The shocking Tablighi Jamaat fiasco that broke out in Delhi yesterday keeps getting bigger with latest reports revealing that as many as many as 1,000 people have been shifted from the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid in South Delhi’s Nizamuddin area- the global centre of the Tablighi Jamaat which held a conference at the said shrine earlier this month that was attended by around 8,000 people of different nationalities and 2,000 people from across India.
What initially seemed like a major Coronavirus cluster in Delhi has now taken the shape of a nationwide crisis as it has come to light that the international conference in the Nizamuddin Mosque was attended by preachers from across India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
Many of those who attended the conference, 1830 to be precise, travelled elsewhere after the religious gathering got dispersed. While 281 of them travelled abroad, the rest travelled to all corners of India such as Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and even the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
This too is an underestimated number and now the number of those who must have come into contact with the Tablighi hotspot of the Coronavirus will in all probability go up. The state of Assam, for instance, has updated the number of those who were present in and around the Tablighi Mosque to 299, apart from a fresh list of another 157 people who were also in the thick of things.
I wondered why governments in Assam, Meghalaya were building large isolation centres with hundreds of beds even when not a single case had been reported. Now I know.
All attendees of this Tablighi Jamaat meeting, wherever you are, pls report to authorities. pic.twitter.com/WEJkDVk1fK
— Shubhangi Tiwari (@shubh19822) March 31, 2020
Assam Govt is now in possession of a list of 299 persons who were present in and around the hotspot near Nizamuddin Dargah. We've alerted dist admins to find out if these people have returned to Assam, and strict instructions issued to quarantine them if they are in the state
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) March 31, 2020
#NizamuddinUpdate ~ We have received another list of 157 persons from Assam who were near hotspot of Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin Dargarh. We are acting swiftly and in best possible manner to quarantine all of them, as and when they reach Assam or those who may have reached.
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) March 31, 2020
Meanwhile, Delhi seems all prepared to join the dubious league of major world cities that have emerged as hotbeds of the novel Wuhan infection. Anil Baijal, Lt. Governor of the National Capital Territory of Delhi has disclosed that 20,000 houses are going to be quarantined.
He tweeted, “It has been decided to increase the number of food distribution centres from present 500 to 2500 so that social distancing is adhered to effectively. Home quarantine has to be strictly monitored. More than 20,000 homes have been identified by GNCTD for home quarantine.”
This easily is the biggest “home quarantine” measure that India has taken amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic and we are easily looking at lakhs of people getting isolated because they are either suspected Coronavirus cases or at least facing an immediate risk of getting infected.
It has been decided to increase the number of food distribution centres from present 500 to 2500 so that social distancing is adhered to effectively.
Home quarantine has to be strictly monitored. More than 20,000 homes have been identified by GNCTD for home quarantine.
— LG Delhi (@LtGovDelhi) March 31, 2020
The international Tablighi Conference in India has already killed at least ten people six from Telangana- one each from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir.
But this precarious situation has not arisen all of a sudden but there is a tale of gross negligence involving several state governments, local police forces and intelligence agencies that has landed us in deep trouble.
At the outset, the role of the Kejriwal government in Delhi has been shockingly casual and unconscionable. Having already manufactured the migrant crisis, it has prepared an even bigger national calamity at Nizamuddin in South Delhi. The Delhi Chief Minister seems to be turning a blind eye towards Coronavirus clusters developing right under his nose.
Remember, prohibitory orders were in force banning all gatherings of more than 20 people in Delhi yet an international conference of more than 8,000 people including those from Coronavirus-hit countries was organised right in the heart of Delhi. Moreover, 3400 people kept staying at the Mosque even after the religious gathering dispersed by March 16. This was also when Delhi CM announced a ban on religious gatherings and congregations of more than 50 people.
In fact over 1800-2000 remained at the mosque even after the Janata Curfew. When complete lockdown was announced on March 24, the police asked them to vacate and this was where the police was too late. By the time the members of the Jamaat requested for permission to vacate, on March 25, many cases were already suspected by medical teams, leading to isolation of some in a separate building. This was when the entire area should have been cordoned off.
And now that nationwide damage has already been done, Kejriwal has ordered an FIR against the concerned Maulana leading the congregation at the Tablighi mosque.
Equally reprehensible has been the role of the Delhi Police. It is utterly shocking that Delhi Police shouldn’t keep an eye on the global headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz in Nizamuddin when the same Jamaat had organised a four-day Muslim gathering at the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia attended by 16,000 people including 1,500 foreigners, from February 27 and March 1.
Two-thirds of the cases arose in Malaysia from this gathering, making it the epicentre of the Coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia. The same sect also made a Coronavirus super spreader out of Pakistan taking the Wuhan infection into West Asia.
But Delhi Police strangely didn’t take note of these factors. No intelligence was even needed and a sense of what is happening in the neighbouring regions- Southeast Asia and Pakistan would have averted this disaster.
But this doesn’t end here, as in what seems to be an unbelievable turn of events, the police even escorted 1,200 preachers at the shrine to the airport a day after the “Janata Curfew”, but they returned to gather at the Mosque and the police seems to be unaware of such a blatant show of defiance.
While the entire country was trying to flatten the curve, the Delhi Police (SHO Police Station, Hazrat Nizamuddin) was seeking closure of the Markaz premises. And then it took the police exactly a week to take action. Why was a notice issued when the Markaz became a major illegal gathering and a public health emergency in itself. Why wasn’t it sealed straightaway?
On 24th March,a notice was issued by SHO P.S. Hazrat Nizamuddin, seeking closure of Markaz premises. It was responded on 24th March, stating that compliance of directions regarding closure of Markaz is underway & around 1500 people had departed previous day…: Markaz, Delhi(1/3)
— ANI (@ANI) March 31, 2020
What is even more shocking is that the Markaz replied that 1500 people had departed from the Mosque the previous day. But this was not made public for some strange reason for more than a week, even as 1500 Coronavirus suspect Tablighi followers travelled to different states- bringing fellow travellers and the ordinary residents of those states under risk.
Now, that the Delhi Police took some action after all we are already in the middle of a major crisis. Meanwhile, the intelligence agencies do not seem to have a whiff of the matter either, even though a Wikileaks document released in 2011 had accused the Markaz of acting as a cover for Al-Qaeda operatives. Shouldn’t the Markaz have been under surveillance even though the present crisis is totally different from terror activities?
What is equally shocking is the incompetence of the Telangana and Tamil Nadu governments- preachers who attended the Nizamuddin conference had travelled to the two states more than a week ago. Six of them have died in Telangana but they didn’t try to trace the chain till the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi and acted only after the Nizamuddin area was cordoned off yesterday.
More than a week could have elapsed since these Tablighi followers travelled to different parts of India, and no one knows how many people they could have possibly infected. We are looking at thousands of people spreading the Wuhan virus throughout the length and breadth of the country. This is a major lapse, easily the biggest since the Coronavirus Pandemic hit India and absolutely no one- the Delhi Police, the state governments particularly the Delhi government, Centre or the intelligence agencies can be absolved for this slip-up.