Organisers said hundreds of thousands of members of the group joined the rally in Motijheel’s ‘Shapla Chattar’ to press for a 13-point charter of demands including enacting an anti-blasphemy law punishing people who insult Islam.
They demanded punishment of some bloggers tied to the movement in Shabagh, branding them ‘atheists’. The bloggers have denied the allegation and said their protest in Shahbgah is to demand executions for war crimes and a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami for its role in 1971 against creation of Bangladesh as an independent nation.
The radical platform it claimed as non-political also proposes ground breaking changes to the country’s constitution by adding some provisions that could distort the largely secular highest law of the land. But many think the group is backed by Jamaat-e-Islami.
The group announced a daylong shutdown across the country for Monday and a blockade in Dhaka on May 5 from the rally on Saturday. It termed the administration of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a force of ‘atheists’, not of devout Muslims.
The Home Minister told reporters after a meeting with his Cabinet colleagues on Saturday that Hifazat-e Islam kept their promise of a peaceful gathering.
“Thanks to them for that,” he said.
“BNP and its allies had made attempts (of creating anarchy), but they (Hifazat) have resisted them,” he said.
The meeting was held in his ministry with Shipping and Inland Water Transport Minister Shahjahan Khan, Minister for Railways Mujibul Hauqe, Minister for Food Abdul Razzak, State Minister for Home Shamsul Haque Tuku, State Minister for Law Qamrul Islam and junior LGRD Minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak.
While the rally in Motijheel was peaceful, a ruling Awami League man died in Faridpur after clashes broke out with Hifazat supporters.
In Dhaka’s Mohakhali, Hifazat supporters attacked a rally of Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee in the morning.
Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee is one of the 25 organisations that enforced a shutdown to denounce the Hifazat rally on Saturday.
Committee’s acting President Shahriar Kabir said he believed the attack was ‘planned’ and ‘an attempt of murder’.
Several journalists also came under their attack.
The Home Minister said he had information that suggested that the attackers in Mohakhali were from Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir.
Alamgir felt sorry for the attack on journalists and vowed to bring the responsible to book.
He also thanked law enforcers for maintaining order.
He dismissed Hifazat’s claim that the government attempted to obstruct their programme.
Criticising the shutdown call, he said it was ‘illogical’.
He, however, said that they would examine the demands made by the Hifazat.
Hifazat-e Islam, which is based in Chittagong, came to discussion after the movement against suspected war criminals and Jamaat-e-Islami by ‘Ganajagaran Mancha’ gained momentum across the country.
BNP and its allies have endorsed the demands by Hifazat, which is thought to be closely linked with Jamaat-e-Islami.
A group of 25 organisations including Sector Commanders’ Forum and Ghatak-Dalal Nirmul Committee called a strike to resist Hifazat’s programme. ‘Ganajagaran Mancha’ had also called a 22- hour transport strike from 6pm Friday.The leftist parties had also endorsed the strike to resist Hifazat.