By Syed Ali Mujtaba
The Markaz or Global Centre of the Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin West in New Delhi has emerged as the hotspot for Coronavirus spread. The reason is this religious center had organized a three-day meet from 13-15 March. In this over 2,000 people took part a few included from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan.
Even after the end of the event some 1,400 people continued to stay at the “Markaz” making it a ticking time bomb of COIV -19 positive cases. It was detected that some 1033 people were showing symptoms of COVID-19 and have been evacuated from the center and 334 of them have been sent to hospital and 700 sent to quarantine center.
The Police cordoned off the entire neighborhood of Nizamuddin West and virtually sealed it following fears that some people at the ‘Markaz’ may have contracted COVID-19.
The people who attended the congregation at the Markaz and have returned to their native places were showing symptoms of Corona virus attack on them. As many as six persons who returned to Telangana from Delhi have died due to the fatal virus attack. There were COIVD- 19 positive cases emerging from at least five regions of India including J&K, Tamil Nadu, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh and the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
The officials said the congregation violated the lockdown conditions and several COVID-19 positive cases have been found among those who attended the gathering. An FIR against the Markaz head has been filed. The government has appealed to all those who had attended the congregation prayers in Delhi must inform the authorities.
Responding to this, the Jamat Markaz in Nizamuddin in a press release has said that the Markaz is the international headquarters of Tabilghi Jamaat for close to 100 years. Visitors/guests/devotees/worshippers from across the globe throng the place for pre-scheduled programs lasting for no more than 3-5 days. All the programs are decided a year in advance in order to facilitate visitors from far-off places to plan their participation.
On 22nd March 2020 during the “Janta Curfew” the ongoing program in Markaz was discontinued but due to sudden cancelation of rail services across the country, a large group of visitors who had to depart by rail got stuck in the Markaz premises.
However, before the “Janta Curfew” could be lifted at 9 PM on March 22, Delhi CM announced lockdown of Delhi beginning at 6 AM on March 23, till March 31st. The press release further said that this actually diminished any chances of these stranded visitors to avail road transport for their journey back home. However, in spite the challenging situation Markaz was able to send about fifteen hundred visitors back.
On March 24, 2029, a nationwide lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister with clear message for people to stay-put wherever they are. Markaz under such circumstances had no other option than to accommodate the stranded visitors in its premises.
Markaz press release further says that on March 24, a notice was served seeking closure of the premises and on the same day it responded to the directions given by informing that there are still around 1000 visitors in the Markaz. A request was made by the Markaz to issue vehicle passes so that the remaining people could be sent back to their native places. However, the requisite permission was not given, the press release said.
On 25th March 2020, a Tehsildaar along with medical team visited the Markaz and many visitors were examined. Further, on March 26, the Markaz further apprised the authorities about the stranded visitors and sought permission for the vehicles it had arranged to take the visitors to their destinations. However, no permission was given again. On March 27, six persons were taken for medical check-up and on March 28, a WHO team visited the Markaz and 33 persons were taken for medical checkup.
The press release said that the Markaz is willing to offer the entire premises as a quarantine facility and help the authorities tide-over the challenge of current pandemic.
No if we analyze the media attribution to the Tablighi Markaz at Delhi to be the carrier of corona virus then it clearly emerges as a case of false or one sided reporting.
No report says that the religious congregation was held from March 13 to 15 and not during the period of lock down. The function was held with due permission of the government and the government did not ban the function even though the specter of Corona virus loomed large.
No media is questioning why the government issued visas to the foreigners to attend the function. Why the officials did not subjected to the foreigners to any medical checkup and quarantines them at the airport. It is certain that if the foreign invitees to the congregation were screened and tested at the airport, then the Corona virus could have been detected and all the deaths that have followed could have been avoided. Is not this a criminal negligence on the part of government and does not government responsible for such negligence.
And now when the COVID -19 has erupted in a big way then the propaganda against the Markaz has started. And this is because no one can question the government and the people in power as they are infallible and above the law.
The blame on the organization such as Markaz is the set theme of Islamophobia and in this both traditional and social media are a party. Both kinds of media are indulging in blame game to cover the short comings of the government and to change focus of attention from the human tragedy that spilled following the 21 day lock down of the country.
If the media is hand in gloves then the people of this country should demand answers from the Union government as to why it has put such a large number of people at risk when it alone was in know of things. Why the government did not alerted the Markaz about the precautions of Corona and why in first place it did not canceled any such gatherings when the Corona threat was at doorsteps.
As the government is responsible for the mass murder during the recent Delhi riot, it is equally responsible for the Corona death at the Tablighi Jammat Markaz in Delhi.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org