2013 Operation at Motijheel Shapla Chattar

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The 2013 Operation at Motijheel Shapla Chattar is the term given to events on 5 and 6 May 2013, in the capital city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, encompassing a rally and protest by Hefajat-e Islam and the government's use of a combined specialized force drawn from police, the elite Rapid Action Battalion and paramilitary force Border Guard Bangladesh to drive the protesters from Shapla Chattar.[1][2][3] Objectives of this protest were demanding a blasphemy law, execution of "atheist bloggers" who were accused of insulting Muhammad, and ban on the mixing of men and women in public.[4][5][6]

In the early hours of 6 May, the government stopped transmissions of two leaning TV channels - Diganta Television and Islamic TV - without citing any reasons, which were live telecasting the operation.[7][8][9] Following the event in Motijheel, there were protests in other parts of the country namely Narayanganj, Hathazari and Bagerhat on Monday morning against the deaths of Hefajat members, hours after the Hefajat men were driven out of the capital’s Motijheel area.[10][11][12] Different sources provide different figure about the casualties in this operation. Several sources reported that more than 30 were dead.[10][11][12][13][14] Hefazat claimed thousands of their men died on this operationwhich has not been supported by the free press, Human Rights Watch, Odhikar's June report, or the government.[15][16] The government and law enforcement agencies were severely criticized by several human rights organizations for their role in the operation.

Background[edit]

The events on May 5–6 were related to continuing unrest and protests by Hefazat-e-Islam. They oppose changes in the country that relate to women's education and loosening restrictions against genders appearing in mixed situations in public.

A February 22, 2013 protest developed into violence. On April 6, 2013, its supporters made a long-march to promote their 13-point charter of demands, which promote a conservative view of society.[17]

Protest and events[edit]

Hefazat-e-Islam organized a protest on May 5 against what they called "atheist bloggers,"[18] and demanded new legislation to provide punishment for blasphemy.[4][5][6] They had a 13-point list of demands that included the following:[5]

  • execution of "atheist bloggers" who were accused of insulting Muhammad;
  • demand of blasphemy law;
  • ban on the mixing of men and women in public;
  • end to "shameless behavior and dresses"; and
  • rule that the Ahmadiyya sect as non-Muslim.

The Hefajat protesters assaulted two on-duty television journalists before the rally.[19] In the major part of the violence, the protesters began by attacking and burning the Communist Party of Bangladesh's office at Motijheel.[20][21] Hefajat supporters vandalized and torched at least 50 vehicles and several buildings during their rally.[22] They violently attacked others in front of the ruling party Awami League's headquarter at Paltan, Dhaka.[23] Hefajat supporters set fire to book stores near the National Mosque Baitul Mukarram.[24] Hefazat also brought some madrasa students, aged below 20, to stage this protest without telling them about its purpose. Many of these children were attacked by the law enforcement agencies in the operation.[25][26][27][28]

The operation and casualties[edit]

According to government estimates, the number of casualties in this operation was 11, including a few law enforcement members.[15] Hefazat-e-Islam claims that thousands of their members were killed; Human Rights Watch rebutted that claim.[15][16] According to different free media, the death toll rose to 22, including some law enforcement forces.[10]

The government has filed 12 cases against top leaders of the Hefajat-e Islam for murder, vandalism, arson and destruction of properties and other charges.[29]

Because of the differing views, Human Rights Watch called for an independent body to investigate the protest deaths,[30][31][32]

Later incidents[edit]

On the day following the operation, protests spread across the country against the deaths of Hefajat members. In Narayanganj, students and teachers of a local Madrassa held protests after hearing the news of the operation in Shapla Chattar. To disperse the protesters, Police fired several hundred gunshots, rubber bullets and teargas shells, resulting in the death of twenty people. In Hathazari, six people were left dead when police fired teargas shells and rubber bullets on students, who were also members of Hefajot, dispersing a protest against the arrest of Shah Ahmed Shafi, the chief of Hefajat. In Bagerhat, one Hefajat member died in a clash between protesters and police.[10]

On 10 June, Odhikar, a human rights organization, published a fact-finding report on human rights violations, including contributions from the bereaved, injured protesters, the security establishment and municipal cleaning staff and claimed to find "the names of 61 people who were killed",[33] but denied to provide any list of casualties in this report.[34][35] On 19 June, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh rejected that, stating in Parliament that

"..and that day's event was fully televised, you have seen how they have rubbed red dye onto their bodies and when police came and called them they got up and ran away... we saw that dead bodies made a run for it! This kind of drama has been made there."[36]

On 27 June, a US law firm, representing two US-based human rights organisations,[37] filed cases in the International Criminal Court against 25 Bangladeshi ministers and security officials, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for alleged “torture, forced disappearance, extrajudicial executions and mass killings.”.[38] While a Brussels based Bangladeshi lawyer named Ahmed Ziauddin, who was also accused of influencing the proceedings of Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal at the instruction of Bangladesh government,[39] said- "I am not sure about the objective of it and I am sure those Washington-based organisations have some political motives. They may have been trying to create political hype since filing a complaint in the ICC does not mean proceedings of a case will start immediately"[40]

On August 10, Police raided the office of Odhikar and arrested its general secretary Adilur Rahman Khan. In a press briefing Police said they found a fake list of 61 deaths and released it to the media. Odhikar, however, denied to have prepared the list.[41] In a press statement, the US Department of State expressed deep concern over the arrest and demanded his immediate release.[42]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hefajat men flee Motijheel". The Daily Star (Bangladesh). May 6, 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  2. ^ "Govt trashes loss of thousands of lives rumour". The Daily Star (Bangladesh). 10 May 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Bangladesh clashes rage over blasphemy law"
  4. ^ a b "Press note on Motijheel reflects party views instead of govt: Dudu". Weekend Independent. May 12, 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "At least 32 dead as Bangladesh Islamists demand blasphemy law". Dawn. May 6, 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Rahman, Anisur (May 5, 2013). "Radical Islamists lay siege to Dhaka". Gulf News. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  7. ^ http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2013/05/06/diganta-islamic-tv-taken-off-air
  8. ^ "Controversy over Shapla Square Casualty". The Independent. 9 May 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "Riot police battle Islamists in Dhaka Bangladesh". BBC news. BBC. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  10. ^ a b c d "27 more killed". The Daily Star. 7 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Paul, Ruma. "At least 20 dead in Islamist protests in Bangladesh". Yahoo News. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  12. ^ a b BNS bears Hefajat brunt
  13. ^ "Bangladesh protest violence leaves more than 30 people dead". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  14. ^ "Clashes over Islam blasphemy law kill 27 in Bangladesh". MSN. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  15. ^ a b c "HRW rebuts genocide claim". bdnews24.com. 11 May 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "HRW bins genocide claim by BNP, Hefazat". The Daily Sun. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  17. ^ "Ganajagaran vows to resist Hefazat hartal". The Independent. 7 April 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2013. 
  18. ^ Bangladesh Islamists rally against bloggers, BBC
  19. ^ "2 scribes beaten up by Hifazat". bdnews24.com. May 5, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Hifazat men burn CPB office". bdnews24.com. 5 May 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  21. ^ "How could they do it?". The Daily Star. May 7, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Hifazat sets vehicles on fire". bdnews24.com. May 5, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Jamaat behind AL office attack: Alamgir". bdnews24.com. 5 May 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  24. ^ "Hifazat burns Quran, Hadith in blind rage". May 6, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Keep the children out of it". Dhaka Tribune. December 1, 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  26. ^ "Child Act-2013: A milestone not without shortcomings". Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  27. ^ "Lawmakers allergic to word ‘Hefazat’". Dhaka Tribune. May 23, 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  28. ^ "Noted personalities express concern". The Daily Sun. Retrieved 29 May 2014. May 5 Shapla Chattar grand rally of Hefazat-e-Islam. In TV footages and video clips posted on different social media showed, Hefazat brought a large number of Quami Madrasah students who mostly are below 18 years to the grand rally and siege programmes at six entry points of the capital. After crackdown by the joint forces of BGB, RAB and Police, many panic-stricken children were seen coming out from the pandemonium of the Motijheel Shapla Chattar. Later some participant children told media that they have ever come to the capital and joined the Hefazat programmes on direction of their teachers without knowing details about the programmes. 
  29. ^ "12 cases against Hifazat leaders". bdnews24.com. May 6, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Clashes over Bangladesh protest leave 27 dead". BBC news. BBC. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  31. ^ "36 killed in Dhaka as Islamic militants clash with police". The telegraph. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  32. ^ "Bangladesh: Independent Body Should Investigate Protest Deaths". New York: Human Rights Watch. May 11, 2013. Retrieved 25 August 2013. 
  33. ^ "Assembly of Hefazate Islam Bangladesh and Human Rights Violations". Odhikar. June 10, 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  34. ^ "Odhikar’s Hefajat list under wraps". The Daily Star (Bangladesh). August 18, 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  35. ^ "Odhikar Report on Hefajat Deaths: Questions aplenty". Pryo News. 01/09/2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  36. ^ Parliamentary speech of Sheikh Hasina 19 June 2013 "https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=uoucAYQlQIc"
  37. ^ "http://www.english.rtnn.net/?/newsdetail/detail/1/1/54449"
  38. ^ "Complaint filed at ICC against PM, 24 others". The Daily Star. 30 June 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  39. ^ "The trial of the birth of a nation". The Economist. 15 December 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-10. 
  40. ^ "Complaint lodged at ICC accusing Hasina, 24 others". Dhaka Tribune. June 29, 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  41. ^ The Daily Star
  42. ^ Marie Harf (August 12, 2013). "Detention of Bangladeshi Human Rights Activist Adilur Rahman Khan". US Department of State. Retrieved 22 August 2013. 

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