Around 4,000 activists of Hefazat-e-Islam, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatrashibir attacked policemen right in front of the Motijheel police station on 5 May 2013.
They hurled grenades, vandalised police vehicles, set those ablaze and subsequently carried out attacks on the entire police station in that evening, says the first information report (FIR) of a case filed by cops.
In the case, thousands were accused including Maulana Junaid Babunagari, the then Hefazat secretary general, now the Amir, and other 246 men of his organisation.
However, Motijheel police who were at the heart of the conflict that evening have not been able to start the investigation even nearly eight years into the mayhem.
Like this one, 62 cases filed across the country over the Hefazat's Motijheel mayhem have remained stalled.
As an Islamic advocacy group, Hefazat-e-Islam activists turned gradually violent and kept Motijheel occupied for nearly 12 hours after their rally there on 5 May 2013, law enforcers took the bull by the horns after midnight and drove them away.
According to several media reports, 39 people were killed in the incident. Subsequently, 83 cases were filed in seven districts, including Dhaka, accusing nearly 88,000 people.
Police could only submit charge-sheets in 18 cases and gave final reports in another two. The verdict in only one case has so far been announced, while an investigation into the remaining 62 cases has now got stuck.
In the lone verdict in the Bagerhat case, all the accused were exonerated as police and the prosecution failed to prove the charges brought against the Hefazat men.
In the remaining 62 cases, police say they are in dilemma to proceed as they did not get the go-ahead from police headquarters, while the latter says it is waiting a nod from the home ministry.
However, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal recently told The Business Standard that police can give a better answer to why the charge-sheets have not been submitted yet.
"They [police] are investigating, they can say the reason why the investigations have been stalled. I need to know the progress first before making further comments," he added.
In December 2020 amid threats from Hefazat-e-Islam leaders that they would pull down all sculptures in the country, the government took a move to resume the long-stalled investigations into 62 cases filed over the mayhem by thousands of Hefazat activists in the capital and elsewhere in May 2013.
"The cases have remained pending for quite a long time. We have to finish them," Asaduzzaman Khan told the media that time.
It was a routine process and no special instruction had been issued, he added.
The cases had to be disposed of, he said, adding that either a final report or charge sheet has to be submitted to the court concerned.
TBS yesterday contacted both the home ministry and the police headquarters to know an update on investigations into the pending cases, but neither of them was ready to inform anything in this regard.
Following the Motijheel mayhem, 53 cases including murder, attempt to murder and vandalism were filed with several police stations under the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
Sources at DMP headquarters said of the cases, 33 were filed with the Paltan police station, six with Motijheel police station, three with Shahbagh police station, two with Ramna police station and the rest with other police stations under the DMP.
DMP's Detective Branch (Motijheel Division, former East Division), has been tasked with investigating at least seven cases, including the main case, filed with the Motijheel police station over Hefazat mayhem.
Md Asaduzzaman, deputy commissioner of the DB Motijheel division told TBS that they are yet to complete the investigation.
In the meantime, Mir Shohel Rana, assistant inspector general of police headquarters, could not provide any update on the investigations. Despite repeated queries in the last six months, the media wing of police headquarters also denied serving any information regarding this.
Shohel also declined to make any comment on why the investigations over Hefazat-e Islam mayhem were taking too long.
While contacted, DMP Commissioner Mohammad Shafiqul Islam TBS, "What I only can tell you is that the investigations are going on. Police will submit the charge-sheets once they complete the investigations."
Even some police officials "feel embarrassed"
A deputy inspector general level police official at the police headquarters said many officers like him feel embarrassed over the investigations going at a slow pace.
"We want an immediate solution to these cases. The police headquarters has already contacted the home ministry several times to settle down the issue. The ministry instructed us to wait and we are waiting," the DIG added.
In the meantime, Dhaka Metropolitan Public Prosecutor Abdullah Abu told TBS that most of the accused in those Hefazat murder, violence, arson and vandalism cases are now on bail.
"We have mentioned several times in court that police could not submit the charge-sheet or final report due to negligence. It is like a never-ending investigation, they [police] should submit at least a final report if they cannot prove the charges," he added.
Abdullah Abu said, "It relies on the government to proceed with the trial on time."
While contacted, Hefazat's central committee Publicity Secretary Mohammad Anas Madani said, "The cases are baseless and biased. The FIRs of the cases filed in different police stations across the country are almost the same. We have been protesting these cases from the very beginning."
"Our top leaders have already talked to the home ministry and other government high-ups. Hefazat appealed to treat the lawsuits as political cases. I understand that the government has also taken positive steps," said the Hefazat leader.
He said he did not even understand what the point of keeping the cases pending was. "We asked the government to dispose of the cases expeditiously," he concluded.