Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has said 72 cases against Hifazat-e-Islam filed in 2013 will be “re-activated”.

The radical Islamist group is now leading country-wide protests against installation of a statue of Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, describing statues as ‘un-Islamic’.

They are also demanding expulsion of French Ambassador and a parliament resolution against France for alleged ‘anti-Muslim’ measures.

Police had filed chargesheets in only 15 of the 83 cases filed in the May 5, 2013 violence at Shapla Chattar in Motijheel area of Dhaka.

That violence was unleashed in support of a 13-point charter, including the introduction of a blasphemy law.

There was no indication from the police that charge-sheets would be filed in these cases soon.

Analysts have blamed Hasina led government’s compromise with Hefazat for slowing down the proceedings, but police said it is too late to file charges because no witnesses are available.

Also Read: Statue pull-down threat by Bangladesh’s radical Islamist group Hifazat-e-Islam

But the home minister has said terrorism cases cannot be postponed for so long.

“Details of the cases are being checked. The government is determined to take strict action against the accused,” he said.

Kamal admitted the delay of seven years in filing charge-sheets was ‘a big mistake’ but insisted his government ‘will take action against those who committed terrorism in 2013.’

The home minister ruled out any compromise with the Hifazat by saying that ‘the government has decided to take strict action against the terrorists.’

The Hifazat and its ally Khelafat-e- Majlish has threatened to pull down the Mujib statue at Dholaipar near Dhaka.

“There are sculptures in different Muslim countries, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan and Pakistan, but no one talks about the sculptures there,” Kamal said.

“A sculpture is a symbol of a country’s history, tradition and bright memories, in our case, the Liberation War. It is not an idol, so there is nothing un-Islamic about the Mujib statue. Worshiping an idol is a part of a religion. Construction of a sculpture cannot be a religious issue,” he said.

In seven districts, including the capital Dhaka, 83 cases were registered on 2013 against Hifazat activists under provisions to counter terrorism.

According to the police headquarters, out of 83 cases, two cases were registered in Kalabagan police station in Dhaka, one in Ramna, one in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar police station, six in Bagerhat and five in Narayanganj.

Hefazat’s central committee secretary general Junaid Babungari, Jamiat Ulamaye Islam secretary general Mufti Waqqas, BNP-Jamaat and some top leaders of several political parties were also arrested. However, they were later released on bail.

Subir Bhaumik

Subir Bhaumik is a Kolkata-based senior journalist. He can be reached at: sbhaum@gmail.com