Time to strike the far-right forces hard -The Asian Age

After the arrest of Mamunul Haque, many unknown facts are coming out which proves that there was an attempt to seize state power by Hefazat. Police disclosed that Mamunul's bank account shows that there was a transaction of over 6 crores taka. Mamunul was also connected with those who attacked Hasina's public meeting with a grenade in 2004. Mamunul and his supporters chose maulanas and decided on where they will deliver waz and what they will say. It was alleged that Mamunul has a deep connection with Pakistan intelligence and he was in Pakistan for some time. Now the question is, whether this is a new discovery by the police or these are old facts released for public consumption?

Mamunul Haque's rise in politics is sudden. But it was known that after the collapse of Jamaat and its leadership Pakistan military intelligence was searching for a substitute. They got Hefazat as a substitute for Jamaat and they picked up Babunagri and Mamunul Haque to succeed Matiur Rahman Nizami and Delwar Hossain Sayeedi. Our government knew that Hefazat was founded in Bangladesh as a non-political party. The constitution of Hefazat also prohibits any political activity by the party. But in 2013 when Hefazat declared their intention to overthrow the government placing 13 points demand, it was clear that Hefazat was taking a political stand with a political demand which was against the state principles. There was a one-night showdown between the government and Hefazat at Shapla Chattar, following a compromise between the two and it is rumored that the government bought Hefazat's support with a huge amount of money.

This unholy alliance did not last even 8 years after the old leadership of Hefazat was overthrown. Hefazat again came out in full strength to attack the government and they even tried to destroy the statue of the father of the nation. They used students of Qawmi Madrassa to create serious destruction in Brahmanbaria and Chittagong. The government was forced to take a hardline and now Mamunul Haque is in police custody. Hefazat must have thought that this time they will be able to seize state power because the issue of the statute was very sensitive from a religious point of view. Perhaps they hoped this because they had successfully infiltrated into the Awami League. They even hoped, though falsely, that they have a large number of supporters in the army and civil service also. They thought that they would make a showdown of power with the help of lakhs of madrasa students. In that showdown even if the government did not fall, they would be forced to accept all their demands. If the government did so then the state will run by their fatwa. Babunagri did not make a secret of this hope. A few days ago he said, "We do not want to change the Awami League government, but we will force them to materialize our policies so that the state will be a religious state automatically."

This time the government came to realize the real danger of Hefazat. The party already started to impose its rules on certain fields, contrary to the government's order. When the government ordered a lockdown of all places including schools and madrasas, Hefazat declared that Qawmi Madrasa will not obey this order. But the pandemic became so severe that they could not do this. The government had no choice but to strike them hard. Though Babunagri has not been arrested yet, Mamunul Haque has been taken into police custody and from his revelation now many dangerous facts are coming out including their wish to seize state power.

It is now evident that Hefazat is nothing but an offshoot of Jamaat. When it was founded under Allama Shafi, perhaps it had no political agenda. But when Jamaat completely collapsed in Bangladesh after the execution of their main leaders, they took shelter in Hefazat and almost captured the party. In 2013 the uprising of Hefazat at Shapla Chattar was actually planned and executed by Jamaat. The government subsequently compromised with Hefazat, but it was actually a compromise with Jamaat. The position that the government has taken now, they should have taken it at that time and they should now insist that Hefazat go back to their constitution and remain a non-political party. If the government took a hardline against Hefazat in 2013, then Jamaat's conspiracy to use Hefazat for their own political purpose could have been foiled. Jamaat could not have got a long 8 years to mobilize far-right forces in the country and challenge the government. The government has good luck. Jamaat's conspiracy under the banner of Hefazat did not succeed because they could not steer a movement making the statute an issue and Mamunul Haque's arrest could not make any impact on people's minds.

Police and para militia are not affected by Hefazat's religious approach and they have taken their right role to protect the state and the government. The police investigation also discovered who are making donations to Hefazat. For a long time, there was a rumor that huge money comes from abroad to help the communal organizations organize and make trouble for the government. It comes in the form of donations to mosques and madrasas but with a political purpose. Government should stop this and make laws so that any donations to mosques and madrasas channel through them. It seems that for the government's hard action Babunagri is now cornered. He dismissed the present central committee of Hefazat and is trying to make an ad hoc committee. Hefazat is now divided into anti-government and pro-government wings. The disciples of the late Allama Shafi, the previous founder of Hefazat, are trying to form a counter organization against the Bukharist group. Perhaps the government is helping or encouraging them.

Government should not encourage this divisive policy which will harm them in the long run. Ultimately these two groups will come together and harm the government. This is the right time to strike hard the far-right forces in the country. We have just completed the observance of the Mujib year and his birth centenary. Awami League with all its associates should unite to attack the anti-people and communal forces in the country, to make sure that secularism and democracy propagated by Bangabandhu can remain safe and lasting.

The writer is a prominent journalist based in the United Kingdom.