A statement by the director of the intelligence wing of the elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), demonstrates how the government is suppressing news and reports of the extent of the May 6th massacre; Lt Col Ziaul Ahsan stated to the Dhaka Tribune, ‘that if the Hefazat activists tried to carry out subversive activities using the May 5 rumour, then stern action would be taken against them.’ (emphasis added).
The government has officially stated that 11 people were killed, whereas evidence is building up that at least several hundreds were killed when 10, 000 government troops opened fire in the dark, on over 500,000 unarmed Hefazot protesters. The implication of Colonel Ahsan’s statement is that anyone who attempts to provide a real picture of the true number of deaths, is guilty of ‘subversive activities’.
Human rights activists have said that threats such as this from government officials have prevented victim families from coming forward, even anonymously, to report those killed.
The Dhaka Tribune article is remarkable in that it does not question the information given by government sources. The article reports, without query, the previously unheard assertion, that the widely respected and hitherto unremarked elderly ameer of Hefazot, Shah Ahmed Shafi, ‘was one of the members of HuJi central committee’. The Huji were a banned militant outfit, whose lead members had been widely reported upon in the media while they had been thoroughly uprooted during the last government’s tenure over five years ago; neither Ahmad Shafi or the Hefazot were ever named in connection with them before.
Given such questionable allegations against Ahmed Shafi, one must query the overall thrust of the Dhaka Tribune article, that the Hefazot are developing an extremist movement now. Another article by The Dhaka Tribune detailing 40 organisations that are under watch for alleged militant activities, does not include Hefazot in its list.
Hefazot has emerged only in the last few months, as a loose association of tiny educational institutions, which do not actually function in a centrally organised way. Several commentators have posited that the government’s brutal crackdown may itself be the factor that instigate some Hefazot affiliates towards extremism. Further reports indicate that in reaction to being forced to suppress the reporting of their dead and injured, many family members of the victims (who hail from usually conservative and non politically active families), may be pushed towards lending support to radical anti state activities.