‘ political worker ‘ of Awami / BNP / Jilabi parties. You really think they will stick around or have real conviction for anything their party propagates as their value ?

      The only other odd species out in the current political jungle of Bangladesh are the die hard communists. These guys have been around for ages no one really understood what their evolutionary purpose is.

  3. Sheuli

    Although I’m not agreed to the whole concept of this article, but I am an admirer of Afsan Chowdhury’s thoughts and writings. Politics can be a joke and our AL Govt. can play around with that, but people’s power is not a matter of joke. AL got a bitter lesson and acted more bitterly. I do agree with this – “None seem more lost than the BNP….Its support to the Hifazat-e Islam was a sad show of lack of political imagination.”

    • russel

      yah, it was truly disaster for BNP.i can’t but laugh 🙂

  4. icebergz

    I wish the people of Bangladesh stop dividing themselves into parts . A stigmata like identity people in the media and political / social figures are establishing. Your not allowed the right to be yourself nowadays , you have to be either this or that like a branded product on the shop shelves.

    Free and neutral Journalism … ? I thought media control is supposed to be subtle.

  5. Naim

    Excellent article. Bitter truth that’s why some people are finding it hard to digest. Please do keep writing. Thanks.

  6. Arefin

    “…they were overestimated, had no plans…” , “…sound and fury signifying very little…”- and if they indeed had plans, arms and ammunition, it’s logical that a writer like you wouldn’t hesitate to point your finger at their “violence” and claim yourself to be the decent progressive activist intellectual and them to be the extremists to earn money. This piece of English text does rather indicates the writer a.k.a activist’s own biasedness of attitude as he terms the HI activists as “…children of peasants…” with medieval attitude.

    Waste of time in these days of rising prices of necessities.

    • Ike

      Afsan Chowdhury is Jeremy Bentham of Bangladesh. He a champion of democracy, who advocates individual and economic freedom, gay rights, equal rights for women, abuse against sex workers — impressive indeed and his patriotism come through from his powerful writings. When it comes to Islam as a religion he is kind of animated and is like “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum”.
      Mr. Chowdhury, majority of the people in Bangladesh do not support Hefazat-e-Islam’s 13 point demand. People will never accept Islamic rule in our country, whatsoever. But your write-up does a serious harm to the nation by “act of omission”; you totally ignored the atrocities committed by the state-security forces on unarmed people. It is akin to ethnic cleansing. Please love this country more and do not support the Islamist, and also do not condone brutal acts also.

  7. Kamal Sarwar

    Great in-depth and factual writing Mr. Afsan Chowdhury! I hope some positive traits and development will be slowly ensured through a constructive approach by all concerned parties.

    Yet, in this dreadful tragic drama of internecine conflict neither of the contending protagonists will be the winner. There will be no spoils of victory for them. The losers will be the country, its people. Women’s empowerment and dignity will suffer. Above all, there is no glory in presiding over the liquidation of one’s own country.

    The winners must negate the forces of evil darkness and decadence over good light and progress. The present misguided Hifazat groups will be falsehood, prejudice and bigotry over truth, freedom, creativity, art and culture, poetry, music and beauty, everything for which life is worth living.

  8. A Bangladeshi

    Btw Mr. Chowdhury it’s funny how even the photo supporting your article states otherwise- armed men against men with bamboos and sticks

  9. A Bangladeshi

    All i can say is “lol” at the writer. Mr. Chowdhury congrats on re-defining ‘yellow journalism”, it is clearly for journalist like you and Munni Shaha that Bangladeshi media has become nothing less than a joke today.

  10. Shafiq

    I think Afsan Chowdhury, who is often the most perspicacious observer of Bangladesh politics, miss-fired with this post. I believe he wrote that in haste immediately after the clearing of Shapla Chattor not in the sober light of the morning.

    Khaleda Zia was big winner last night. The narrative that something horrible happened in the depth of night is gaining ground all over the country. AL shed lot of Hefazot blood. Jamaat and Hefazot worked together. Now hefazot is bound with BNP, Jamaat by a bond of blood. Khaleda Zia has found her cannon fodder for her sole war-objective of unseating AL government.

  11. nasir

    The BBC and Guardian websites are reporting a bloodbath in Dhaka.

    Afsan you say you are an activist. You must be an Awami League activist!

  12. Mithu

    I covered the operation and I did not see any police official or BGB or RAB to open fire on the Hefazat-e-Islam activists. There are some stupids who are saying that police and RAB killed Hefazatis.

    • Kismet

      You only see what your master/owner wants you to see. The same goes for Mr. Afsan. What you’ve seen or Mr. Afsan has written doesn’t change the popular perception i.e. the truth. Perception is the reality, no matter what has really happened. And puppet media and intellectuals are not enough to change perceptions.

      • russel

        Ms/Mrs Kismet ,you are living in a fools paradise ,from where you can’t see the shred of light.Your brain is successfully washed by the Hifajati doctrine.You have no way to escape. May God help you to relinquish this faulty pitfall!

      • Kismet

        Thanks for enlightening me. And I see a bunch of self-proclaimed wise people like you trying hard to tell the world (the west) that the fundamental elements are here and then to justify your master’s preferred gangs clinging to power. It’s pathetic that you people don’t even know that you’re being brainwashed. Even God can’t help you as you don’t seem to help yourself to call a spade a spade.

      • russel

        i don’t believe in blood for blood doctrine.i like peace.i want to live with peace.
        Mr./Mrs kismet you people fail to understand the cause of your existence here in earth.Your God, if you wished to live in peace, the world wouldn’t so hellish towards peace-loving people. Please get your brain washed again for the sake of innocent people.

  13. Lescot

    Great article. Congrats on having this published. However, you did not mention anything about the civilians or what we now term them as, HEFAZOTIs, being brutally murdered. As we do not have a concrete number of the people killed, we do know a lot of them has been killed by the operation led by RAB, BGB and Police. I will not compare this night with 1971 but killing your own citizens, doesn’t that hit you at least?

    What a complete biased story.

    Yellow journalism at its finest. I wonder, how you call yourself ‘journalist’.

    • aamen

      you got the right point, i appreciate your reply, “Yellow journalism at its finest. I wonder, how you call yourself ‘journalist’.”

    • Fuad

      Why don’t you bring that exact number or concrete evidence before calling this ‘yellow journalism”. Your words are the only ones that needs backing up. He did not say anything that couldn’t be verified.

    • Hasan Shahriar

      More a fool you would be, if you ‘compare that with 1971’.

      Police clearing the moronic crowds from Motijheel, the economic hub of Bangladesh, was a welcome sight and a relief for the people of the country.

      The marauding hoards, who had gleefully gone on rampaging the streets, creating anarchy and terrorising citizens had to be evicted by force. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure its citizens security.

      The leaders of this programme should be charged with sedition for engaging in activities subversive to the state.

      Then again, people like you don’t believe in this state, don’t know our history and are here to inflict maximum damage to it at every opportunity you get.

      Afsan Chowdhury has excellently commented on facts in unbiased manner.

    • Sixth Sense

      Lescot: There are people who always thrive on propaganda by twisting facts according to the policy of the platform they use for a living. Blame the sin, not the sinner.

      • Golam Arshad

        Right!! Sixth Sense!!! Staged Drama and the vicious Carnage!! The Sin lies in Sins!!

  14. Golam Arshad

    Afsan: You have played a misc-hewed “Reverse Stroke”. Make no mistake, Blood begets Blood! A Divided Nation in Confrontation.Prove me Wrong if I am not Right!!

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