This year’s Bishwa Ijtema will be held in a single phase from February 15 to 18
Preparations for the 54th Biswa Ijtema—the world’s second-largest congregation of the Muslim community after the holy Hajj—are almost complete on the banks of the Turag River at Tongi in Gazipur; as last-minute arrangements are being arranged.
Although Ijtema used to be divided into two phases—each lasting for three days with a break in the middle—due to recent clashes between two factions of Tabligh Jamaat, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has decided that this year’s Bishwa Ijtema will be held over four days in a single phase from February 15 to 18.
Followers of the Imam (Pesh Imam) of Kakrail Jame Mosque Mawlana Md Jubaeron will participate in Bishwa Ijtema on Friday, February 15, right after the Fajr prayers; and they will conduct their Akheri Munajat on Saturday around noon, on February 16, peacefully leaving the Ijtema field for the followers of its opposing faction.
Following this, on Sunday, February 17—right after the Fajr prayers—Maulana Saad Ahmad (Wasiful Islam) and his followers will take part in the Bishwa Ijtema and conduct their Akheri Munajat on Monday, February 18.
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Engineer Maulana Gias Uddin, senior member of the Bishwa Ijtema organizing committee said: "Tomorrow we will complete all preparations for the 54th Bishwa Ijtema.
"About 20-25 thousand devoted Muslims, divided in different groups, are volunteering for the Ijtema preparations in Tongi."
The reporter, during his visit to the Ijtema grounds, saw thousands of volunteers working to ensure the best facilities for all those who will attend this religious congregation. Members of law enforcement agencies were also seen installing close circuit cameras (CCTV) for additional security.
Bangladesh Army has installed seven temporary floating bridges to ease movement of the hundreds of thousands of devoted Muslims participating in the 54th Bishwa Ijtema.
Additionally, the installation of gas, electricity, and water lines is almost done.
Participation of 60% of Indian Muslims uncertain
Due to visa-processing difficulties, and stricter rules for granting visas, a lot of foreign Muslims will not be able to participate in this year's Bishwa Ijtema.
Engineer Maulana Gias Uddin, senior member of the Bishwa Ijtema organizing committee said: "Different conditions have been imposed for issuing visas to foreign Muslims. It is almost impossible for these people to participate in the Bishwa Ijtema on such a short notice, fulfilling all the visa requirements.
He continued: "Sixty percent of the Indian Muslims who always participate will miss Ijtema this year."
"If the conditions—which have been instated for the foreign Tabligh Jamaat guests who have the opportunity to get on-arrival visas—are relaxed, more devoted Muslims from different countries will be able to participate in Ijtema," he added.
The 10 conditions for this year's Bishwa Ijtema
The conditions for this year's Ijtema—that will have to be maintained and followed by all the Tabligh Jamaat factions involved—are:
1. After Fajr prayer on Friday, February 15, the followers of Maulana Jubayer will begin all official procedures of the Ijtema
2. Followers of Maulana Saad will enter the Ijtema field after the Fajr prayers on Sunday, February 17
3. Followers of Maulana Jubayer will start preparing the Ijtema grounds on Wednesday, February 13
4. Followers of Maulana Jubayer will leave the Ijtema grounds after finishing their Akheri Munajat following the Maghrib prayer on Saturday, February 16
5. The followers of Jubayer will hand over the Ijtema grounds to the followers of Maulana Saad Kandhalvi in the presence of the administration concerned
6. The senior members of the two factions will decide what to do with the equipment used for preparing the Ijtema ground
7. Everything except personal belongings of the participants will remain under the supervision of the local administration
8. Foreign guests who are followers of Maulana Jubayer will stay in the Uttara Haji Camp after their two days at Bishwa Ijtema (February 15-16)
9. As per the decision take by the Ministry of Home Affairs Maulana Saad Kandhalvi will not attend this year's Bishwa Ijtema
10. During the Ijtema, followers of the two factions will stay in the nearby mosques peacefully
Preparations for the 54th Bishwa Ijtema started only 8 days ago
Usually, the arrangements for Bishwa Ijtema and its grounds begin at least three months prior to the actual event.
However, this year—due to the clashes of the two Tabligh Jamaat factions— preparations and arrangements regarding the Bishwa Ijtema started just 8 days before the 54th Bishwa Ijtema is scheduled to take place.
Gazipur Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner (ADC-Media) Ruhul Amin said: "Dog squads, bomb disposal teams, and special strike forces will be involved to ensure airtight security at the Ijtema. CCTV cameras have been installed to bolster security measures."
Addressing the proceedings Gazipur Disrict Commissioner Dr Dewan Md Humayun Kabir said: "More than 10,000 law enforcement members—of the Army, RAB, Police, and Ansar—will share the responsibility of providing safety for the Ijtema participants.
"We have observation towers built around the grounds. We also have constructed 9,000 toilets. A sufficient numbers of showers and ablution sites have been built."
"Bangladesh Railway will run 138 trains for the Ijtema. Three hundred special buses will be provided by BRTC to transport the devotees," he added.