Monday. 06 May 2013. Dhaka Metropolitan Police Joint Commissioner Sheikh Maruf Hasan announced on a hand-mic “Hefajot (Hefajot-e-Islami) members, please leave. You will not be harassed. We will not fire if you leave voluntarily. Otherwise we will have to begin our operation.”
The Hefajot leadership responded from the stage “We are demonstrating here peacefully. This is a sit-in program and we will not leave. We are here to defend the honour of Allah and His Prophet (s).”
The exchange of warning started to make the situation tense. Police increased their presence. They were joined by the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). Soon, the joint law enforcement team stood at a 10,000 men strong-team, including 32 platoon BGB-men; and they were joined by Awami League, the ruling party, thugs and goons from its so-called student wings Chatro League and Jubo League. The protesters were encircled from most corners. Electricity and water supply to the protest site and the surrounding area were cut off since the morning. Now, the street lamps were shut off. Even the moonless sky was pitch dark, thanks to the thick monsoon clouds. The whole environment was extremely tense, and the red/blue lights from the tank-like police Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) only made it further terrifying. The nearby motijheel thana was mounted with powerful automatic machineguns, and the APCs were fully prepared for an all out battle. So-called “Operation Freedom” (some unofficial sources claimed it as Operation Shapla) was about to begin.
The Hefajot members, most of them teachers and students of Islamic Madrasahs, were struggling to keep up their moral against the huge ‘war-ready’ police, RAB, BGB battalion. They started reciting zikr (prayers) and shouting anti-‘fundamentalist secular’ slogans to motivate each other. Alongside, in an attempt to convince the gathered force, they announced: “Police brothers, you and we, all are Muslim brothers. We were neither culprits, nor are we involved in any vandalism. We are just doing a peaceful sit-in, which is our constitutional right.”
That tense situation didn’t last long, according the living witnesses, it was only a period of 10 to 15 minutes approximately. As the clocked ticked 02:31 AM, a senior police officer shouted: FIRE. Immediately, the sound of bullets, machine gun fire, grenades and tear shell filled the air. The helpless and stunned Hefajot members tried at first to resist by throwing pebbles, but soon realized the futility of their action. But they could hardly escape as well, as they were entrapped from three sides. Police, RAB and BGB also intensified their attack under the command of the joint commissioner of RAB intelligence wing, Lt. Col. Ziaul Ahsan, RAB-4 director Lt. Col. Kamrul Hasan and Additional District Commissioner (ADC) of Detective Brach (DB) Moshiur Rahman. ADC of Motijheel zone, Mehedi Hasan, coordinated the attack from the Motijheel thana end.
The coordinated and unimaginably aggressive attack on the helpless Hafejot members took them all by surprise. Their pebbles and sticks were no match to the advanced and lethal police ammunition. All they could do was cry and try to run for cover from the David vs Goliath war zone. Within half an hour, the few million Hefajot men encamped at the Shapla roundabout were totally dispersed, and the law enforcement agencies overtook total control of the entire area. Many bodies were lying around, either dead or injured.
The exact casualty figure from this brutal crackdown is yet unknown. A strongly pro-government local daily reported a figure of five deaths, while a statement on the incident by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHR..) stated a figure of 2500 deaths citing unconfirmed reports. Similar figures have also been reported by the Hefajot leadership, and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition party. Two private TV channels were reporting from the Hefajot ground. But they were forcibly shut down at 4.24 AM citing orders from higher authorities as they started reporting the casualty figures and showing dead bodies. The official silence from the government of Bangladesh on this incident, and the immediate embargo on honest media reporting points to the fact that the government of Bangladesh is trying to hide what really happened during the brutal operation Freedom.This is not Operation Freedom, rather this is Operation Searchlight 2, a sequel of the Operation Searchlight 1 on the night of 25 March 1971, by Pakistani Army in the same city Dhaka/ Dacca, the provincial capital of then East Pakistan.
_______________Thanks to the brother who wrote this, Jazahullah