NEW DELHI: With the headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic missionary society, in Nizamuddin in south Delhi emerging as biggest hotspot of coronavirus spread in the country, all agencies including the administration of the religious body claimed to have alerted the authorities concerned well in time about the presence of more than 2,000 people including international travellers in the premises.
However, the fact remained that large gathering beyond ‘permissible’ numbers stayed put on Jamaat’s campus for about two weeks despite Delhi government orders and Delhi Police notice for prevention and control of the outbreak.
The authorities, too, woke up late and turned their focus to the site only after the death of two preachers from J&K and Tamil Nadu and several individuals from other states who attended gatherings at Markaz, as the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat is called, tested positive. However, a senior Delhi Police officer said notices had been issued twice to the Markaz committee to vacate the building. “A notice was issued on March 24 by the SHO and again on March 28 by the ACP concerned,” he said.
Responding to this, Maulana Yousuf of the Jamaat said the organisation duly informed the SHO regarding closure of the Markaz and arrangements being made to remove around 1,000 visitors belonging to different states and countries. A statement issued by Jamaat also said that it had requested for vehicle passes to ferry devout present at Markaz. However, it didn’t explain why large attendance of about 3,000-4,000 was allowed despite two prohibitory orders of Delhi government putting restrictions on the size of public, religious, and other social gatherings.
The first order issued on March 16 prohibited any gathering of more than 50 people while the second order reduced the limit to 20 people and further to 5 persons on March 21. A Delhi Police notice dated March 18 also banned gathering of over five persons. In its statement, the Markaz administration said after PM Narendra Modi’s call to observe ‘Janata Curfew’ on March 22, the ongoing programme at the centre was discontinued and on “the evening of March 23, a nationwide lockdown was announced by the PM...Markaz Nizamuddin was left with no option but to accommodate the stranded visitors with prescribed medical precautions.” The lockdown was, however, announced on March 24.