AROUND THE same time members of the Tablighi Jamaat gathered at Nizamuddin in Delhi, a congregation was scheduled in Vasai, 50 km from Mumbai. The Maharashtra government, however, cancelled permission for the event, preventing what could have become a Delhi-like Covid-19 hotspot.
A Tablighi Jamaat ijtema or congregation “expecting attendance of 50,000 people” was planned at Suncity in Vasai on March 12-13. The organisers had received permission for the same earlier in the year. However, on March 6, four days after Maharashtra registered its first two Covid-19 cases, the state government realised it would be wise to cancel the event. The organisers also agreed, officials said.
“On January 22, the Tablighi Jamaat had sought permission for holding the congregation in Vasai. The permission was given on February 6,” Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh told The Indian Express. With coronavirus spreading worldwide and in India too, the government cancelled the permission.
Home Minister Deshmukh said the organisation initially said they would go ahead with the congregation. “We told them if they went ahead, we will have to take legal action,” he said.
Niket Kaushik, Inspector General (Konkan range) said the state government felt it would not be wise to let so many people gather at a place when the virus was spreading. “Accordingly, we revoked the permission on March 6 and informed them about the same,” he said.
A member of the Tablighi Jamaat said a two-day event was planned in Vasai. There were plans to take the event to several parts of the state including Raigad, Ratnagiri and Pune. “We approached Health Minister Rajesh Tope and told him that a large congregation was expected. He asked us to postpone it. Considering the circumstances, we also decided to cancel it. We informed everyone not to congregate here,” the member said.
Over the last two days, some Tablighis have been booked by the police in Thane and Mumbra for violating lockdown orders. The Rabodi police station in Thane arrested 12 Tablighi Jamaatis for gathering at a mosque for prayers in violation of the lockdown orders.
“They are from Vasai and had come here for prayers. Since they had violated section 144, we registered an FIR against them for not following the condition laid down by a public servant. They were released on bail,” said Rabodi police senior inspector Rajendra Shirtode. Those arrested had, however, not visited the Nizamuddin headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi.
In Mumbra area of Thane, the police registered two FIRs against two separate groups of Tablighi Jamaatis for assembly on Wednesday. Police inspector R Valatakar said one FIR was against trustees of a mosque which had not followed proper procedures while allowing eight Malaysian nationals to stay at a local mosque. The Malaysians had visited Delhi in February, well before the March congregation at the Nizamuddin mosque.
Another FIR was filed in connection with a group of 15 Bangladeshis residing in the Almas Colony area of Mumbra. This group of Bangladeshi nationals had visited the Nizamuddin mosque in Delhi and had come to Mumbra on March 10. The 15 Bangladeshi and eight Malaysian nationals along with two local guides from Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal were put through Covid-19 tests on Wednesday. The lab test results on Thursday turned out to be negative for all of them.
Housing Minister and MLA from Mumbra Jitendra Awhad said there was a lot of misinformation being spread about the number of jamaat members present in Mumbra who had visited the Delhi mosque. He said there were 25 persons, including the Bangladeshi and Malaysian nationals. “There is an attempt to give a communal colour to the outbreak, when we need people to show humanity.” The 25 continue to remain in home quarantine in Mumbra.
Meanwhile, Shoeb Shaikh, a resident of Jogeshwari East, had attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi for a day and returned on March 17. “When we came to know about so many positive cases, we reached out to the local police,” he said. He said several from Jogeshwari East were part of the event. They had traveled by train to and from Mumbai and Delhi. Shaikh and his three friends were asked to get admitted in Jogeshwari Trauma hospital on Thursday for a test. Four of his other friends had already tested negative on Wednesday. “None of us have developed any symptoms till now,” he said.
(with inputs from Tabassum Barnagarwala)
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