On 28 March, the total Covid-19 patients in India were 1029. Yesterday (1 April), that number jumped to 2014. Cases have almost doubled in just four days.
A total of 379 cases were detected yesterday. In the past three days, 875 cases have come to light.
This sudden spike is attributed to the Nizamuddin Markaz cluster of Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi, where thousands of people, including foreigners, gathered and stayed this month and fanned out in different parts of the country to carry out Chilla (proselytising) activities.
As of yesterday, 2014 people have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Out of these, links of at least 330 people have been established with the Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz, which translated to more than 16 per cent of all Covid-19 patients in the country.
Essentially, every sixth Covid-19 patient in India can be traced to the gathering of Tablighi Jamaat maulanas at Nizamuddin.
The highest number of cases related to the congregation in Delhi Markaz has come from Tamil Nadu (180), followed by Andhra Pradesh (68), Telangana (28) and Delhi (24). Twelve out of 13 cases in Assam are also linked to the Markaz. Similarly, nine out of 10 cases in Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been traced to the Jamaat gathering.
It is pertinent to note that these numbers related to Delhi Markaz clusters are conservative and will substantially increase in coming days. Details of about 300 people who tested positive on 30 March, 31 March and 1 April aren’t available. Many of these are likely to be linked with the Markaz cluster.
Therefore, the composition of Markaz cluster as percentage of total cases in India can quickly change. It is very much likely that in coming days, as details emerge, 20 to 25 per cent of cases are directly or indirectly traced to the Tablighi Jamaatis.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, 2,100 foreigners belonging to Tablighi Jamaat have come to India since 1 January, and as of 21 March, 824 were spread out in different parts of the country while 216 were lodged at the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi.
On 26 March, a member of Tablighi Jamaat who had attended the congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz died in Srinagar. A few cases had also come to light earlier in South India of people with no foreign travel history but who had come from Delhi, had attended a religious gathering and tested positive.
The administration sprung into action on 26 March and started medical screening at the Markaz in Delhi. On 27 March, six Covid-19 suspects were taken away and put in a quarantine facility in Jhajjar, Haryana. Next day, 33 people were taken away and isolated at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital in Delhi.
When there was resistance to the idea of vacating the whole premises, none other than National Security Adviser Ajit Doval intervened and met with a delegation of the Markaz on the intervening night of 28 and 29 March after which the maulanas of Tablighi Jamaat allowed the government to quarantine and test them.
Later, Delhi Police Crime Branch filed an FIR against Maulana Saad and other members of Tablighi Jamaat under Section 3 (penalty for offence) of the Epidemic Disease Act 1897 and Sections 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease), 271 (disobedience to quarantine rule) and 120b (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.
Tablighi Jamaat congregations have emerged as one the biggest hotspots responsible for spreading Covid-19 from South China Sea to the Mediterranean. A gathering of 16,000 preachers, including over 1,500 foreigners, of Jamaat at the Sri Petaling mosque in Malaysia is credited with infecting 620 people in Malaysia as of 20 March which constituted two-thirds of total cases in that country.
Later, it was found that, Jamaatis gathered in Malaysia took the disease to half a dozen countries.
A similar event of the Jamaat was to be held in Indonesia on 19 March but by mid-March, it was clear how the Jamaat was emerging as biggest vector behind Covid-19 spread in South east Asia. Indonesian government cancelled the event at the last minute but over 8,000 preachers from 10 countries had already gathered in Gowa, living in tents and sharing food.
Similarly, a gathering of 150,000 people was scheduled to be held in Lahore which was also cancelled but only after many delegates had already congregated. Sudden spike in Covid-19 cases in Pakistan is now linked to this Tabligh Jamaat gathering. Two Palestinians who were present and got infected took the disease to Gaza Strip.
India is fast emerging as the biggest victim of Jamaat’s transgressions. By mid-March, it was acutely aware of the damage its congregations had caused but as late as 17 March, Maulana Saad, one of the senior-most clerics of the organisation, was actively mocking calls for social distancing and bans on social gatherings. He was preaching that this was not the time to abandon the mosques.
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