In what can perhaps be described as the outcome of the growth of violent extremism in the country, protesting Hefazat-e-Islam activists unleashed a reign of terror across the country from Friday to Sunday. Rowdy protesters deviating from the party’s pre-declared non-violent observance of their movement violently clashed with cops, vandalized and torched state properties such as government offices, roads, rail stations, gas and electric plants and so on. They also set fire on at least a dozen vehicles and attacked on duty journalists. Reportedly, at least 13 people have been killed and scores of others wounded including members of law enforcement agencies.
Irrespective of their grievances nothing can justify the Hefazat activists carrying out such widespread violence and vandalism. While Hefazat leaders have shamelessly claimed their movement was peaceful and that the people have responded to their call spontaneously, there is no denying that their activities have seriously tarnished their own image. In fact one cannot be blamed for aligning Hefazat with anti-liberation forces because it has caused such a monumental mayhem and dared to deface a memorial plaque of Bangabandhu when the country was celebrating its 50th Independence Day.Moreover, that the Hefazat activists swarming out from mosques in large numbers with sticks, swords and shields, and other local weapons is a sign that they are misusing the place of worship. Not only that, they are also undermining the religion itself to realise their political interest. For example, while they created untold public sufferings by blocking roads, some of them were seen reciting the Holy Quran sitting in the middle of the road and saying prayers. A good number of children were also seen parading on roads with sticks which is a clear sign that all students of Hefazat controlled Madrasas are being forced to take part in their political movement.
Apart from physical damage and destruction caused by Hefazat’s movement in the last three days, a larger social damage is taking place through the steady rise in radicalism. With little to no governmental measures to monitor what are taught in Qawmi madrasas or informal religious seminaries, and mushrooming growth of such institutions and political parties’ tendency to handle them with kid’s glove, things have come to such an ugly pass. If we cannot turn the tide right now, all modern and democratic values that we take for granted will be at stake.