Two factions have fought at the Bishwa Ijtema ground over establishing dominance
At least one person has been killed in a series of clashes between two factions of Tabligh Jamaat over establishing dominance at the Bishwa Ijtema grounds on the banks of the Turag River.
More than 200 people were also injured in the clashes at the Ijtema grounds in Tongi on Saturday.
The deceased was identified as Ismail Hossain, 70, of Munshiganj, said Tongi (west) police station Officer-in-Charge Emdadul Haque. Ismail was a follower of Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, top scholar of Indian Tabligh Jamaat, said Assistant Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Gazipur Metropolitan Police, Masudur Rahman.
Tongi Ahsan Ullah Master Health Complex physician, Dr Monira Begum, said around 150 people received treatment at the hospital and more people are being admitted.
“Of them, 25 people who were severely injured, have been transferred to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, Kurmitola Hospital, and other hospitals,” she said.
Supporters of Indian preacher Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, and Maulana Jubayer’s supporters engaged in sporadic clashes, chases, and counter-chases for several hours since morning, said OC Emdadul.
The trouble mongers also vandalized a number of cars and motorcycles parked at the Ijtema grounds, he said.
The clash broke out around 8am when supporters of Saad Kandhalvi tried to enter the Ijtema premises where the supporters of Maulana Jubayer had taken up position.
At one stage, the supporters of Maulana Saad broke open the main gate of the Ijtema grounds and swarmed in.
Sporadic clashes took place between the two groups, leaving Ismail dead on the spot and scores of people injured. The Tabligh men hurled brickbats at each other and attacked each other with sticks.
Local administration takes control
Police officials of Gazipur Metropolitan police and members of Rapid Action Battalion went to the Ijtema grounds around 3pm and drove out all the people from there.
“The situation is now under control,” said OC Emdadul.
Additional police with armoured vehicles and water cannons have been deployed to avoid any untoward situation. Local administration has taken control of the grounds following a Home Ministry decision later in the day.
Meanwhile, Gazipur Metropolitan Traffic Police (South Zone) Senior Assistant Commissioner Thoai Aung Prue Marma told the Dhaka Tribune: “Thousands of Muslim devotees took up position on the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway, resulting in a huge tailback.”
Traffic ground to a halt on the highway for one-and-a-half hours in the afternoon, he said.
Vehicular movement on the western side of busy Airport Road remained at a standstill from the Airport intersection to Abdullahpur since morning, as Saad Kandhalvi’s supporters attacked followers of the other faction at the Airport intersection.
For the last couple of days, Maulana Jubayer supporters had been taking up positions on the Ijtema Maidan in Tongi. The followers of Maulana Saad started gathering in front of the maidan from 6am Saturday and took position in front of the main gate.
A follower of Maulana Saad said: “We had announced a ‘Jor Ijtema’ (a gathering of devotees before the Bishwa Ijtema) between November 30 and December 4, as a tradition that is followed annually.
“However, as thousands of devotees tried to enter the Ijtema grounds, they were denied entry by supporters of Maulana Jubayer. Madrasa students following Maulana Jubayer had already positioned themselves inside the venue with sticks.”
The devotee added that the clashes have resulted in a tense situation in the area.
Maulana Shariful Islam, a supporter of Maulana Juyaber, said: “Both factions had entered a stalemate centring the Jor Ijtema, which was to be held at the Ijtema grounds.
“The Home Ministry had requested both parties to halt the Jor Ijtema until further notice, which we all agreed on. However, thousands of supporters of Maulana Saad attempted to enter the Ijtema grounds on Saturday morning, causing unrest in the area.”
What is this fight all about?
In January, hundreds of members of the Bangladesh chapter of Islamic movement Tabligh Jamaat and some Qawmi madrasa Alems (clerics) staged a demonstration near Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, protesting the arrival of Indian preacher Maulana Muhammad Saad Al Kandhalvi.
In the face of stern opposition from a faction of Tabligh Jamaat, Saad Kandhalvi had to return to New Delhi last year without being able to join that years’ Biswa Ijtema, the second largest religious congregation of Muslims after Hajj.
The radical Islamic organization Hefazat-e-Islam initially tried to prevent Saad’s arrival because they were strongly opposed to his participation in the Ijtema and oppose his statements made during the last Bishwa Ijtema.
Their opposition stemmed from allegations of what Hefazat leaders claimed to be “controversial statements about the Quran and Sunnah” that Saad had made. Saad is the great-grandson of the founder of the Tabligh movement and head of its Indian chapter, though his leadership is disputed by the organization’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi followers.
Tabligh Bangladesh chapter split into two groups following disputes among its top leaders over establishing dominance and the visit of Maulana Saad Kandhalvi.
The conflict had also led to violent clashes between the factions on the premises of Kakrail Mosque in Dhaka in November last year.
Following that, the government had issued five directives to resolve the internal disputes of Tabligh Jamaat and carry out their activities in an organized manner, on September 18.
The circular said that Tabligh Jamaat activities around the world were known as a non-violent, peaceful and completely religious. However, the directives have been issued as recently a visible split in the organization has spread conflict in two factions across the country, which goes against religious customs and overall peaceful environment.
Currently, the followers of Maulana Saad Kandhalvi in the country are not allowed into Tabligh Jamaat Bangladesh chapter’s markaz (headquarters), the Kakrail Mosque in Dhaka.
The government later decided to postpone Bishwa Ijtema due to the ongoing dispute between the factions and the upcoming 11th parliamentary election, which is slated for December 30..
Held every winter in Bangladesh, the next Ijtema was supposed to be organized in the second or third week of January.
The decision to postpone the congregation was taken at a meeting between Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and leaders of the two factions of Tabligh Jamaat at the secretariat on November 13.
Earlier, both Tabligh factions had announced the organizing of the Ijtema on separate days in January which led to a dispute between them.