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Analysis | Hefazat-e Islam, the group behind anti-Modi protests in Bangladesh

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Narendra Modi was in Bangladesh to attend the nation’s Golden Jubilee celebrations of independence.

At least 11 individuals have been killed in Bangladesh over the weekend as protesters clashes with police throughout demonstrations known as by Islamist teams in opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Dhaka go to. Mr. Modi was in Bangladesh to attend the nation’s Golden Jubilee celebrations of independence. After Mr. Modi’s go to, violence unfold throughout the nation with protesters attacking a practice within the jap district of Brahmanbaria and concentrating on a number of Hindu temples. The fundamental group behind the violent protests was Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, an umbrella organisation of radical Islamists that had prior to now clashed with the Awami League authorities.

Roots of Hefazat

Hefazat-e-Islam, actually ‘protector of Islam’, was fashioned in 2010 when the nation was taking gradual measures to undo the Islamisation of its polity by the army rulers within the late Seventies and Nineteen Eighties. In 2008, the military-backed caretaker authorities had proposed the Draft National Women’s Development Policy Bill, promising equal rights to girls in property ‘through earnings, inheritance, loan, land and market management’. In the December 2008 election, the secular Awami League, led by Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s daughter, was dropped at energy. The secualrists had demanded repealing the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which had made sweeping modifications to the nation’s authentic secular Constitution in the course of the years of army rule (Later within the yr the Supreme Court dominated the modification was unlawful). The Islamist teams noticed these developments, together with the shrinking house of clergy politics, as a menace to their core pursuits, and got here collectively on one platform to kind Hefazat-e-Islam. In February 2010, Hefazat known as an illustration in Chittagong in opposition to the Women’s Bill and the bid to cancel the Fifth Amendment. They clashed with police, injuring over a dozen, and saying the arrival of a brand new Islamist group in Bangladesh’s political panorama.

What do they need?

Headquartered in Chittagong, Hefazat is a platform of the Sunni clerics of the nation’s huge Quami madrassa community and their college students. The Economist reported in 2017 that Hefazat madrassas have been financed by the Salafi-Wahabi Islamists in Saudi Arabia. If in 2010, they demonstrated their avenue energy by staging the anti-Women’s Bill protests, in 2013, they’d develop their calls for to a 13-point agenda and maintain large rallies within the capital Dhaka. Their calls for included enactment of an anti-blasphemy legislation with provision for demise penalty, cancellation of the ladies’s growth legislation (which Ms. Hasina’s authorities handed), a ban on erecting statues in public locations (as a result of that’s “idolatry”), a ban on mixing man and girl in public and declaration of Bangladesh’s Ahmadiyas, a persecuted minority in Islam, as “non-Muslims” (like in Pakistan).

The Awami League authorities initially ignored the protests. But Hefazat members organised many marches to the capital, in what they known as the ‘siege of Dhaka, to push for their demands. When the pressure mounted, the government acted swiftly and ruthlessly. In the early hours of May 6, 2013, security forces launched a crackdown on Hefazat activists to oust them from Dhaka. At least 11 people were estimated to have been killed in the operation.

Pressure group

Since the failed “Dhaka siege”, Hefazat was careful not to run into a direct showdown with the government or the ruling party. But it remained an important hardline voice that often put pressure on the government with its Islamist agenda. For example, when the Fifth Amendment was repealed, the government restored secularism and some other articles of the original Constitution but Islam continued to remain the state religion. Hefazet had threatened violent struggle against the government if Islam is removed as the state religion. The government had also made changes in school texts under pressure from Hefazat and other Islamists. In 2015-16, when Bangladesh was gripped by violence against secular bloggers and activists, Hefazet had demanded action against the writers who “insult Islam”. In 2017, giving in to Hefazat’s calls for, the federal government eliminated the statue of the Greek Goddess Themis from the premises of the Supreme Court. In 2018, the Hasina authorities handed a Bill recognising Dawra–e–Hadith, a high diploma of Hefazat-controlled Quami madrassas, as equal to a Master’s diploma in Islamic research and Arabic, a long-pending demand of Hefazat clerics.

Ms. Hasina’s authorities could have discovered Hefazat a lesser drawback than Jamaat e Islami, the militant spiritual get together whose leaders have been placed on trial for battle crimes dedicated in 1971 by the battle tribunal. The authorities didn’t give in to Hefazat’s key calls for that will alter the secular character of the state, however provided small concessions to the group to keep away from bother. These concessions, nonetheless, appeared to have made them stronger over time. And the protests they carried out in opposition to the go to of the Indian Prime Minister, at a time when each India and Bangladesh try to deepen their ties, pose a brand new problem to each Dhaka and New Delhi.

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