A man was killed and more than 200 were injured as two factions of Tabligh Jamaat picked a fierce fight in and around ijtema ground at Tongi in Gazipur on Saturday over establishing control of the ground.
The clashes came only two days after Election Commission on Thursday warned that there might be severe deterioration in law and order over Ijtema and asked the authorities concerned to take immediate action.
This was the first ever incident of fatal clashes over preparatory activities, known as ‘jor ijtema’, for holding ijtema.
Followers of Tabligh Jamaat leader Maulana Saad Kandalavi of Nizamuddin centre of Delhi in India and followers of another leader Moulana Jubair Hassan of Kakrail centre in Dhaka clashed in the sequel to a longstanding dispute regarding leadership of the organisation.
The deceased, Islmail Hossain Mandal, 70, of village Miliapara in Munshiganj, a follower of Maulana Saad, came to the venue with his son, Tongi East Police Station officer-in-charge Kamal Hossain told New Age.
Of the injured, over 100 were given treatment at Shaheed Ahsanullah Master General Hospital in Tongi and the rest were taken to nearby private clinics, officials at the hospital said.
Police, locals and devotees said that Saad’s followers announced that they would do the preparatory works between November 30 and December 4 while Jubair’s followers declared that they would do it between December 7 and December 5.
Hundreds of Jubair’s followers took position on Ijtema ground since Wednesday, they said.
The clash broke out about 11:00am when Saad’s followers, carrying sticks and brickbats, gathered outside the ground and both the groups hurled brickbats at each other, they said.
At one point, hundreds of Saad’s supporters stormed the main gate of the Ijtema ground and entered the venue, triggering a fierce clash. Several cars and motorcycles parked inside the ground were vandalised.
The clashes spread to the nearby areas, including Abdullahpur, and the whole area turned into a battlefield, they said, adding that passers-by, locals and traders ran for cover.
Traffic on Dhaka-Mymensingh came to a standstill, they said, adding that traffic resumed about 1:15pm, when police intervened to control the situation.
During the clashes, Ismail died on the spot as he was beaten and injured with brickbats, they said, adding that scores of followers of both the groups were injured.
Tongi West Police Station officer-in-charge Md Emdadul Huq told New Age that a huge number of police and Rapid Action Battalion members were deployed in the area since early morning but the situation went beyond control when the devotees staying outside the Ijtema ground broke open the main gate and rushed into it.
He said that over 200 devotees were injured in the clashes and additional police forces brought the situation under control.
The OC said that the law enforcement agencies cleared the Ijtema ground by evening.
A senior Tabligh Jamaat leader, Syed Wasiful Islam, also a follower of Maulana Saad, said that like previous years they announced that they would hold ‘Jor Ijtema’ between November 30 and December 4, but when the devotees came to the ground on November 30, Jubair’s followers, armed with sticks and brickbats, barred them from entering the ground.
He alleged that Jubair’s followers attacked them, leaving a devotee killed and hundreds injured.
Another senior Tabligh Jamaat leader Md Mahfuz, follower of Maulana Jubair, told New Age that they had announced that they would arrange the event between December 7 and December 11.
As tension grew, the home ministry requested both the groups to suspend their programme and the groups accepted the proposal and assured the government that there would be no trouble, he said.
Even after that, Saad’s followers breached their assurance and tried to hold ‘Jor Ijtema’, he alleged, and blamed Saad’s followers for the attack.
Gazipur Metropolitan Police traffic south zone assistant commissioner Thoai Aung Pru Marma said that the clashes halted traffic and caused severe traffic jam.
He said that traffic resumed towards 1:15pm.
Earlier on the day, Jubair’s supporters took position on Airport Road near Shahjalal International Airport intersection about 11:00am and held demonstration. They later at the direction of their senior leaders ended the demonstration about 3:45pm.
Severe traffic Jam occurred in the area for hours.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Uttara zone deputy commissioner Nabid Kamal Shaibal told New Age that the clashes halted traffic on Airport Road and police brought the situation under control.
Md Parvez Hossain, resident medical officer of Shaheed Ahsan Ullah Master General Hospital, told New Age that they had given treatment to over 100 devotees and they sent 41 of them to Dhaka for better treatment.
After the clashes, a meeting was held at the home ministry with leaders of both the groups, senior officials of law enforcement agencies and senior ministry officials.
After the meeting, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters that the meeting decided to keep the activities of Tabligh Jamaat suspended across the country until the 11th parliamentary elections scheduled for December 30.
Until then, he said, the gathering on Ijtema premises would remain suspended and local administration would guard the venue.
He said that a probe committee would be formed and that a criminal case would be filed in this connection.
On November 15, in a meeting at the ministry, a decision was made to defer the upcoming three-day Bishwa Ijtema, the second largest congregation of Muslims after Hajj. The congregation was scheduled to begin on January 11, 2019.
The date, however, of them not fixed in the meeting and home minister Asaduzzaman Khan on November 15 night had told New Age that the Tabligh leaders would meet
at their Deoband headquarters in India to fix the new date.
Election Commission, in a letter signed by its joint-secretary Farhad Ahammad Khan, sent to Gazipur Metropolitan Police commissioner, Gazipur deputy commissioner and superintendent of police on November 29, called for immediate action in this connection and not allowing any such type of activities until the elections.
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