Ikhar village in Amod taluka of Bharuch district, about 40 kilometres from Vadodara city, is known for its Masjids and cricket ground, which also produced one of India’s finest pacers, Munaf Patel. For three weeks now, the massive Ikhar cricket ground attached to the Khawja Garib-e-Nawaz masjid has been “temporarily closed”.
The Masjid, too, has a signboard outside advising people to offer namaz and prayers at home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The village has been following the lockdown directives strictly and five positive cases here have left the villagers anxious.
The five were members of a Majlis-e-Soora Jamaat from Tamil Nadu and put up at the Masjid-e-Shajedeen mosque. The mosque is temporarily closed, as is the Jumma Masjid, the oldest and main mosque of the village.
Unlike a regular day when the cricket ground and the main market road would be bustling, not a single the villager is spotted. The village, with a population of 9,000 — 65% Muslims — has been declared containment zone.
Two other cases were reported from Devla (Jambusar taluka), both Jamaat members, and one from Parkhet (Bharuch taluka), a local Maulvi who attended the funeral of a Jamaat member who died of COVID-19 in Bhavnagar. About 41 villages surrounding the area are “core areas” with restricted movements.
Harun Handi, sarpanch of the village, says, “We knew around 11 of them were here. We reported them to the health department as per the guidelines of the administration. They were told to follow self isolation and they complied. People from the village would leave groceries outside the masjid and they would cook their own meals. We are all surprised that they tested positive after so many days and they didn’t even appear to be ill.”
Many others in the village feel that the authorities must release more information about people testing positive. Doctor Naeem Patel from the neighbouring village of Kothi, one of the core areas, said, “The administration should release information about the cases… it is natural for people to be
worried as the five tested positive after the incubation was over.”
Handi, a cricketer himself who represents the Preston Cricket Club of Lancashire in the UK, says, “Our Masjids have volunteers wait outside to prevent people from gathering. As per the directive of the Islamic clerics, only two or three people offered namaz inside the Masjid, while everyone else was asked to do it from home. Now we are not opening the Masjid even for those.”
On April 12, when an elderly woman died of cardiac arrest, the volunteers arranged help for the family. “We are taking utmost care of our senior citizens, especially those living alone. We have distributed masks to all senior citizens and are ensuring essential items for everyone. The administration is working hard and we must acknowledge their efforts,” Handi added.
Cricketer Munaf Patel, living on the outskirts of the village, reached out to the villagers through a video message. “My village of Ikhar has been affected by the coronavirus… my family is safe because we are indoors. You should all stay indoors too. At this time, it is also necessary to extend support to the officials from the district administration…,” he said in the message.
Handi says that the community is suffering due to the mistakes of some of its members. “We have to carry this load of the blame because many people from our community do not understand the seriousness of the issue…”
Bharuch Collector MD Modhiya and Vadodara Collector Shalini Agarwal have both declared sealing of district borders. Modhiya confirmed that 41 villages in Bharuch are in core area.
Agarwal said, “The order has been issued from April 10 to 23 for now and will be subject to extension depending on the recovery and reporting of COVID-19 cases from the containment areas in Bharuch… The core areas have restrictions but movement for essential services is allowed. People can also venture out for emergencies…”
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