Ijtema cut short for inclement weather | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 26, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 26, 2008

Ijtema cut short for inclement weather

3 die: Akheri Munajat held on opening day

Devotees at the Biswa Ijtema site use plastic sheets to take cover during the drizzle. Inclement weather and poor ground conditions led to the congregation's abrupt end last night.Photo: Anisur Rahman

In an unprecedented incident, the three-day Biswa Ijtema, ostensibly the second largest yearly congregation of the Muslims, on the bank of Turag River at Tongi was cut short on its inaugural day yesterday due to an inclement weather that had caused deaths of at least three pilgrims.
The akheri munajat or the concluding prayers of this year's ijtema started at 7:55pm ending at 8:15pm yesterday instead of its schedule tomorrow.
Talking to The Daily Star, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Nur Mohammad confirmed that the authorities took the decision considering the sufferings of several lakh pilgrims in a bitter cold weather.
The three elderly pilgrims died yesterday and on Thursday night due to the cold wave that has been sweeping through the country. The deceased are Ali Ashraf, 55, from Bogra, and Raqibuddin, 70 and Giasuddin, 80 from Pabna.
Assistant Super of Police (ASP) of Gazipur Circle said, “The three pilgrims died due to the cold wave, their old age might also have contributed to the loss."
"Their namaz-e-janaza was held on the ijtema ground, and the bodies have been kept in Gazipur Hospital”, he added.
Commander SMAK Azad, director of the Legal and Media Wing of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), said the decision to cut short this year's ijtema had been taken by the event's organising committee, which was then okayed by the Gazipur deputy commissioner.
He said, "As far as I know, this is the first time the ijtema has been cut short ending it on the inaugural day."
He also said after the akheri munajat, several lakh pilgrims started leaving the ijtema ground heading home, soon to be gripped by panic as there was not enough transport to absorb the rush.
Many of them, however, decided to stay on the ground for the night despite its terrible condition.
Earlier, defying the bitter cold wave accompanied by a daylong drizzle, about two million people from across the country and abroad joined the jum'a prayer.
But, after the jum'a prayer, many of them were forced by the terrible weather to leave the ground.
The tents could not save them from the relentless drizzle that had started Thursday morning. The situation became worse as the entire 5 square kilometre ijtema ground turned muddy.
The tents and mats were damaged in the rain forcing the pilgrims to collect more mats, while many of them collected polythene as an alternative since they were more cost effective. Some pilgrims were seen collecting sand from adjacent areas to spread over the muddy ground.
Most of the pilgrims could not reach their specific zones of stay on the ground due to stagnated water on the ground and muddy soil.
Many elderly pilgrims had to take shelter in various mosques and other places adjacent to the ijtema ground.
Kakrail Mosque Khatib also Sura Committee Member of Tablig Jamaat Moulana Zobayer led the jum'a prayer.
Not finding any space on the ijtema ground to pray, many were seen offering the jum'a prayer on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway. Traffic on Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Gazipur highways were brought to a grinding halt for an hour during the prayer.
According to official sources, 5,636 foreign Muslims from 56 countries joined the event till 4.00pm yesterday, 1,949 of whom spoke Arabic, 2,200 spoke Urdu and Hindi, 1,430 spoke English, and 57 spoke Chinese. Sermons of Muslim scholars were translated into 16 languages.
The foreign pilgrims were staying in two camps designated for them at the northern end of the ijtema ground. Sources said more foreign pilgrims were on their way.
Many women and elderly pilgrims were also participating in the ijtema staying with their relatives in Tongi and Uttara.
Meanwhile, law enforcers arrested 75 pickpockets yesterday and on Thursday from the ijtema ground.
About 12,000 security personnel from police, Rab, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), Armed Police Battalion (APBn), and Ansar were deployed to ensure security.
A few hundred members of various intelligence agencies, Bomb disposal units from the army and Rab, and several mobile courts were also in operation there.

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