The local administration and police did not take the funeral of Maulana Jubaer Ahmed Ansari seriously, which resulted in a mass gathering of thousands of people attending his namaz-e-janaza in Brahmanbaria's Sarail, on Saturday, amid the countrywide Covid-19 shutdown.
Even police did not have an intelligence report hinting that thousands of people would gather at the funeral of Maulana Jubaer — a nayeb-e-ameer or vice president of the Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish.
When Muslims from nearby regions started pouring in on Saturday, down through the Ashuganj and Bijoynagar upazilas, the police officers-in-charge (OCs) informed the higher authorities. The top officials then asked them to allow the crowd in, said investigators in condition of anonymity.
Thousands of people from different regions flocked to Sarail on Saturday morning to attend the namaz-e-janaza of Maulana Jubaer – completely ignoring government orders to maintain social distancing and self-isolation.
From Jamia Rahmania Madrasa at Bertola village, where the funeral was held, the crowds spilled over to the surrounding areas and at least a few kilometers stretch of Dhaka-Sylhet highway.
The assistant superintendent of police of the Sarail-Ashuganj circle and two other police officers of Sarail Police Station in Brahmanbaria have been withdrawn following the gathering. A probe body, headed by Additional Deputy Inspector General (admin and finance) of Chattogram range Iqbal Hosen, was subsequently formed.
The probe body talked to the locals on Sunday evening.
"We have talked to many who were concerned. The probe aims at extensive investigation. I cannot tell you anything, especially now, as the probe is ongoing," Iqbal Hosen told The Business Standard.
Maulana Jubaer died at his home in Markzpara area of Brahmanbaria, Friday evening. He was 56. The news was announced from mosques and circulated on social media.
Speculation grew over the role of the local administration – why they did not take proper measures even after having adequate time to act.
Recently-withdrawn OC of Sarail Police Station Sahadat Hosen claimed they did not have an intelligence report. The former OC of Sarail said only 20 police officers were at the spot.
"The gathering was too large to tackle. It could not have been controlled even had all the police personnel from all of Brahmanbaria district been deployed. Any resistance would have turned into violence," claimed Sahadat.
He said no one from other government agencies, including the upazila admiration, was at the scene.
"I think I took it too lightly. I considered it as a village elder had died and would be buried as usual. My fault was that I did not know him personally," defended the former Sarail OC.
Meanwhile, Sarail Upazila Nirbahi Officer Abu Saleh Mohammad Musa said he did not have a police report prior to the gathering.
"I came to know hours after the funeral took place. Even then, the information source was not the police," he added.
Brahmanbaria Deputy Commissioner Hayat-Ud-Dwolla Khan Saturday told The Business Standard that the district administration contacted the family members of the deceased leader on Friday evening to urge them not to hold a large funeral.
However, both family members of the deceased and Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish claimed they also did not know that such a big crowd would turn up.
They said the funeral was organized on the smaller madrasa ground so that a large crowd could be averted.
"Even then, the large crowd appeared. We could not tell them to go away," said Khelafat Majlish Brahmanbaria chapter general secretary Maulana Moinul Islam Khondoker.
Brahmanbaria district went under complete lockdown on April 11, following the death of a novel coronavirus patient. As of April 19, ten people have tested positive for the virus.