Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Tracing underground Jamaat members has become a huge challenge

AKB2610People of india have supported prime minister Narendra Modi’s decision to extend the lock down till May 3rd. He made it very clear that this time police will be tough with those who violate the lockdown. It was much needed. I will explain why. The number of Coronavirus cases in India has crossed the 10,000 mark. There are clear indications that the worst is yet to come. The effect of the scourge could have been less were it not for the Tablighi Jamaat gathering at Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz, from where Jamaat workers fanned out to the length and breadth of India, spreading the virus.

Figures show that more than 30 per cent of Corona cases in Uttar Pradesh are related to Jamaat. If you add the number of those who came in contact with them, the percentage comes to more than 55. In Maharashtra too, most of the cases relate to Jamaat. The first death in Dharavi slum was of a person who came in contact with a Tablighi Jamaat worker. Similar reports have come from Indore, Tamilnadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In Delhi 356 corona positive cases were reported in last 24 hours, out of which 325 were related to Tablighi Jamaat.

According to Delhi Police Crime Branch, nearly 6,000 Tablighi Jamaat workers are missing and are yet to be traced. Many of them could be potential carriers of the dreaded virus. Crime Branch officials say, from March 13 to 15, nearly 9,000 people assembled at the Markaz gathering. Since March 28, 3,193 Jamaat workers have been accounted for and the rest are missing.

In Delhi alone, police nabbed nearly 900 workers from mosques and other places. Police officials say, underground workers of the Jamaat may now be hiding with families, and it will be a very difficult task to trace them, as they have switched off their cellphones.

Facts show that out of 3,193 Jamaat workers traced so far, 765 have been found positive and the remaining have been kept at quarantine centres. Out of the 185 Jamaat workers caught hiding in 13 mosques in Delhi’s Chandni Mahal, 52 were found positive. 26 Jamaat workers, mostly from Bengal, Assam and Bangladesh, were found from two mosques in Jahangirpuri. Imagine the number of people they must have come in contact with.
In UP, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s government has started sending Jamaat workers, who have recovered from virus, to jail. In Bahraich, 17 foreign Jamaat workers from Indonesia and Thailand were sent to jail after completing 14-day isolation period for flouting visa norms, while four Indian Jamaat workers who were with them, have been released on bail after their isolation period was over.

At a time when the state governments are faced with a huge challenge in tracing the missing Jamaat workers, a petition was filed in Supreme Court on Monday by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind alleging that the print and electronic media was “communalizing” the issue by reporting that the Tablighi Jamaat had a big hand in the spurt in Coronavirus cases. It was alleged in the petition that by naming the Tablighi Jamaat, the entire Muslim community was being defamed.

The Jamiat sought restrictions to be imposed on reporting by the media, but the three judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India declined to pass any interim order saying that “we will not gag the media”. The apex court advised Jamiat to make the Press Council of India a party to this litigation, so that a detailed order could be given at a later stage.

The Supreme Court has taken a correct decision and the Jamiat cannot question it. Instead of pointing finger at the media, it would be advisable if the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind advises the Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad to give a call to his workers to come out from hiding and offer themselves for Coronavirus tests. This will be in the interest of the Jamaat workers, the Muslim comunity and the nation as a whole.

The Jamiat Ulema leaders must know that if the Jamaat workers do not come out from hiding, and are arrested later, police will first get the Coronavirus tests done, send them for treatment if required, and after they recover, they may be sent to jail. There is still time for them to come overground, report themselves to the police and cooperate.

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Lockdown, social distancing are the only weapons to fight Coronavirus war

akb2910Today let me begin with a scary scenario. Visuals taken by a drone camera showed nearly 40 coffins of Coronavirus victims being laid out inside dug out trenches, converted into mass graves in Hart island off New York City. These victims were being given a silent burial.

Workers in hazmat outfits were stacking up the coffins inside deep trenches. This site has been normally used for the last 150 years in New York for people with no next of kin or families who cannot afford burials. During normal times, 25 bodies used to be interred on this island once a week, but now the mass graves are being filled up five days a week, with around 24 burials daily.

Normally prisoners from Rikers Island, New York’s main jail complex, do the burial job, but because of the pandemic scare, prisoners are not being allowed to come out. Local contractors are doing the burial job. Did anybody ever imagine this nightmarish situation where the world’s biggest financial capital, known as the city of skyscrapers, is now becoming a city of the dead?

There are at present more than 5 lakh Coronavirus cases in the US, out of which more than 1.6 lakh cases are in New York City alone. Out of more than 18,000 deaths in the US, New York alone accounts for nearly 8,000. In the last 24 hours, 1,783 people died in the US, and the average comes to 74 deaths in an hour, or one person dying every 50 seconds.

One out of five Coronavirus patients in the world is an American, and among those dead, one out of five is an American. Bodies of victims are being taken in refrigerated vans from hospitals to the burial site. Since the number of those dead is increasing, authorities are giving preference to bodies that are unclaimed for the last two weeks. New York till last month used to be the world’s most happening city, a city that never sleeps, and now the silence of graveyard rules the city.

Gone is the typical swagger of US President Donald Trump. He used to brag at his daily press conferences that he was soon going to win the war on Coronavirus, but now the average American rarely trusts his words. Trump had earlier claimed that the situation would ease by Easter, but on Good Friday, the entire nation watched glumly as the Coronavirus figures took a steep climb.

The Americans have now realized that it was Trump’s fault in assessing the gravity of the situation correctly. At a time when lockdowns and social distance were the norms in many countries, Trump refrained from doing this. He was more interested in saving the economy instead of saving lives. The results are there for all to see.

In India, this brings us again to the need for extending lockdown and strictly enforcing social distancing norms. Punjab and Odisha governments have already extended lockdown till May 1 and April 30 respectively, and the Prime Minister is going to have a detailed discussion with Chief Ministers today and take a call.

On Friday, Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh created a scare when he said that “the figures that I have been given by Indian scientists and medical practitioners are that 80 to 85 per cent of India may get infected. If these figures are correct, then they are horrendous figures”. India is a nation of 130+ crore people. Forget 80 per cent, even eight per cent of the total population comes to 10.4 crore.

Capt Amarinder Singh is however right when he says that if developed countries having the best medical infrastructures like the US, Italy, Spain and France are facing an uphill task, how can India, with its poor medical infrastructure, cope up with the challenge.

The biggest hurdles are the super spreaders – a single person infected with Coronavirus spreading the virus among hundreds of people. Near Mohali, in Jawaharpur village, 43-year-old Malkit Singh was found positive, but by the time the test was done, the virus had spread to 32 persons. Now the entire village with 29 homes is completely sealed off.

Similarly, a man from Bihar came from Oman with Coronavirus symptoms. He concealed his travel history, and he spread the virus to 23 people in Siwan, which means almost one-third of the total number of 60 virus cases detected in Bihar so far.

The key to the fight against Coronavirus is: follow lockdown and social distancing norms fully. There is no other alternative. The sooner we break the virus chains in our localities, towns and villages, the better. There were incidents of attacks of police in Chhindwara (MP) and Bhagalpur (Bihar) on Friday, when police appealed to people not to congregate in mosques and graveyards for the -e-Shab-e-Baraat prayers.

Most of the maulanas had appealed to people to offer prayers inside their homes but there are certain sections of people who are unwilling to listen. Most of our Muslim brethren are strictly following lockdown and social distancing norms, but action has to be taken against those who violate the norms. Let us be united in our war against Coronavirus. Ultimately, the people of India will win.

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Time to make appeals to follow lockdown is over, now take action against violators

akb0210India recorded over 500 new Coronavirus cases during the last 24 hours, taking the number of COVID-19 cases to 5,865 with the death toll at 169. Despite the three-week lockdown in force across the country, the figures are spiralling mainly because people are still not following lockdown and social distancing norms. Added to this is the virus spread caused by Tablighi Jamaat workers.

On Thursday night in ‘Aaj Ki Baat’, India TV showed Delhi Police drone surveillance video about how youths in Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid locality are playing cricket on roads and then hiding inside their homes after listening to the police siren. In Bhandup locality of Mumbai, there were large crowds of people seen buying fruits and vegetables throwing social distancing norms to the wind. The scenes were similar in Kolkata’s Koley market and Raja Bazar and in Punjab’s Bathinda refinery vegetable market.

There was most disturbing news from UP. In Baghpat and Badaut, declared hot spots by the state authorities , there was no sign of sealing and people were seen openly moving around without masks and going to shops and markets on Thursday.

These visuals clearly show that people in metros and in Tier-II and Tier-III cities are still not observing lockdown norms by staying inside their homes. They are helping in the spread of Coronavirus.

Remember, people in Italy, Spain and USA did the same thing till last month, they walked in crowds, went to late night bars and gatherings, and totally defied social distancing norms. Today these three nations are on top of the list of countries hit by Coronavirus. The number of people dying of virus in these countries is going up almost every day.

People, by and large, in India are following lockdown norms and staying inside their homes. There are however exceptions in some places, where people still refuse to observe lockdown. Those defying lockdown and social distancing norms are posing a risk to all of us.

India TV showed exclusive video of Tablighi Jamaat members inside their isolation ward in Delhi’s Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital, now dedicated for treatment of COVID-19 patients. The doctor in-charge complained that Jamaat members were still offering namaaz prayers inside their ward by sitting together and they were not following social distancing norms. When asked, the Jamaat members said, namaaz is always offered by sitting together and not by keeping distance.

There is no dearth of government’s preparedness in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading from the front and is working round-the-clock on a war footing. All state governments are fully cooperating in this national endeavor, doctors and nursing staff are working with dedication, police are maintaining full vigil and are providing food to the needy. There are police stations, where policewomen are cooking ‘roti’ for the poor.

Ninety-nine per cent of Indians are with the government’s mission to enforce lockdown. Other countries have praised India for enforcing a timely lockdown to stem the spread of the virus. However, there are people in India who are unwilling to follow lockdown norms. The time to make appeals to follow lockdown is over, now is the time to take action against all those who flout lockdown rules.

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Why people in cities of UP defied lockdown, went into panic buying mode

akb2910Fifteen days of patience during lockdown went up in smoke on Wednesday when rumours circulated on social media in several cities of Uttar Pradesh that the government has “sealed” 15 districts. Thousands of people flocked to shops and markets in Noida, Lucknow, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Rampur, Saharanpur, Kanpur, Unnao, Kannauj and other cities and went into panic buying mode, stocking up on vegetables and essential grocery items.

The local police had to announce that the 15 districts have not been sealed, but only 102 hotspots in these districts, where more than six cases of Coronavirus have been found, will be sealed. But, by then, people had already started flouting lockdown and social distancing norms. People did not bother to cross-check the veracity of the rumours, nor did they wait for the official announcement. They came out of their homes in large numbers and flocked the markets. Finally, in some cities, police had to close down the shops to discourage people from panic buying.

Twenty two out of the 102 hot spots are in Agra, 13 in Ghaziabad and 12 each in Noida and Lucknow. The state government knew that people would resort to panic buying once the sealing announcement was made. Senior state government officials repeated several times that only hot spots, and not the entire district will be sealed. People were told that areas other than hot spots in the district will not be sealed.

I am particularly worried about those thousands of people who came out of their homes, without masks and mixed among crowds to buy vegetables and groceries. This was a sure recipe for disaster. They put themselves, their family members at home and all other contacts at risk of getting the virus. This panic was created by rumours that were circulated on social media. People did not even wait to verify whether the rumours were correct or not.

Let me caution all of you that India is now on the verge of entering the danger zone of this pandemic. If we do not follow social distancing and lockdown norms, we will be witnessing a spate of deaths as was witnessed in developed countries like Italy, Spain and USA. In a short span of six days, the number of Coronavirus cases has doubled from 2,500 to more than 5,000 on Wednesday. There were 32 Covid-19 related deaths in the last 24 hours in India.

One should notice that most of the Coronavirus cases in UP were found to be related to Tablighi Jamaat.

Let me give a break-up: 38 out of 64 cases in Agra relate to Jamaat, 15 out of 35 cases in Meerut, 14 out of 23 in Ghaziabad, five out of eight in Bulandshahar, seven out of nine in Firozabad, seven out of eight in Kanpur, two out of 24 in Lucknow, all six cases in Maharajganj, all 14 cases in Saharanpur, all 17 cases in Shamli, all eight cases in Sitapur, and four out of nine cases relate to Jamaat in Varanasi. Imagine how the virus was spread by Jamaat in UP alone. The Coronavirus figures in most of the other states also reveal a similar trend.

In Delhi too, more than half of the total coronavirus cases relate to Tablighi Jamaat. Delhi government had to seal off 20 hot spots.

I want to again appeal to Maulana Saad, chief of Tablighi Jamaat, who is presently under self-quarantine, to either come out of hiding or issue a video appeal to all his followers to come out and contact the police. They have not committed any theft or robbery. Police is looking for them so that they can be medically tested and if required, put in quarantine or isolation ward. This is for their own benefit. If these followers remain in hiding, they will be harming the community and the nation.

I will also request Maulana Saad to issue another appeal asking his followers, presently under treatment or in quarantine, to behave with doctors and medical staff properly. They should not try to flee from quarantine centres because they will then be putting hundreds of others at risk.

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Do not expect lockdown to end after April 14, situation demands it should continue

akb3010With the end of the 21-day nationwide lockdown fast approaching (April 14), there have been numerous queries as to whether the lockdown will be extended. Many people are stuck, away from their families because of the lockdown. Millions of daily wage and migrant labourers are waiting for factories to reopen.

Chief Ministers of Telangana, Tamil Nadu, UP and Maharashtra have called for extending the lockdown. Of course, the final call will be taken by the Prime Minister after he makes an assessment of various factors in front of him. He is the best judge in the present circumstances.

But I can tell you, do not expect the lockdown to end after completion of three weeks. It’s more likely to continue. Hotspots like Noida, Mumbai, Indore and Bhopal, where the number of cases are on the rise may witness even a more severe lockdown. We should be prepared to face such an eventuality.

The situation has been worsened by hundreds of workers of Tablighi Jamaat, potential carriers of the virus, going underground and police in different states are trying their best to trace them. Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh on Tuesday issued a 24-hour ultimatum to all underground workers of Jamaat to either come out or face criminal charges.

In the national capital, the Coronavirus figures would have been under control but for the Tablighi Jamaat. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is doing his best and is fully cooperating with the Centre to contain the spread of the virus. He is particularly worried about scores of Jamaat workers who have gone into hiding. The number of Coronavirus cases in Delhi has touched 550 with 25 new cases coming in and two deaths reported on Tuesday. This number could have been on the lower side if the Jamaat incident had not happened.

Kejriwal says, his government is making preparations to handle up to 30,000 Coronavirus cases. Other state governments are also making plans, but the sooner the potential carriers of the virus are quarantined, the better it will be for the rest of the people. Two hotspots, Dilshad Garden and Nizamuddin, have been completely sealed off as of now.

Reports of Tablighi Jamaat workers creating unruly scenes in Delhi’s Narela and UP’s Firozabad have come in. At the quarantine centre in Narela, some of the workers urinated in bottles and poured it on the floor, while several others defecated in the corridor. At the Firozabad district hospital, Jamaat workers spitted on the windows and walls and the local authorities had to take stern action.

I again appeal to the Tablighi Jamaat leaders to rein in their workers, ask them to come out of hiding, and follow quarantine rules. Timely treatment of Covid-19 will save their workers and their contacts, otherwise India will have to face the full brunt of the pandemic, with thousands of deaths taking place every day.

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Bring strong law to punish those defying lockdown and hiding from quarantine

AKB0410With the number of Coronavirus cases spiralling across India, the Health Ministry has pointed out that figures have doubled during the last four days due to virus infection spread nationwide by Tablighi Jamaat members and their contacts. Had Tablighi Jamaat not organized that fateful gathering, it would have taken more than a week for the figures to double, said the Health Ministry official. Police in several states are still trying their best to trace the Jamaat members hiding in mosques.

You may remember, Tablighi Jamaat had earlier claimed that 1,400 people took part in the Nizamuddin Markaz gathering, but the next day, when the Markaz was searched, 2,400 people were detected. Nearly 2,000 people had already left by then and they were the key spreaders of the virus. So far, police have detected 25,000 followers and their contacts and have kept them in quarantine.

When the Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad issued an appeal to his followers from his hiding place, to cooperate with the government and doctors, I had expected that good sense will prevail, but the harsh reality is that several thousand followers and their contacts are still hiding in mosques.

Lucknow police rounded up Jamaat followers from Ali Jaan mosque on Monday, out of whom 12 were found positive. Eight others, all Coronavirus positive, were found in Sitapur, while 14 Jamaat followers were quarantined in Rampur. Similar reports have come from other states too.

Imagine the work of police and healthcare staff. They have to enter dense, crowded localities in search of Jamaat followers and their contacts, bring them to quarantine centres after facing noisy protests, get them tested, and then arrange for their lodging, food and treatment, and yet most of these followers spit at medical staff, demand biryani be served, and make a nuisance of themselves.

It is for the benefit of these Jamaat leaders that India TV on Monday night showed videos of dead bodies lying on the roadside in Guayaquil city of Ecuador, cardboard coffins being used for Coronavirus victims in Brazil and other countries, and no space available for burying thousands of those dead in Spain and Italy.

Some fundamentalist preachers have threatened anchors and reporters of news channels of reprisals after the Tablighi Jamaat incident, and on behalf of News Broadcasters Association, I had to issue a statement on Monday that such preachers should desist from making provocative and threatening remarks.

The electronic media has played an exemplary role in reporting Coronavirus pandemic during the current lockdown, and reporters are out in the field, putting their lives at risk. I have offered these preachers to join debates on news channels and put forth their stand while speaking on the role of Tablighi Jamaat in the current pandemic. Let good sense prevail.

The Jamaat leaders must understand that spitting in public places in Saudi Arabia invites death punishment and hiding travel history details in that country invites a fine upto Rs 1 crore. This is not the case in India.

In some Asian countries like the Phillipines, a person jumping quarantine was shot. Those violating lockdown rules can be fined Rs 23 lakh in Australia and Rs 2.5 lakh in Italy. So far, more than 40,000 people have been fined heavily. In Hong Kong, anybody violating lockdown can be fined upto Rs 2.5 lakh and can be put in jail for six months. Russian parliament has passed an anti-virus act under which anybody violating lockdown rules can end up in jail for seven years.

Contrast all these with what our Prime Minister has done. He has appealed to people with folded hands to stay at home and observe lockdown. Our laws are lax, but that does not mean that enemies of society can go scot free. They must and will be held accountable. Stringent laws must be put in place to deal with such anti-social acts.

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Posting objectionable videos on social platform must be firmly nipped in the bud

AKB2610Anti-social elements are posting objectionable videos on TikTok and WhatsApp asking people to flout all Coronavirus precautions. They are asking people to defy social distancing rules by hugging and shaking hands. Some of them are inciting people in the name of Islam by claiming that wearing of masks is un-Islamic. Some others are trying to link the pandemic with the NRC issue.

Most of these offenders appear to be active on TikTok where they post objectionable videos. In Malegaon near Nashik, Maharashtra, police arrested three such offenders who had described Coronavirus pandemic as ‘Allah’s anger’ and ‘Rab (God) ka NRC’. The offenders Abdul Rahim, Sufian Sheikh and Syed Hussain Ali have been arrested and sent to jail.

Now who will make these misguided youths understand that Coronavirus does not differentiate people on the basis of religion or race? Most of these TikTok videos have gone viral spreading messages of hate and superstition. Most of these videos try to link the current pandemic with the NRC, at a time when national unity is the need of the hour. It is clear that there are anti-national elements trying to score advantage out of the grave danger that is lurking on the health of our people. This is outrightly inhuman, to say the least.

While TikTok has promised to delete all such objectionable videos, it has pointed out that it would be helpless if people circulate these videos on other social platforms like WhatsApp. At a meeting at the Home Ministry on Friday, it was decided that stringent action will be taken against those posting such objectionable videos meant to create communal tension through baseless rumours. The state governments have been asked to take action. Such anti-national activities must be firmly nipped in the bud.

Those who think that government should take these social media pranks by a handful of youths lightly must understand the magnitude of the problem. The number of such pranksters or miscreants may be less, but their videos circulate at tremendous speed, mostly among the illiterate and lower middle class people. At a time when we require discipline and patience to enforce a lockdown successfully, such irresponsible action can have a multiplier effect and help in spreading the dreaded virus to millions of people.

The world has watched what happened in China, Italy, Spain and now in the USA, how errors of judgement led to the deaths of so many people. God forbid, if the pandemic becomes a community risk in India, there will be dead bodies lying on the roadside unattended. So, let us not take the action of such pranksters and miscreants lightly. They are igniting flames at a time when discipline is the need of the hour.

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Those who attacked doctors, nurses, must be punished, they are enemies of society

akb0612I am really shocked to see videos of people belonging to a community pelting stones and spitting at doctors, nurses and other staff during door-to-door survey for Coronavirus in Indore.

Similarly in Munger, Bihar, people attacked police when they came to collect the body of an eight-year-old girl suspected to have died of Coronavirus. The crowd tried to prevent police from taking his family members for quarantine.

In Karnataka and Telangana, Asha workers who had gone to localities to spread awareness about Coronavirus were attacked and manhandled. In Jaipur, a crowd attacked doctors who had gone to a locality to trace people who had come in contact with Coronavirus patients. In Rampur, UP, people pelted stones from rooftops at police who were announcing lockdown in the streets.

Indore police have arrested the culprits who attacked the medical team and they have been booked under National Security Act. Indore has become the hotspot for Coronavirus pandemic, with 75 out of 98 cases in Madhya Pradesh originating from this city. Jaipur police had to conduct flag march in Ramganj after a mob thrashed doctors. A drone surveillance was later carried out.

The attacks on doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, police in the midst of Coronavirus pandemic are, to say the least, heinous. These Corona warriors have their own families to look after, but they are toiling day and night to protect us from the scourge of the virus.

In a locality in Bengaluru, a Muslim mob heckled and manhandled Asha workers who had gone there to spread awareness about the virus. Their cellphones and hand bags were snatched away. In Nizamabad, Telangana, another mob threatened a group of Asha workers and forced them to flee.

I want to ask the people of Indore who spitted and pelted stones at doctors a question. Tell me, were these lady doctors committing a crime? They were only doing their duty in this hour of national crisis, trying to find out persons who came in contact with Coronavirus victims. They have their own family members to look after. A handful of such hooligans have brought a bad name to the city of Indore. Mere condemnation will not do, the guilty must be punished.

With sadness, I want to say, those who attacked our doctors, health workers and nurses are enemies of our society. Just think for a moment. If these health care workers withdraw from work, who will save us from Coronavirus pandemic? God forbid, if this pandemic spreads in India, who will be out there to save us?

Maulana Saad must come out of hiding, he needs treatment

akb0210The chief of Tablighi Jamaat, Maulana Saad, on Thursday morning, in an audio message, appealed to his followers to follow the guidelines set by the government to fight Coronavirus, stay at home, avoid crowds, follow lockdown rules and listen to doctors’ advice.

In his audio message, the Maulana has said that he was presently in self-imposed quarantine. The Jamaat chief had gone underground since last three days. I thank him for his appeal. He should however appeal to his followers to inform authorities about their whereabouts, get their health screened and refrain from misbehaving with doctors and nurses.

There have been reports of stone pelting at doctors, nurses and policemen in Ahmedabad, Indore and Bihar, when they had gone there to trace the persons whom the Tablighi followers had contacted. This is condemnable and the Jamaat chief should appeal to people to practise restraint.

On the Coronavirus front, the worst fear was proved right on Thursday. Pandemic updates in India shot up steeply, nullifying the gains that were recorded during the nationwide lockdown. The government wanted to break the virus chain, but with 6,000 Tablighi Jamaat followers spreading across India, the pandemic has now struck more people. In Tamil Nadu alone, all the 110 cases reported on Thursday related to Jamaat followers.

Hundreds of Tablighi followers are presently hiding inside mosques in Delhi and other states. Tablighi Jamaat followers who were taken into quarantine in Delhi, started spitting on hospital floors and nursing staff and misbehaved with doctors.

All in all, a sorry state of affairs. Several leading Muslim citizens rang me up on Thursday to convince me that the Tablighi Jamaat was completely apolitical, and its only work was to propagate Islam. They said, Jamaat followers are not bad and they always steer away from politics and protests.

I told them, propagating Islam was alright, but putting the lives of thousands of people at risk was unpardonable. After all, people from Muslim community will suffer from this deadly disease, because these Jamaat followers mostly mix with Muslims. Their chief Maulana Saad lied several times and openly defied guidelines for social distancing. They misled the government by obtaining tourist visas for foreigners, whereas they had come to India as missionaries.

I told the Muslim citizens the advice that Maulana Saad had given to his followers. He had told them not to follow doctors’ advice. God forbid, if somebody is struck with cancer or a heart attack, will the patient be taken to a mosque or a hospital? A hospital is a place for treating patients and a mosque is the place to pray for the patient.

My Muslim friends agreed that the Maulana and his followers have greatly embarrassed the community as a whole, at a time when Muslims and Hindus were jointly enforcing the lockdown heeding to the call of our Prime Minister.

The Maulana and his followers must realize that they have deliberately foiled the well-laid out government plan of 21 days’ lockdown by spreading the virus. The sooner the Maulana comes out of hiding and cooperates with the government, the better it will be. The Muslim community, as a whole, will heave a sigh of relief, because the entire community is being blamed for the mistakes of a few.

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Tablighi Jamaat chief committed crime by asking followers not to listen to doctors’ advice

AKB2610I felt both sadness and anger when I showed in ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ last night the speech of the chief of Tablighi Jamaat Maulana Saad Kandhlavi, in which he was exhorting his followers at the gathering in Nizamuddin Markaz, not to follow the doctors’ advice to maintain distancing. This flies in the face of the claim by Tablighi Jamaat that they had taken precautions during the event which was pre-scheduled.

First, the speech: On March 19, addressing the gathering for 42 minutes, Maulana Saad said, ‘even if you fear that you will die if you congregate in mosques, know this: there is no better place to die than a mosque.’

The Maulana knew that the doctors had advised social distancing, but he told the gathering: ‘we will accept the advice of only those doctors who have faith in Allah. Even if those doctors advise not to congregate inside mosques, we shall not accept.’ He went on say, ‘they have put fear in your minds because you read newspapers and not the Holy Quran.’

Clearly the Tablighi Jamaat chief was inciting people not to accept government guidelines for social distancing. The result was: nearly two thousand followers went out in groups across the length and breadth of the country and spread the dreaded virus.

More than 450 people now have virus symptoms, 24 persons staying at the Markaz were found positive, so far 10 people have died of virus after coming into contact with the followers, and right now, a nationwide hunt is on to track the thousands of followers who dispersed from the congregation.

According to official reports, there are presently 824 maulanas from this Jamaat spread in 12 states. Most of them have visited Malaysia, Indonesia. The break-up: 50 in Karnataka, 70 in West Bengal, 132 in UP, 38 in Jharkhand, 115 in Haryana, 11 in Odisha, 49 in MP and 13 in Rajasthan. Kindly note, these maulanas are separate from those 300-plus foreigner maulanas who attended the religious gathering from March 13 to 15 in Nizamuddin.

The Tablighi Jamaat claims it was a routine gathering, but they are overlooking the fact that the Delhi government had on March 13 banned all types of gatherings of more than 200 people. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said that 24 out of 97 coronapositive cases were from Nizamuddin. More than 1,000 people had to be shifted to quarantine shelters in Delhi.

I have now no hesitation in saying that Maulana Saad is culpable and guilty of spreading the coronavirus by openly defying the guidelines and exhorting his followers to spread out across the country, thereby spreading the virus. It is now a Herculean task to trace each and every person who came in contact with these followers.

It is because of Maulana Saad that the near and dear ones of Coronavirus victims are suffering today. The followers of Allah were forced to attend the gathering in the name of Allah. The Jamaat and its chief are responsible for spreading the virus across the country. They made Delhi one of the major hotspots of Coronavirus, intentionally.

This is a crime against the country. While watching the videos, I was surprised to see the virus suspects spitting on the road from the buses which had been brought to take them away for quarantine. Spitting on the road by such people can spread the virus, and I guess, these people knew this too. Action must be taken against the Jamaat and its Chief.

I want to ask the Tablighi Jamaat leaders a question: If the Holy Kaaba, Mecca and Madina mosques, Vatican City, Vaishno Devi, Tirupati, Siddhivinayak, Somnath and Kashi Vishwanath temples can be closed for Coronavirus, what prompted them to organize a massive gathering in the name of Islam and Allah? At a time when mosques in India stopped outsiders from offering namaaz, gurudwaras stopped outsiders from coming to offer Ardas, temples stopped devotees from coming inside, what prompted the Jamaat to commit this crime in the name of religion?

It would be wrong to say that all Muslim moulvis are not supporting the government in its fight against Corona. Most of the Maulanas have openly stood with our Prime Minister in this war, and it would be incorrect to allege that Muslims as a community are not following social distancing guidelines. We should not forget that maulanas had issued appeals asking devotees not to gather in large numbers to offer namaaz in mosques on last Friday across India. And no one crowded mosques. This gives us hope that we are all united in our fight against Corona. Win we will.

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