Explained: Home Ministry Lists Tablighi Activities As A Specific Visa Violation, Will It Help?

Explained: Home Ministry Lists Tablighi Activities As A Specific Visa Violation, Will It Help?People who participated in the Tablighi Jamaat event (Representative Image)

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has added in “general policy guidelines relating to Indian visa” a new category of “indulging in Tablighi activities” as a specific visa violation that will attract $500 fine, reports The Hindu.

The guidelines contain the details of 24 categories of visas and the various conditions that apply for granting them, via online mode or missions abroad.

The $500 fine also applies to overstay of more than two years, visiting protected areas and and other visa violation cases involving overstay.

What are the new amended guidelines?

  • Foreign nationals granted any type of visa and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders shall not be permitted to engage themselves in Tablighi work
  • No restriction in visiting religious places and attending normal religious activities like attending religious discourses
  • However, preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in religious places, distribution of audio or visual display or pamphlets pertaining to religious ideologies, spreading conversion etc. will not be allowed

Earlier in March, as the Tablighi Jamaat Delhi event emerged as a super spreader of the novel coronavirus, several foreign attendees were found hiding across the country despite repeated pleas of the governments to come out for testing.

At the time, the Home ministry had blacklisted 960 foreigners who participated in the Tablighi Jamaat event. Reportedly, till 2 June, a total of 2,600 Tablighi foreigners have been blacklisted from entering India for 10 years.

The blacklisted foreigners included four Americans, nine British, six Chinese, three French, 379 Indonesians, 110 Bangladeshi, 63 Myanmarese, 33 Sri Lankan, 77 Kyrgyzstani, 75 Malaysian, 65 Thai, 12 Vietnamese and nine from Saudi Arabia.

Will the blacklisting help?

The blacklisting has been done in accordance with the 2018 blacklisting guidelines as the violators broke the conditions of the tourist visa granted.

The MHA grants missionary visa only for the organisations approved by it for religious work.

The central government has also told the Gujarat High Court that they violated provisions of the Visa Manual, 2019 and were also liable under the provisions of Section 13 and 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946, punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment upon conviction.

While holding the violators accountable is a commendable step by the government, it’s not even half the battle.

In April, Swarajya carried a series on the Tablighi Jamaat-Covid-19 episode exposing the underlying ideology of kafir-hate.

(Kafir is commonly used as a derogatory term by members of Islamist groups for non-Muslims. In the Indian historical context also, the term has a derogatory connotation. Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains were widely condemned as kafirs in medieval Indian Islamic literature, including court chronicles, Sufi texts and literary compositions, and fatwas justifying their persecution)

You can read the articles here:

Tablighi Jamaat-Covid-19 episode is just one of many examples of how calamities like the coronavirus pandemic are exploited by radicals to further the ideological hatred against the ‘other’.

The Tablighi Jamaat episode should spark a wider debate on how the radicalisation is carried out in steps via several mainstream, seemingly apolitical institutions as a part of day to day functioning over a long period of time.

In the case of India, the challenges of terrorism, armed secessionist movements, communal violence etc. are enmeshed with imperial structures. It is necessary to expose and deactivate these for a long-term solution to these problems.

Listing Tablighi activities as a specific visa violation is a step in the right direction, but a small one.

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