The ruling Awami League is now facing pressure from within the party and the alliance partners for its relations with Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh while many are saying that the ‘so-called strategic relations’ with the Islamist group boomeranged.
There is growing discontentment among the party leaders and alliance partners after several violent incidents took place in different parts of the country when Hefazat brought out protests opposing Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh on March 26-27. Modi came to join the celebration of the golden jubilee of the country’s independence.
Following the two-day-long protest, Hefazat claimed that at least 17 of their supporters were killed and several dozens were injured during the violence that took place mainly in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Chattogram, Sylhet and Brahmanbaria, during which Hefazat activists attacked government establishments including police stations.
Many AL and alliance leaders suspect that the Awami League was still trying to keep good relations with Hefazat which is in direct conflict with the party’s fundamental characteristics based on secularism.
And on this ground, the government was not taking action against the senior leaders of Hefazat and their names were missing in most of the cases filed, said AL and alliance insiders.
At least 70 cases were filed in different parts of the country.
AL joint general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif, however, denied the fact that warm relations still exist between AL and Hefazat.
‘We have maintained a relationship with Hefazat similar to that with many other socio-cultural organisations to ensure a steady progress of the development activities of the government under the leadership of prime minister Sheikh Hasina,’ Hanif told New Age.
He claimed that the government is now tackling Hefazat with a strong hand as the recent activities become a major cause for worry as they might hinder the country’s development.
Though Hefazat is not a political party but it operates like the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, he said, adding that because of their political interest, the BNP and the Jamaat are backing Hefazat up.
In condition of anonymity, a member of AL presidium, also an organising secretary, told New Age that the evident relations of some senior AL leaders with Hefazat were sending wrong messages to the grassroots activists of the party.
They said that Hefazat is also taking advantage of the relations by organising protests against some government moves.
AL’s compromising position with regard to Hefazat sets the country’s politics back a hundred years, they observed.
The president of the Workers Party of Bangladesh, a partner of the AL-led alliance, Rashed Khan Menon, told New Age that AL’s relations with Hefazat had a huge effect on secular politics.
‘It is high time to take action against Hefazat and cut off all kinds of relations with this extremist group,’ he said.
He said that though some AL leaders are making statements against Hefazat, words are not getting translated into actions against Hefazat leaders and the mellow reaction to the recent carnage proves that the AL leadership is still trying to maintain a rapport with Hefazat.
In a recent meeting, the AL-led 14-party alliance raised questions over the relations between the Awami League and the Hefazat.
Addressing the virtual meeting held on March 29, several leaders of the alliance said that the Hefazat was taking advantage of the Awami League but was working in alignment with anti-liberation forces, a number of alliance leaders told New Age after the meeting.
The leaders also blamed Hefazat for the recent violence across the country and asked the government to bring the organisation under the purview of the law.
Alliance coordinator Amir Hossain Amu, a senior Awami League leader, presided over the meeting.
Amu said that Hefazat had vandalised the sculptures of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman earlier and that sectarianism was its ultimate goal.
He said that the group should not be spared as it was aiming for political movements.
Awami League advisory council member Tofail Ahmed said that most of the Hefazat members were from the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh.
He urged all to wage a war against Hefazat with all resources and forces.
He criticised the compromise the Awami League has struck with Hefazat recognising its members through giving certificates equivalent to general education certificates for the Qawmi madrassah students.
‘It needs to be remembered that they [Hefazat] are always against the spirit of the liberation war and even if facilities are given to them they would remain the same,’ said meeting insiders.
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