Maharashtra Police has booked 169 foreign nationals who attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in New Delhi last month and later travelled to the state to preach. All 169 have been placed in quarantine.
The Home Ministry had instructed all state governments on April 1 that all foreign Tablighi Jamaat members who test negative for coronavirus should be quarantined and deported to their countries.
In Maharashtra, six foreigners and 22 Indians who attended the congregation have tested positive for COVID-19 so far.
A senior Maharashtra Police officer said Jamaat members from countries like Brunei, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Tanzania and Togo participated in the congregation at the Nizamuddin Markaz in mid-March and had come in contact with individuals who later tested positive for COVID-19.
“After attending the congregation, these foreign nationals, who had entered India using tourist visas, travelled to Maharashtra and had been preaching at mosques,” the officer added.
Police in 10 cities and districts have so far lodged 15 cases under the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Maharashtra COVID-19 Regulations and the Foreigners Act, 1946, which prohibits “preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in religious places, distribution of audio or visual display/pamphlets pertaining to religious ideologies, spreading conversion etc” for individuals holding tourists visas.
All the 169 foreigners have been placed in institutional quarantine in Ahmednagar, Amravati, Chandrapur, Mumbai, Nanded, Navi Mumbai and Pune, among other locations.
Three FIRs were registered against six foreign nationals in Ahmednagar district. Two FIRs were registered in Amravati city, where the police found 18 foreigners from South Africa, Togo and the US preaching at mosques in the Kholapuri Gate locality, a police officer said.
The foreign nationals were identified and tracked down as part of a huge nationwide hunt to locate all those who had attended the congregation as well as individuals in the Nizamuddin locality with whom they had come in contact.
“Aside from names, addresses and phone numbers of participants at the congregation, we were also provided all phone numbers found active at a cell tower in Nizamuddin,” said Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
The Home Ministry then sent the data to states where the Jamaat members live and where the phone numbers obtained from the cell tower were found to be registered.
“We have done the right amount of diligence to ensure that no one who had come in contact with Jamaat members in Nizamuddin was left out. We co-ordinated with the Tablighi Jamaat in Maharashtra to trace the individuals on the list sent to us,” said the state police officer.
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