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Fight virus not Muslims, plead Indian Muslim leaders

Tablighi Jamaat headquarters in Indian capital Delhi sealed for arranging congregation amid lockdown

Cheena Kapoor   | 01.04.2020
Fight virus not Muslims, plead Indian Muslim leaders File Photo


Indian Muslim organizations and leaders on Tuesday took strong exception to the attempts being made by certain sections to squarely blame the Tablighi Jamaat and its members for accentuating the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic crises in the country.

They said that demonizing the Tablighi Jamaat -- an apolitical organization spreading elementary Islamic knowledge among Muslims – is a clear ploy to divert attention from the government’s systemic failures and the migrant workers' crisis.

Earlier the government sealed the six-storey headquarters of the group, located in the heart of the Indian capital New Delhi. Officials said that they have launched a manhunt all over the country to locate the people, who had attended a congregation from March 13-15 at its headquarters in Nizamudin locality, now being flagged a coronavirus hotspot.

The capital's administration said that at least 24 people who had attended the gathering have tested positive.

The jamaat, however, said that they had followed every government direction and discontinued its programs soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced public curfew on March 22. It said that people had got stuck in the mosque because of sudden lockdown announced by the government.

"We have a headquarter here for over the past 100 years, where worshippers/visitors come from across the world. When PM Modi announced public curfew on March 22, the ongoing programs were discontinued immediately. But due to sudden cancellation of rail and transport services, a large group of people got stuck at the premises," the group said in a statement.

It added that since the one-day civil curfew was followed by a 21-day lockdown only the next day, there was no mode of transport available for the people to return to their homes.

They had no option, but to stay back at the headquarters, known as Markaz or Banglawali Mosque. The Ameer of Jamaat Maulana Saad had even written a letter to the magistrate to arrange transportation for the eviction of people and even offered the building to be used as a quarantine facility.

- Blame game

Fresh from riots in Delhi, the blame game has led to fresh bouts of communal hatred on social media.

"While it is irresponsible on the part of the Jamaat to allow such a large gathering, knowing that COVID-19 had already entered the country, I also see this as a failure on the part of the authorities," Zafarul Islam Khan, the chairman of the Delhi Minority Commission, told Anadolu Agency.

He said it smacks vindictive to blame the Muslim group when Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath supervised a function at the city of Ayodhya.

"Targeting the Tablighi Jamaat and ignoring the bigger and more irresponsible gatherings amounts to playing dirty politics and communal polarization," said Jamaat-e-Islami Hind President Syed Sadatullah Hussaini. He said the country must unitedly fight the pandemic.

On the same day when Tablighi Jamaat was holding a congregation, the government had claimed that coronavirus was not a medical emergency. Even the parliament continued its sittings till March 24.

According to the Delhi Health Department, some 2,361 people have been evicted from Tablighi headquarters till Wednesday. Of these, 617 have been admitted to various government-run hospitals, and the rest have been quarantined.

A health official, on the condition of anonymity, said that six people who died in the southern state of Telangana had stayed in the mosque early last month. The Delhi government has also asked police to file a criminal case against the group for not following social distancing guidelines.

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