People who were at Tablighi Jamaat meet in Delhi being tested for COVID-19

Published : March 30, 2020 18:42 IST

Outside the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid on March 22, Janata curfew day Photo: XAVIER GALIANA/AFP

It was waiting to happen. With many people insisting on religious congregations, the first case of multiple instances of suspected infection from the same place has been reported from Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid, the headquarters of the popular Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi. Earlier this month, the Jamaat hosted worshippers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Kyrgyzstan where hundreds of local men and scores from South India also participated. Now nearly 2,000 people are still at risk. They had taken part in the event which attracts people from far and wide. The men usually stay on for three days.

According to reports, more than 170 people are being tested for coronavirus in various hospitals in Delhi. This is the largest single group being tested for the contagion. Following the event, one man has died, while six others have tested positive. Around 2,000 men, including 280 foreigners, remain in the Markaz. Scoffing at all norms of social distancing, they are staying in a six-floor dormitory. According to police officials, about 300 are showing symptoms linked to coronavirus. They will be shifted to quarantine locations in the city.

What makes the situation difficult to handle is that after the event at Banglewali Masjid most of the local worshippers went back to continue with their prayers at mosques in the city. With membership running into several lakhs, the Jamaat keeps no record of worshippers and refrains even from opening a website. Without focusing on worldly matters, it believes in self-realisation as the key to success.

At a time when most of the mosques across the country have shut their doors on congregations, some mosques where the influence of Tablighi Jamaat is paramount have insisted on keeping their doors open, believing that a collective prayer is the need of the hour. It has needed a combination of persuasion and force on the part of the police for many such mosques to close their doors.

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