Hrefazot and the Islamists read the state wrong. It assumed that the country with millions of religious Muslims were there for the asking on a sensitive religious symbol issue. But the gamble bombed. Hefazot and other Islamists had no idea what they were taking on, when they challenged the erection of statues of Bangabandhu.

To them and many on the social media it was about the principles of faith practices, etc but to the powers that be which in this case was the state and its embodiment, the PM of Bangladesh, it was not only political but personal as well. Just when the Islamists thought they were gaining an upper hand and the sushils of Dhaka were clamouring on social media about liberal Islam and threat to Bangali culture, etc, the state took out the Islamists without firing a shot. The power of the state was once again on display in a way that surprised many, not least the Islamists.

The trigger within

Hefazot was not a known quantity before 2013 when they mobilized a sit-in atShapla Chattor largely supported by the BNP and Jamaat which made many think that they had large scale clout. But many forget the state took them out too then.

It's true that the ruling party has indulged them but that's largely because they were more into crushing BNP-JI rather than managing madrasa dependent social pressure group like the Hefazot. However, even then it was up to the government to decide how they were going to look at Hefazot - as an ally or not.

It's true that this indulgence has often crossed the limits much to the chagrin of the liberals and sushils but the powers that be really doesn't care. Their main political agenda was in disabling BNP-JI and in the last five years this has been effectively done. Hefazot was a strategic ally who was useful in giving an Islamic sheen to the AL but 2020 is five years later and much water has passed under the holy bridge of politics. Now that the state got miffed, it hit back.

Hefazot was going through a power struggle lately and the emergence of the Babunagri who is more powerful within Hefazot but not beholden to the Government gave it a need to establish its clout. As the son of the long-term leader faded away, the groups talked radical and willing to take a confrontational position but not with the symbol they chose to attack.

Though the statue issue was read by many as a contentious religious issue, the state saw it as an insult to the will of the state. It took a week to do so but once it did the Islamists suddenly realized that challenging the state will is always risky.

Sk. Mujib and the State

What the alems didn't and couldn't understand is what constitutes the modern state. Stuck in an ancient era mindset, it sees the alems as the "State" embodiment, forgetting that times have moved on. So it felt that whatever alems say is final and the socio-political state is a superfluous addition of the current era. What never struck them is that the decision to erect a memorial of Sk. Mujib was an expression of the will of the current state not a party or private decision. So the opposition to the memorial statue became an opposition to the state. While this is probably beyond the intellectual capacity of the Islamists to understand properly, the state machinery moved on its own course.

The Kushtia statue attack has been clouded by some commentators including the Islamite media that it was faked but till date no serious evidence has come up. That is not the point really because the alleged defacers have been arrested and till they are tried, the speculation doesn't matter. But the cases against the Islamists leaders are real and that is not what they are used to since 2015. Putting it bluntly, the Hefazot-GOB honeymoon is over.

What now?

Power is as powerful as any faith practice and the State under Sk. Hasina was threatened and she won't take it lightly. The target was her father and its one issue on which there is no scope for compromise. By attacking him and putting a principled religious position against the statue, Hefazot has earned permanent enmity. Declaring love for Bangabandhu won't help now, Hefazot and Islamists are in the worst Catch -22 situation ever. If they didn't do anything, their own followers will decline and if they do, they will be taken out by state security forces in one way or other. If radicals win the game within, counter-terrorism action may take place and that ends the Hefazot and other show. Although the feeble AL political network outside the metropolis was courting Hefazot particularly at waz mahfils some say, this will be a no-no from now on as Islamists went after the Father and on that issue there is no scope for compromise for any AL member.

Political players really don't count much whether AL or Hefazot. It's the state as an ideology that prevails and that is what is singing the song the loudest now. Hefazot will survive but as a weaker force and will find its future even weaker. Its debut as a big time political wanna- be bombed in a way they never expected.

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