Super-Spreader Tablighi Jamaat - A Result of Appeasement politics

    03-Apr-2020
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The Tablighi Jamaat Markaz not only became a super-spreader of the deadly Coronvirus but has also violated several Indian laws. The militant Tablighis have also defied the lockdown and are mocking the government efforts to contain the pandemic.
- Santosh AS
 
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Just when we thought that the nationwide lockdown is paying dividends and we as a nation may succeed in limiting the spread of the deadly Chinese virus, we are served with the horrifying news of Tablighi Jamaat Markaz at Nizamuddin event in Delhi becoming major hub for Covid-19 infection. In a single day on Tuesday 31 March the number of positive Covid-19 cases surged from around 300 to over 1000 cases in India. A deadly blow to India’s fight against the pandemic gifted to world by China.
 
At Nizamuddin Markaz, the gathering of over 4000 Muslims from all across the country and abroad from first week of March till lockdown was announced which was nothing short of defying and literally mocking the Indian laws and its precautionary measures to insulate citizens from the global pandemic.
 
Chain of Events leading to Nizamuddin Markaz
 
Before the commencement of the mega annual gathering at Delhi, several regional gatherings were successfully completed in the last twelve months at places such as Bagalkot, Bhopal, Amravathi, Mewa. Two big gatherings were planned in Malaysia and Indonesia. The Malaysian event was completed successfully and was attended by Tablighi Jamaat leaders from India.
 
From the Mediterranean sea coast to Indonesia, passing through Pakistan, India, Bangladesh,Thailand and Malaysia, this organisation has became a key link in spreading the deadly virus. The leader of the Jamat Asif Ashraf Jalali boasted that even if a single coronavirus related cases were to be detected amongst the participants, he should be hanged.
 
From 15th to 17th, Andhra Pradesh “Jod” meeting was held with more than 1,000 participants. Earlier, the Tamil Nadu and Telangana members of the Jamaat had completed their meeting at the Banglawale Masjid, the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamat. By 15th March, the Indian Tablighi Jamaat were aware of Coronavirus related death of persons who attended the Malaysian Tablighi Jamaat. Yet organisers did not take any steps to stop further gathering of persons from all over India and abroad.
 
Despite being fully aware of their Jamat’s gatherings becoming breeding ground for deadly virus, Delhi’s Tablighi Jamat leaders refused to co-operate with officials in following directions given by Delhi state/ Central governments from time to time. They were summoned by police officials and served notices about various laws/directives being violated by them. The entire meeting was video recorded (as per ANI news agency) and is in wide circulation in social media.
 
In fact, the Tablighi Jamat building was having around 2,000 persons inside at the time of announcement of lockdown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They continued their defiant attitude till matters became worse couple of days ago when Carona virus started spreading fast amongst the inmates of the Jamaat.
 
Tablighi Jamaat, the organisers of Markaz continued to hold the Islamic religious congregation as per their pre-planned schedule. The attendees included foreign and local Indian Muslims. But the sudden decision of 21 days lockdown by central government on March 24 following the voluntarily Janata Curfew was a sudden blow to them and prevented them from winding up their annual Islamic activity shrouded in mystery.
 
When ordinary citizens were bracing up for the lockdown, the news of presence of Indonesian Muslims as well as from Central Asian countries and they being deliberately hidden in mosques in Telangana, Tamilnadu, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka and Andaman and Nicobar islands was closely followed and monitored.
 
Violation of Indian Laws
 
The organiser provoked the attendees to defy the Indian law. In a leaked audio clip, the organiser of the Markaz appeals to his fellow Muslims to gather at the Mosques and continue to carry out their agenda inspite of govt orders.
 
Let us examine what Indian laws these organisers violated. 
 
- Defying Delhi government orders on implementation of Epidemic Diseases Act:  
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The regulations issued by Delhi government were violated by Tablighi Jamaat organisers
 
Delhi government directive banned all gatherings till 31st March. Yet the organisers continued to house its members within its building.
 

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Violation of Indian Visa Norms
 
The Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India have in its circular No. No.25022/82/96-F.I dated 10.4.1996 to the Home Secretaries of all State Governments and Union Territory Administrations has clearly stated that a foreigner on a tourist visa cannot indulge in religious activities.
 
Many people were of the opinion that to participate in evangelical activities in India foreigners should hold a Missionary Visa. While giving clarification to this, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in its reply to our RTI Application dated April 8, 2011, vide reference no RTI/18/201/F.1 clarified that Indian Government shall not issue visas to foreigners who desire to come to India to participate in religious activities. It also indicates much-needed clarity on Missionary Visa and its definition of Missionary Work.
 
In its reply, the government said Missionary Visas are issued only to the people who desire to come to India to participate in service activities without the involvement of religion. It also explicitly mentioned that the foreign missionaries should not work at Tribal/Agency areas, Jammu & Kashmir, North-East states except Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland and in the areas affected by militancy, terrorism and extremism.
 
In addition to the above, Union Ministry of Home Affairs in its official website clearly stated that Foreigners are strictly prohibited from involving Religious/Tabligh activities in India on any type of visa. 
 
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Ministry of Home Affairs clearly states that Foreigners are strictly prohibited from involving Religious/Tabligh activities (Source: https://mha.gov.in/PDF_Other/AnnexI_01022018.pdf)
 
 The website further announced that heavy penalty will be imposed on foreigners who violates above rule and participate Tabligh activities in India. 
 

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Ministry of Home Affairs also states that the owners can be punished if information on foreigners is withheld (Source: https://indianfrro.gov.in/eservices/Financial_Penalty.pdf)
 
As per the section 7(1) of the Foreigners Act 1946, - “If the information about the participation of foreigners in the Tabligh Jamaat at Nizamuddin is withheld, then it is a deliberate violation of the section 7(1) of the Foreigners Act, 1946 which states as follows:
 
“--It shall be the duty of the keeper of any premises whether furnished or unfurnished where lodging or sleeping accommodation is provided for reward, to submit to such person and in such manner such information in respect of foreigners accommodated in such premises, as may be prescribed.” – But it is known fact that the organisers of the event didn’t inform the presence of Foreign participants in the event.
 
 The organiser provoked the attendees to defy the Indian law. We have come across an audio of the organisers who appealed to his fellow Muslims to gather at the Mosques and continue to carry out their agenda inspite of govt orders. Republic TV reported that the organisers of the Markaz deliberately wanted its members to defy the lockdown.
 
They also Failed to intimate the health officials when they started showing symptoms of Cronavirus. Once the first case emerged from Telangana linked to Malaysian Muslims, the Central govt has informed to all states about the Nizamuddin Markaz that could pose as challenge in coming days as early as March 24.
 
It is acknowledged notion in India today that breaking the law by Muslims is portrayed and tagged under ‘Dissent’ , ‘Freedom of Expression’, ‘Secularism’, ‘Rights of Muslims’, et. el.
 
Civic Responsibility need of the hour
 
What an ordinary citizen can do to protect himself, family and society. Find the Masjid Permissions enquiry, informing the local authorities about irregularities.
 
Civic responsibility, intelligence gathering and executing the state decisions are critical and lifeline of the country to sail in any crisis, as these will shape and reveal in which direction the society is heading.
 
(The author is the President of Legal Rights Protection Forum)