Bangladesh protests: 15 die in clashes as Islamic conservatives battle with police over implementation of anti-blasphemy law

Violence erupted after security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets in the central commercial district

At least 15 people have been killed in clashes in Bangladesh between the police and Islamic conservatives who want the country to establish an anti-blasphemy law that carries the death penalty.

Clashes broke out between many thousands of members of the Hefazat-e-Islam – a coalition of around a dozen groups that has a 13-point agenda for the country – and police. The clashes mainly took place during a rally on Sunday but carried on late into Sunday night and Monday.

The Associated Press reported that the police had said that eight people, including three members of the security forces, were killed in the Kanchpur neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital, while seven more died in the Motijheel commercial area.

After clashes that involved protesters setting fire to tyres and logs and the police responding with tear gas and rubber bullets, the authorities banned all further protests until midnight in an effort to control the violence.

Today it was reported that the leader of Hefazat-e-Islam had been sent out of Dhaka by the authorities.

The group Hefazat-e Islam has become increasingly vocal in pressing its demands to prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League-led government. Among the group’s demands are the reinsertion of the phrase “Absolute trust and faith in Allah” into the constitution of Bangladesh and the introduction of a blasphemy law.

Earlier this year, the group clashed with demonstrators who were demanding the execution of Islamist politicians of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, convicted of war crimes by a special tribunal examining alleged crimes that were perpetrated during the 1971 war of independence. Hefazat-e Islam, which is based in the port city of Chittagong, supported the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Among the victims of the February violence was a young blogger, Rajib Haider, who helped organise the so-called Shahbag campaign that rocked the country as it demanded the government take firm action against the conservatives. The movement wanted fundamentalist parties banned.

On Sunday, members of Hefazat-e Islam, which draws its support from the thousands of madrassas in Bangladesh repeated their demand for “death to atheist bloggers” and “exemplary” punishment for them. The coalition also wants the government to declare that the minority Ahmadi Muslim sect, which have long been persecuted in Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere, are not genuine Muslims.

The demands of the coalition are a major challenge for Ms Hasina, as the Muslim majority nation prepares for an election later this year.

The government has insisted that the country of 160 million people should be run according to secular laws but the Islamists have received support from the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), headed by former prime minster Khaleda Zia.

“Enough is enough, the government will not tolerate this mayhem,” Syed Ashraful Islam, a cabinet minister, said in televised comments on Sunday, according to Bloomberg news. “The government will deal with any further violence aggressively.”

Biswajit Chanda, a professor at the University of Rajshahi, said he believed the government had seen off its biggest challenge from the group – namely making them return to the Chittagong.

“The prime minister has made clear in an interview with the BBC that it has no plans to introduce a new law relating to blasphemy but that the current laws are already sufficient,” he said. “The demands of Hefazat-e-Islam are not the demands of the common people.”

News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
peopleBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game