In their latest investigative report, Odhikar explores the case of Hefazate Islam, an apolitical group drawing from Bangladesh’s religious seminary classes who have been involved in protests in recent months. Odhikar considers the roots of Hefazate’s discontent that led to their protest and the disproportionately brutal government crackdown upon the protesters.
Particular attention is given to Hefazate’s May 5th and 6th rallies in the capital, Dhaka. During this rally, in the early hours of May 6, joint forces of Police, RAB and BGB under cover of darkness violently evicted unarmed and resting protesters from their overnight sit-in in Motijheel and surrounding areas. Electricity was cut off in the region and opposition media covering the rally were shut down and remain shut still. The joint forces made use of various forms of arms including guns, sound grenades, tear gas and water cannons. While authorities have denied casualties from the night raid, Hefazate, witnesses and journalists put the figures considerably high, amounting to a massacre. A Hefazate Islam member (who wishes to be anonymous) stated that he was informed of 202 deaths and around 2,500 persons missing. Odhikar’s own fact finding mission has to date identified 61 names of the deceased and many more injured. Several of the bereaved families have reportedly not filed any reports with police for fear of harassment and repercussions.
Odhikar’s report includes photographic imagery; news reports; casualty estimates from various sources including results of their own fact finding missions; interviews with witnesses, hospital staff, journalists as well as members of the concerned authorities and calls for action in the form of independent investigations with a set list of objectives.
The full report can be viewed HERE.