One after another, men lined up and walked in single file to buses parked over a kilometre along one barricaded stretch of Mathura Road.
The other stretch of the road, open for vehicular movement, had cars slowing down to catch a glimpse of what was happening, only to be shooed away by policemen, who also kept an eye from a safe distance.
Nizamuddin West, an otherwise bustling neighbourhood known for its Sufi dargah, was filled with fear and anxiety Tuesday after the Centre declared it as one of the 10 COVID-19 hotspots in the country.
At the centre of the outbreak is the four-storey Markaz Nizamuddin building, headquarters of the Tabilghi Jamaat. One batch after another, of 30-35 people, were brought out of the building and taken to quarantine centres in Narela.
Some who showed symptoms were taken straight to hospitals in ambulances. A medical camp was set up outside the building, where followers of the sect were made to undergo thermal screening. Following quick checks, they boarded DTC buses as drivers wore protective suits inside. Around 1.30 pm, a drone was brought for surveillance.
Outside the lane, Delhi Civil Defence Volunteers stood clutching lists with names of Nizamuddin basti residents who had come in contact with the Tablighi members.
“We will visit houses of those people to check if they are abiding by home quarantine norms,” a civil defence volunteer said.
Amir Chaudhary, a resident of Nizamuddin West, said: “The area has been disinfected several times but people are very scared. No one wants to step out, even to buy milk and bread. The area is congested and there were hundreds inside the Markaz.”
In nearby Jangpura Extension, too, people are worried. “Nizamuddin West and Nizamuddin basti are across the road. The situation has escalated over the past week but earlier, hardly anyone practised social distancing, and the flow of people from one area to the other was continuous,” said Rajesh Seghal, a resident of A Block.
A resident of the basti said it would be ideal to test everyone to put people’s mind at ease. Another resident said: “One cannot step out at all… the areas have been quarantined but some ration shops in lanes are open because daily wage labourers live here and we are trying to provide them food.” A resident said that since “no one knows what tomorrow brings, we have stocked up on ration at home”.
Calling it a “damaging narrative for the two colonies”, another resident of the basti said, “It’s being portrayed as if the virus originated from here… I am not associated with the markaz and my family and I are anxious about the infection.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines