Dhaka – April 19 (Online): Hundreds of members and supporters of an Islamist group, including its influential leader, have been arrested in Bangladesh over the past week, officials said, over deadly protests against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month for the country’s golden jubilee celebrations of independence – Al Jazeera reported over Monday.
The protests across several districts in Bangladesh were mostly led by the Hefazat-e-Islam group, whose members accused India’s Hindu nationalist leader of stoking religious polarisation and discriminating against minorities, particularly Muslims, in his country.
At least 13 Hefazat supporters died in police firing during the days-long demonstrations against Modi’s two-day visit as they attacked a police station and other government buildings, and blocked highways elsewhere in the country.
In the capital Dhaka, they clashed with police outside the country’s main Baitul Mukarram National Mosque during the visit.
On Sunday, the group’s joint secretary, Mamunul Haque, was arrested at a madrasa (Islamic school) in Dhaka’s Mohammadpur neighbourhood, Harunur Rashid, a senior Dhaka Metropolitan Police official, said.
Haque, 47, faces charges of instigating violence but police did not provide details on specific cases or whether the charges stem from Modi’s visit.
“We will investigate all allegations against him since Haque is accused in a number of cases related to inciting violence,” Rashid told reporters.
A further 298 Hefazat members and supporters were arrested in the eastern rural district of Brahmanbaria where anti-Modi demonstrations were also held, police said on Sunday.
“We arrested them by identifying them through video footage,” Brahmanbaria police’s deputy chief, Mohammad Roish Uddin, told the AFP news agency.
Hefazat spokesman Jakaria Noman Foyezi told AFP that 23 leaders of his organisation had been detained by police, calling the police claims against them “false and fabricated”.