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PUTTING LIVES IN DANGER

A religious congregation in Delhi could be the coronavirus hotspot India was trying to escape

Niharika Sharma
By Niharika Sharma

Aviation and social media reporter

A recent religious congregation, organised in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area, has become a major worry for Indian officials trying to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

Six persons from Telangana state, who attended the conference between March 13 and 15, died of the disease yesterday (March 30), according to a statement from the chief minister’s office.

Over 2,000 people, including delegates from Indonesia and Malaysia, had attended the congregation organised by Tablighi Jamaat, a global Islamic missionary movement set up in 1926.

While the event took place before India’s nationwide lockdown began on March 25, it violated a Delhi state government order restricting religious and public gatherings, according to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Consequently, Kejriwal has asked for a police case to be filed against the mosque administration for negligence.

Delhi police cordoned off a major area in Nizamuddin West in south Delhi yesterday (March 30), where over 200 people have shown the Covid-19 symptoms. Delhi has a total of 97 confirmed coronavirus cases so far.

Cases of Covid-19 have surfaced in several states linked to the said gathering.

On March 27, six attendees of the Delhi meeting tested positive in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Besides, a 65-year-old man, who died of coronavirus at a hospital in Jammu & Kashmir’s Srinagar on March 26, had attended the congregation and returned by train. In another case, a 52-year-old man tested positive after his return to Guntur in Andhra Pradesh state.

At present, entry to the Markaz Masjid, the mosque where the congregation was organised, has been banned until further orders.

The centre is planning to blacklist around 800 preachers from Indonesia who came on a tourist visa and participated in the three-day religious conference. India allows tourists from Indonesia to apply for a visa on arrival.

The extension of fear and misery

Currently, India’s total count of Covid-19 positive patients stands at 1,251, including 32 deaths.

Even as more fresh cases emerge in the country, the Narendra Modi government has refuted reports claiming it may extend the ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown beyond April 14.

Meanwhile, the country’s apex court said yesterday that “fear” and “panic” are becoming a bigger threat than the pandemic itself. The supreme court’s statement came against the backdrop of a mass exodus of migrant labourers from cities to the villages.

Thousands of daily-wage earning labourers in various cities, including Delhi, were forced to walk back to their villages as they found it tough to survive amid the lockdown. So far, around 22 people have died in their desperate attempt to reach home.

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