On April 1, four people have been reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 in Assam. On March 31, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands reported 10 positive cases of the novel coronavirus.
On March 30, Telangana had reported six deaths due to COVID-19. Before these reportings, on March 26, a businessman died in Srinagar after battling with a disease for a prolonged period.
Unfortunately, there are two things peculiar about the incidents. First, all the reported individuals have either tested positive or died due to coronavirus.
Secondly, all the victims had recently attended a religious gathering organised by Tablighi Jamaat, at their six-storey building in South Delhi's Nizamuddin area.
What is Tablighi Jamaat?
Tablighi Jamaat is an Islamic religious reform movement. The organisation consists of Muslim pilgrims who are trained missionaries and have dedicated a substantial part of their lives to spreading Islam across the world.
The apolitical group was founded by Muhammed Ilyas al-Kandhlawi during the period of undivided India, with an aim of spiritual reformation of Islam.
Reportedly, Tablighi Jamaat neither has formal organisational structure nor does it details about the scope of its activities, its membership, or its finances.
However, it attracts devotees from several countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Kyrgyzstan.
The Tablighi Jamaat operates from its headquarters in Delhi's Nizamuddin area which has Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid and a six-storeyed building where it can accommodate 2000 people.
What happened at Tablighi Jamaat Meet?
According to the reports, devout Muslims from across India and foreign countries visit the Markaz for religious purpose. And then they head to Muslim majority areas of the country for preaching their beliefs.
This process takes place throughout the year.
At a time when the world was trying to contain the coronavirus outbreak, over 2500 members of the Jammat gathered at the Nizamuddin Markaz between March 10 and 15.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had informed that on March 21, about 1746 individuals stayed in the headquarters of which 216 were foreigners. Another 824 foreigners were spread across the country to carry out the designated activities of the organisation and the Ministry had informed the state authorities to track and quarantine them.
On March 28, the state police were instructed to collect the names of Indian Tabligh workers and to get them tested, if necessary to quarantine them. The reports suggest that about 2137 people have been identified and are being medically examined, in different states.
Who is to be blamed?
The Tablighi Jammat congregation was scheduled during a time when the Central and Delhi government was monitoring the coronavirus situation and was yet to announce strict measures.
It should be noted that the foreign members of the Jammat had travelled at a time when travel restrictions had not been put in place, but screening on arrival was actively conducted across the country.
On March 16, the Delhi government had banned all gatherings of more than 50 people in the national capital, despite the announcement, the meet took place.
More than 2000 people were evacuated from the area after the news broke.
A case was, however, lodged on March 31 by Crime Branch of Delhi Police against Maulana Saad and other members for violating the government orders on restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak.
Brief Timeline Of Events
Timeline Of Events
March 13: Around 3400 Tablighi Jamaat members gather at the Nizamuddin Markaz, a scheduled congregation.
March 16: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announces that no religious, social, political gatherings exempting marriages, of more than 50 people are allowed in Delhi till March 31.
March 20: Ten Indonesians who attended the gathering test COVID-19 positive in Telangana.
March 22: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Janta Curfew is observed across the nation
March 23: 1500 people vacate the Markaz.
March 24: PM Modi announces 21-day lockdown from midnight on March 25. Public gatherings, any kind of non-essential movement outside residences is strictly prohibited.
March 24: Nizamuddin Police asks remaining people at the Markaz to vacate the premises.
March 25: Around 1000 people are still accommodated in the area. A medical team visits the Markaz and suspected cases are isolated in a hall within the building. Reportedly, Jamaat authorities had asked for permission to vacate the premises.
March 26: An Indian preacher who attended the gathering in Delhi also tests positive for coronavirus and dies in Srinagar later.
March 26: SDM visits the Markaz and calls the Jamaat officials for a meeting with the District Magistrate.
March 27: Six coronavirus suspects are taken away from the Markaz for a medical checkup and are later put in a quarantine facility in Jhajjar, Haryana.
March 28: A World Health Organisation (WHO) team along with the SDM visit the Markaz. 33 people who were taken for medical checkup are isolated at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital in Delhi.
March 28: ACP, Lajpat Nagar, sends a notice to the Markaz to vacate immediately.
March 28: Police and health authorities start taking out people from the Markaz and send them to hospitals and quarantine facilities.
However, Markaz authorities said they had informed the Delhi Police and Delhi government about the people staying inside their premises. But no timely response was received.
Tablighi Jamaat Meet In Kuala Lumpur
The organisation held a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia between February 27 and March 1.
According to the media reports, it has been linked to the spreading of COVID-19 to around 600 people.
Targeting Of A Community During Pandemic?
Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi called the congregation a "Taliban crime", reported Hindustan Times. Videos, images and tweets shared on social media explicitly pointed the anger towards the community.
Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir tweeted that "Now the Tablighi Jamat will become a convenient excuse for some to vilify Muslims everywhere as if we created and spread COVID around the world."
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