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Conflicting reports on Bangladesh death toll

Azhar Vadi | Cii News

There have been conflicting reports on the number of deaths following huge protests in Bangladesh over the last 24 hours. While the official death toll has been noted as 28 thus far by officials, various protestors have used social networks and other means to say that up to 3 500 people were massacred by police and soldiers in the capital, Dhaka.

Independent media reports have been blocked after the government shut down two television stations and other communication tools.

Barrister Abdur Razzaq, a Bangladeshi lawyer and Assistant Secretary General of Bangladesh’s Jamaat-e-Islami speaking from Dhaka, told Cii News that they themselves do not know the exact figures.

“We are also hearing conflicting reports and only an independent commission can verify what has happened,” he said.

On Sunday, 5 May 2013, hundreds of thousands of people with strong Islamic backgrounds gathered in Dhaka under the leadership of an aging Islamic scholar, Moulana Ahmed Shafi, and placed before the authorities 13 demands. The points are all listed at the end of this article.

Amongst these were that the Islamic character of the constitution be upheld and that the death penalty be instituted for blasphemous actions.

“It was a peaceful demonstration,” explained Barrister Abdur Razzaq. “They were supposed to stay until 6pm but overstayed and at about 3am security forces attacked them. According to them (the protestors) 3000 people have been killed and according to the police it is a very small number. Now there’s the difficulty.”

Speaking to Cii Radio, retired Brigadier-General Saleem Akhtar said it was impossible for 3500 people to be killed. “If that was true this country would have been on fire now,” he noted.

Two television stations, including an Islamic channel have been shut down. They were reported to have been in possession of vital footage of what happened.

What Barrister Abdur Razzaq could confirm was that a huge amount of people were in a space of two square kilometers when police opened fire, “and the opening of the fire was indiscriminate… These people were unarmed and mainly students from the madressahs.”

Moulana Shafi and a few of his confidantes have this afternoon been flown to the coastal city of Chittagong, accompanied by police, where his madressah is located.

Moulana Shafi escorted by police today: Twitter.com. Via @azadaliCCM Azad

His organisation, Hifazet-e-Islam, originated in 2011 and is made up of Islamic scholars or Ulema from around the country.

Their 13 point demand sheet was put the government in April 2013 and not much was done about it. “The government refused and they (Hifazet-e-Islami) gave an ultimatum that all their demands should be accepted by 5 May 2013. They said until their demands are met they would remain. They wanted to repeat something like Tahrir Square in Cairo, explained Barrister Abdur Razzaq.

During the violence on Sunday, dozens of shops and cars were set alight and both the government and Hifazet-e-Islami accused each other of setting fire to copies of the Noble Quran.

Clashes continued today on the outskirts of Dhaka while most people remained in doors.

13 Point Demand Sheet

1. Reinstatement of ‘Absolute trust and faith in Allah’ in the constitution of Bangladesh and abolishment of all laws which are in conflict with the values of the Quran and Sunnah

2. Enactment of (anti-defamation) law at the parliament keeping death penalty as the highest form of punishment to prevent defamation of Allah, Muhammad (S.A.W) and Islam, and prevent spreading hate against Muslims (highest penalty prevalent for defamation is 10 years).

3. Immediate end to the negative propaganda by all atheist bloggers in a leading role in the so called Shahbag movement who have defamed Allah, Mohammad (S.A.W), and Islam and their exemplary punishment.

4. End to all alien cultural practices like immodesty, lewdness, misconduct, culture of free mixing of the sexes, candle lighting in the name of personal freedom and free speech.

5. Abolishment of the anti-Islamic inheritance law and the ungodly education policy. Making Islamic education compulsory in all levels from primary to higher secondary.

6. Declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims by the government and put a stop to their negative and conspirational activities.

7. Stop instating more statues in the name of sculpture at road intersections and educational institutions to save Dhaka the city of mosques, from becoming the city of statues.

8. Remove all the hassles and obstructions at Baitul Mokarram and all mosques in Bangladesh which prevent Musallis from offering prayer. Also stop creating obstruction for people to attend religious sermons and other religious gatherings.

9. Stop the spread of Islamophobia among the youth through depiction of negative characters on TV plays & movies in religious attire and painting negative stereotypes of the beard, cap and Islamic practices on various media.

10. Stop anti-Islamic activities at Chittagong propagated by several NGO’s and Christian missionaries under guise of religious conversion.

11. End to the massacre, indiscriminate firing and attacks on the prophet loving Muslim scholars, madrassah students and the general public.

12. End to all threats against Islamic scholars, madrassah students and Imams and Muslim clerics of mosques throughout the country.

13 Immediate and unconditional release of all detained Islamic scholars, madrassah students and members of the general public and withdrawal of all false cases filed against them. Compensation to families of all injured and deceased and exemplary punishment to all those responsible.

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