Violent clashes between Tabligh Jamaat’s Delhi Markaz and Deoband Madrasa factions over the Ijtema planned in Tongi have left a 70-year-old man dead and more than 200 others injured. The clashes blocked the side of Airport Road headed to Tongi, leading to heavy traffic congestion and causing difficulties for people travelling abroad and long-haul passengers on Saturday.
Later, the authorities took control of the Ijtema venue, and the mosque and madrasa next to it.
Meeting the two sides in the evening, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the new schedule of the Ijtema would be fixed after the Dec 30 general election.
They also decided not to organise any gathering on the Ijtema ground before the election.
No-one from the organisation will be allowed on the ground until the election is over, as the administration and law-enforcement agencies will control the area, according to the ministrys spokesman Sharif Mahmud Apu.
The minister also assured the Tabligh of steps to try those responsible for the casualties by identifying them through proper investigation, Sharif said.
A man named Ismail Mandul from Munshiganj was killed in the clashes, said Gazipur Metropolitan Detective Branch Police Inspector AKM Kawsar Chowdhury. The victim had a visible injury on his head.
Over 200 people have been taken to Tongis Shaheed Ahsan Ullah Master General Hospital for treatment since the clashes began around noon, said resident doctor Md Parvez Hossain. Twenty victims were transferred to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
The first phase of Bishaw Ijtema is due to begin in January but has been delayed in the last month over the leadership conflicts between the two factions of Tabligh. The Election Commission has issued an order banning any kind of congregation at Tongi Ijtema field prior to the Dec 30 election, following a petition by the Deoband group.
Despite the ban, the followers of Delhi Markazs leader Moulana Mohammed Saad Kandhalvi had announced a five day long Jor Ijtema and the followers of Deoband leader Moulana Zubayer took up positions around the Tongi field and the nearby areas. As the followers of Saad could not enter the Ijtema area on Friday, they took up positions in the nearby mosques.
The situation intensified when hundreds of Saad followers began to march towards Tongi on Saturday morning.
The situation escalated out of control when those who came to participate in the Jor Ijtema broke into the ijtema site around 11:00 am, said Tongi West Police Station chief Md Kamal Hossain. Both groups became embroiled in a clash with bamboo sticks. Members of both groups were injured as they pelted brickbats at each other.
At one point the Saad followers drove away the their opponents and occupied the field. Later, police took control of the scene. The mayor of Gazipur and police superintendent held a meeting with the leaders of both factions and asked them to leave the site within half an hour.
Police also requested everyone to leave the area.
"We have banned any kind of congregation at the field following the directive of the EC. The law enforcement agencies will control it. Later a fresh date for Ijtema will be announced following discussions with everyone," Gazipur District Commissioner Dewan Mohammed Humayun Kabir told bdnews24.com.
One group of Tabligh Jamaat was stationed at the Tongi Ijtema field, Nabid Kamal Shoibal, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Uttara Zone told bdnews24.com. The other group has been trying to travel to Tongi since this morning, he said.
"The other group has occupied the field for last few days. Children are preventing us from entering the area. They are not allowing the Muslim devotees who came from different parts of the country to go there, creating unrest on the street,” said Tabligh Jamaat Shura member Moulana Syed Wasiful Islam, who is known as a Saad follower.
"There are no children, but adults at the Ijtema field. They are preparing for Ijtema but the Saad followers want to go there today to create unrest," said Tabligh Advisery Committee member Moulana Abdul Quddus, a follower of Moulana Zubayer.
"The Saad followers attacked us in the morning. They were going towards the Ijtema field when our people requested them not to; but they just attacked us and injured at least six people," Mohammed Hanif, a student of Bab Us Salam Madrasa who was among the Zubayer followers standing at the airport intersection told bdnews24.com.
"We were just going to attend the Jor Ijtema but they prevented us. We havent attacked them. We have informed the police. All we want is to join the Jor Ijtema," said Dulal Talukdar, a Saad follower from Barishal
Tabligh Jamaat, the biggest organisation of Sunni Muslims has its centre in Delhi. Grandfather of Moulana Saad, Islamic pundit Iliyas Kandhalvi initiated the reformation movement in the 1920s.
The overall goal of the movement is to disseminate the basic principles of Islam. It does not discuss politics and Fiqah in order to avoid controversy.
After the death of Moulana Iliyas, his son Moulana Mohammed Yusuf and then Moulana Inamul Hasan have served as the Amir of Tabligh Jamaat.
A Shura committee was appointed to run the organisation in place of a single decision maker after the death of Moulana Inamul.
Moulana Saad became the Amir after the death of Moulana Zubayer who was a Shura Committee member and brought back the system of single leadership.
Moulana Zuhayerul Hasan, son of Moulana Zubayer, then came forward to demand new leadership and his supporters have called for a new Shura Committee.
The conflict intensified when Saad refused the demand. The Muslim thinkers were also divided in opinion over the statements by Saad.
The conflict over leadership became severe during the recent Bishaw Ijtema in January, 2018.
Saad who had been directing the Akheri Monajat, or the final prayer, over the last few years was confronted by his opponents. He had to leave Dhaka without participating in the Ijtema in a deal mediated by the government.
The after effects of the conflict continued for the rest of the year among the group at the Bangladesh- Kakrail Mosque. There were clashes between the two groups.
The Saad followers announced Jor Ijtema from Nov 30 to Dec 4 and the first phase of Biswa Ijtema from Jan 11 to 13.
On the other hand, Deoband followers announced Jor Ijtema from Dec 7 to 11 and the first phase of Bisha Ijtema from Jan 18 to 20.
On Nov 16, the government deferred the first phase of Ijtema to avoid the conflict in a meeting led by Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.
It was decided at the meeting that a team of six, with members from both groups, will travel to Deoband in India to decide upon the date of Biswa Ijtema. The new schedule will be announced after both groups reach an agreement.
But Saad followers announced Jor Ijtema on Nov 30 and started preparations. The other group then occupied the entrances to the ijtema site.
The Saad followers then urged the prime minister to intervene on the issue through a press briefing.
The Election Commission has directed law enforcers not to allow any event by Tabligh Jamaat in Tongi prior to the election following a petition from Zubayers followers over concerns of a possible clash.