Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla had this week ordered other states to start filing criminal cases against the foreign Tablighi workers as well.
The special team of Delhi Police on Sunday headed back to the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat that has emerged as the single-biggest source of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections in the country and seized documents including a crucial register that contains details of foreign Tablighi workers in the country.
“We have started the probe,” a top Delhi Police officer told Hindustan Times after a team of the Crime Branch seized the register. Police in the national capital had registered the first case against the Tablighi workers (FIR number 63) and its leadership for multiple offences.
Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla had this week ordered other states to start filing criminal cases against the foreign Tablighi workers as well. A Home Ministry official said they had started receiving confirmation from states that police stations across the country had started registering cases under the penal provisions against these workers..
Faced with the legal proceedings against them, the foreign nationals attempted to escape India in special flights for evacuating Malyasian and Indonesian nationals.
But they were stopped from boarding the evacuation flights at Delhi and Chennai airports under instructions from the home ministry. Among those stopped was a group of 8 Malaysians who had boarded the flight to Kuala Lumpur but were stopped by immigration officials minutes before take off.
The religious congregation at Tablighi Jamaat’s Nizamuddin headquarters has been linked to a third of coronavirus infections in India. In the national capital, according to a Delhi government document seen by HT, 320 out of the city’s total of 503 cases are linked to the Tablighi Jamaat.
The number of Covid-19 infection cases are expected to go up as foreigners later picked up from various mosques in Delhi and other parts of the country are being tested for the virus.
Officials recall how the Tablighi Jamaat leadership resisted efforts to get them to vacate the premises when health authorities sounded an alarm at scores of people showing symptoms of the disease. On March 28, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had to test his relationship with Darul-Uloom, Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and Al-Hadees leadership to convince Markaz emir to ask his supporters to vacate the Banglewali Masjid.
It was only then that the Jamaat workers came out and boarded the buses lined up for them. By then, 24 of them had already tested positive and 200 showed symptoms of having contracted the infection.
The discovery of the hot spot had triggered alarm in several circles of the government and triggered a nation-wide search for foreigners and Indians alike who had been to the Markaz, or come in contact with someone who did.
The Home Ministry said 21,200 Tablighi Jamaat workers and their contacts had been placed under quarantine. At his daily briefing on Sunday, health ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal underlined how the Jamaat-linked cases across 17 states had fuelled the spike in Covid-19 cases in India.
India’s Covid-19 cases have doubled in 4.1 days due to the Tablighi Jamaat cases, he said.
“If it were not for the congregation, India’s rate of doubling— that is the number of days the cases double — would have been at 7.4 days,” Agarwal said.