Police issue alert on revival of Tablighi activities

Religious heads across the State told not to entertain strangers, foreign nationals

The Tamil Nadu police have issued an alert on the revival of the Tablighi Jamaat’s activities in the State.

Instructions were given to senior police officers to advise local religious heads not to entertain strangers or foreign nationals at a time when the State was reeling from the second wave of COVID-19.

Police sources said a few instances of Tablighi Jamaat members, including some from other States, taking part in various activities in Chennai, Krishnagiri, Tenkasi and a few other places had come to their notice in recent weeks, and the advisory was issued in the backdrop of the sharp increase in the number of fresh cases and deaths.

However, there was no mention of the returnees of the Kumbh Mela held in Haridwar, in which thousands of people from across the country took part, triggering a controversy over the violation of COVID-19 safety guidelines. It was not clear whether law-enforcement agencies had a list of those from the State who attended the Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand to follow up on their health since dozens of participants, including health workers, had tested positive for the virus, sources said.

Last week, the police headquarters sent out the advisory reminding officers of the Tablighi Jamaat international conference held in Malaysia and the All India Tamil Nadu Masura organised at New Delhi in the third week of March 2020, which coincided with the outbreak of the first wave of COVID-19.

The Tablighi Jamaat gathering had emerged a cluster with many participants, their family members and others who came in contact with them testing positive for the virus. The police formed special teams to identify and isolate the delegates in Covid Care Centres. The State intelligence played a crucial role in diffusing the communal overtones given to the spread of the virus, it said.

Besides the banning of religious gatherings, many Tablighi Jamaat members and some local people were prosecuted. At least nine Tablighi Jamaat delegates from Malaysia who were arrested under the provisions of the National Disaster Management Act, 2005, Foreigners Act among others and convicted by a court in Chennai and fined Rs. 4,000 each and later repatriated to their country.

Religious gatherings were prohibited and Tablighi Jamaat activities went unnoticed due to the Covid-19 lockdowns that were in force during most part of 2020. The relaxation that followed led to revival of Tablighi work resulting in local people and foreign nationals visiting various mosques, the advisory said adding that local religious heads should be briefed on the volatile situation in the resurgence of the second wave of Covid-19 and advised not to entertain outsiders and foreign nationals at this "crucial juncture", the sources added.

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