For many of the Qawmi madrasa students who came to the capital on Sunday to attend a rally at the Suhrawardy Udyan, it was their first visit to Dhaka University. Some took a tour of the university, taking selfies and photos at the alters of the Swoparjito Swadhinata and Raju Bhaskarja sculptures.
The madrasa students began arriving on buses from different parts of Bangladesh to join the thanksgiving rally organised to commemorate the governments recognition of the highest certification offered by Qawmi madrasas as equivalent to postgraduate degrees.
They walked through the Dhaka University campus to the Udyan after getting off the buses at Azimpur or Motijheel.
“Its TSC! Its indeed Dhaka Universitys TSC! Lets take a look!” one of them was heard telling a peer in front of the Teacher-Student Centre.
Many of the madrasa students got some rest inside the TSC before the rally started. They also buzzed the cafeteria.
One of them, Mohiuddin from Feni, told bdnews24.com: “Ive never been to Dhaka University areas. Ive heard from many that people use to hang out at the TSC.”
Maulana Abul Kalam, who is also from Feni, said he had visited the university and the TSC earlier, but came now to have breakfast and some rest before joining the rally.
The crowds of madrasa students in and around the TSC did not end even after the rally.
Their presence on the campus also drew attention of the university teachers and students.
Like many other movements, such as those for Bangladeshs independence from Pakistan and restoration of democracy, the Ganajagaran Mancha was launched with the university and Shahbagh as the centre.
After the Mancha was formed to demand capital punishment of war criminals in 2013, Qawmi madrasa-based organisation Hifazat-e Islam described the platform as “a group of atheists”.
Hifazat made global media headlines when its members rampaged through Dhakas commercial hub Motijheel after a sit-in against government policies, especially on religion, education and women, in May that year.
In the face of Hifazats pressure, the authorities removed a Lady Justice statue from the Supreme Court premises last year.
Later, the government accorded the Dawrah-e-Hadith certificate, which the Qawmi madrasas confers on pupils with the fundamentals of Darul Uloom Deoband as the basis, the status of Masters degree (Islamic Studies and Arabic).
Al-Haiatul Ulya Lil-Jamiatil Qawmia Bangladesh, the agency consisting the six Qawmi education boards, organised the rally at the Udyan to celebrate the recognition of the degree.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the rally as chief guest while Hifazat chief Shah Ahmed Shafi presided over it.