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A 60 member Tablighi Jamaat volunteer team under the Tirupati United Muslim Association has been conducting funerals of COVID-19 victims for the past month. "Last year, many blamed some of us for the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, everyone appreciates us," JMD Gouse told The News Minute. An active member of the Tablighi Jamaat, he founded the COVID-19 Joint Action Committee (JAC) following the pandemic in 2020 to address people's issues, including the virus. All the volunteers are auto drivers, workers in restaurants that have closed now and daily wage workers.
Several families are hesitant to conduct funerals, fearing infection and funeral rites for orphans and destitute people remain undone. Gouse works with his 60-volunteer team to carry out a dignified funeral for victims based on the requests he receives on the phone. The members are divided into teams of three; every funeral is conducted according to the religion of the deceased. They arrange for PPE kits with contributions from people in Tablighi Jamaat. "If the victim is a Hindu, we put a cloth and flower garland; if they are Christian, we put the body in a coffin and call up a Church father to arrange a prayer; and if they are a Muslim, we hold a Janaze ki Namaz (rituals)," Gouse explained.
So far, the members have conducted funerals for 536 people, while 134 were conducted during the first wave, 402 were conducted during the second wave. In the first wave, Gouse said most people who died of COVID were older adults, but now even youngsters are getting affected.
When asked about the hate against the Tablighi Jamaat volunteers last year, Gouse said, "Now things have changed. People have understood things. I hope we will come out of this situation with brotherhood and compassion."
Recently Tirupati MLA Bhuma Karunakar Reddy also joined the JAC. The MLA appreciated the work done by the JAC
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