Thousands of pilgrims reached the banks of the Turag river in Tongi on Thursday on the eve of Bishwa Ijtema.
The annual holy congregation of Muslims is the second largest after Hajj. It will be held in two phases as the large number of devotees cannot be accommodated at one time. The first phase, beginning on Friday, will end with Akheri Munajat on Sunday (January 26). The second phase will be held from January 31-February 2. It will also end with Akheri Munajat. During the four-day interval, devotees will clean and prepare the venue for the second phase. Thousands of devotees from all over the country and abroad have already reached the Ijtema ground and many others are on their way. Although it is going to start after Friday’s Fazre prayers, the highest scholars of Ijtema have started delivering their sermons after Thursday’s Fazre prayers. Their discourses focused on different topics such as “iman”, “akhlakh” and “amol”.
Visiting the Ijtema ground on Thursday, this correspondent found that the authorities had completed preparations to hold Bishwa Ijtema. Volunteers of Bishwa Tablig Jamaat, students from schools, colleges and madrasas and people from all walks of life have helped in the preparations.
A massive pandal with a jute canopy has been erected over 165 acres to accommodate pilgrims. The ground has been marked with lines so that people offering namaz can arrange themselves between them conveniently.
Md Gias Uddin, a “murubbi” (decision maker), told The Independent: “All preparations are complete. This year, we managed to make the huge pandal with jute canopy. We have also installed facilities such as gas and power supply, ambulance services and phone connections on the north-west side of the venue for foreign devotees.”
Another murubbi, Mahfuzur Rahman, said tin-roofed rooms with modern facilities were set up for the convenience of pilgrims from abroad. A medical team was also set up for free treatment and ambulances will be on standby. There were facilities to prepare food for foreign guests according to their needs. He also said that the number of foreign devotees may increase this year. “More than 30,000 foreign devotees from 130 countries are expected to arrive for Ijtema this year,” he added. The administration has taken adequate measures to maintain law and order. The district administration, police and RAB have set up separate control rooms. SP (Gazipur) Abdul Baten said CCTV cameras were installed at different points of the venue. The SP added that around 10,000 personnel of law enforcement agencies were deployed in the area and they will continue to man the area till February 3.
RAB has divided the total Ijtema ground into five sectors. The venue stretches from Tongi Bridge to Joydebpur chowrasta, Monnogate to Kamarpara and the Turag. An additional superintendent of police will be deployed in each of the sectors to monitor security.
RAB sources said all the entrances were furnished with metal detectors and CCTV cameras. The other security measures by RAB include two control rooms, 50 observation towers at different points of the venue and round-the-clock patrolling of the Turag. RAB has also deployed one of its helicopters from Wednesday. A security official said: “All activities on the Ijtema ground will be observed through CCTV cameras. These would be monitored by 30 controllers.”
He added that the number of RAB personnel deployed for the annual pilgrimage was more than that in the previous year. Security men in plainclothes will stay at each “khitta” along with the devotees. A bomb disposal unit will be present at the venue.
The Gazipur district administration will conduct mobile courts in the area to ensure law and order situation and also monitor the hotels and restaurants of the area. As many as five such courts have already started operating from Wednesday. Executive magistrates of Mymensingh, Mohammed Saiful Islam Bhuiyan, Saiful Islam Mojumder, Mosaddek Mehedi Imam and executive magistrates of Narsingdi, Mehedi Hasan and Mahbubul Karim, were conducting the drives. In addition, 11 magistrates were appointed to help law enforcers in the district administration’s control room set up in front of Munnu Textiles gate. They will be on duty till February 3.
More than 50 free medical camps have been set up in the area around the Ijtema venue. Gazipur civil surgeon Dr Mohammed Shah Alam Sharif said leaves of all doctors, officials and staff of the district’s health division were cancelled from January 22 to February 3. A total of 50 beds were added to the Tongi Hospital, which will provide full range of services to the pilgrims.
He also said that it was mandatory to have at least one MBBS doctor at every free medical camp set up by private companies and other organisations. He said: “The private medical camps were only given permission for providing free services to devotees. They can neither indulge in commercial activities nor can they distribute leaflets or display any signboard in the camp.”
The civil surgeon added that a number of cardiac, burns, asthma and trauma units were set up at the Tongi Hospital to ensure health care for devotees. A 250-member medical team was working round the clock. He said 14 ambulances will be kept ready at the Tongi Hospital for carrying sick devotees to hospitals in Dhaka.
Apart from the existing 11 deep tube-wells, the Public Health Engineering Department and the Army have taken measures to ensure uninterrupted water supply for the devotees. Director of Water Project of Tongi Town, Mohammed Moniruzzaman, said the ground will be supplied with 30 million litres of pure water through 11 deep bore-wells for ablution, showers and toilets. There are almost 4,000 toilets in the five buildings there.
The army has set up eight pontoon bridges on the Turag near the Ijtema site. They were opened to devotees from Thursday.
DESCO has taken steps to supply uninterrupted power to the venue, chief engineer Noor Mohmmad said. Electricity at the venue will be supplied through five 11 KV feeders from Uttara, Tongi Super Grid and Tongi New Grid. Besides, there will be four standby generators and five trolley-mounted transformers.
Fire services have also taken steps to prevent any unwanted incident. A total of 200 fire fighters will be on duty at the venue. Aktaruzzaman, deputy assistant director of Gazipur fire service, said three water carriers, one standby light unit and three ambulances will be kept at the foreign shade and godown areas at the venue.
The Bangladesh Railway has arranged for 22 special trains and all inter-city trains will stop at Tongi station. Moreover, special trains will run on the days of Akheri Munajat. The BRTC will also ply 100 buses and the BIWTC will operate special shuttle launches from Sadarghat in Dhaka to the Ijtema venue.
For the convenience of domestic devotees, the total Ijtema ground has been divided into 40 “khittas” (sections) for the first phase and 38 for the second phase. The main dais has been set up on the western corner of the Ijtema ground where renowned Islamic scholars from India, Pakistan, Iran and Arab countries would deliver sermons.
Organisers expect a turnout of 50 lakh devotees at Akheri Munajat as the weather this time is favourable . The President, Prime Minister and the Opposition leader are likely to come for Akheri Munajat. As in previous years, various programmes, including marriage without dowry and enlisting names for “chilla” (going to “Tablig” for 40 days), have also been taken. Sermons will be delivered after Fazr, Zohrm Asr and Magrib prayers on all days of the grand assembly.
Maulana Hazrat Ilias, born at Jhanja in India in 1903, started this second largest global congregation of Muslims in 1944 by arranging a workshop with Muslims in the Maua area. This was the genesis of the Tablig Jamaat. During the lifetime of Maulana Ilias, the biggest Ijtema was held at a place called Nuh. With the passage of time, the concept of Ijtema has spread all over the world.
In what is now Bangladesh, the first Ijtema was held at Kakrial Mosque in Dhaka in 1946. This was followed by a congregation at the Chittagong Hajji camp in 1958, then at Siddirgonj in Narayanganj district. Since 1965, the Bishwa Ijtema has been held at Tongi.
Courtesy of The Independent