The first phase of the 53rd Bishwa Ijtema, a congregation organised by Tabligh Jamaat, began on the bank of the River Turag at Tongi in Gazipur on Friday.
The three-day event began after the fazr prayers with the sermon by Maulana Sayed Omar Khatib of Jordan amid tight security.
Senior Tabligh leader Maulana Saad Kandhalvi from Delhi, who had delivered
the beginning sermon and led the concluding prayers, known as akheri munajat, for last few years, did not attend Ijtema on the first day against the backdrop of protests by followers of a section of Tabligh Jamaat shura members.
Organisers said that 3,919 overseas devotees from 79 countries and hundreds of thousands of devotees from 14 districts of the country joined the first phase scheduled to end on Sunday.
A number of senior leaders of Tabligh said that Kakrail mosque imam Hafez Maulana Mohammad Zubayer is supposed to conduct the concluding prayers as he conducted the jumma prayers on Friday.
A senior Tabligh leader, Gias Uddin, said high ups of the organisation continued dialogue between the conflicting groups so that Maulana Saad could participate in the event.
Earlier, there had been a hiccup over Saad joining Ijtema this year as two groups of the Tabligh engaged in a conflict over the issue.
Later, home minister Asaduzzman Khan met with almost all of the shura members of Tabligh and said both the groups decided that Saad would leave the country at a suitable time and would not join Ijtema.
Gazipur police super Harun Ur Rashid confirmed that the ijtema ground and its adjacent areas had been brought under CCTV surveillance to ensure security. ‘A total of 7,000 police personnel will ensure five-tier security for the devotees.’
Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Bangladesh Railway and Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation are offering separate and special services for the devotees during Ijtema.
The second phase of the congregation will be held between January 19 and January 21.
Police said two devotees Quazi Azizul Haq, 65, and Abdul Mamun Mona, 33 died on Thursday at the Ijtema venue.
Mohammad Feroz Talukder, officer-in-charge of Tongi Model Police Station, said Azizul died of respiratory complications while Mona was killed in a road accident.
The venue turned into a human sea during jumma prayers when people from adjoining areas rushed there to attend the prayers.
Due to shortage of accommodation, many devotees failed to perform the jumma prayers while some sat on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway halting traffic.
Liberation war affairs minister AKM Mozammel Haque, local lawmaker Zahid Ahsan Russel and other officials joined the prayers.
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