Foreign attendees of Tablighi Jamaat Markaz pay small fine, may go home soon

Delhi Police say that none of the 956 foreigners were charged with serious crimes, yet Indian Muslims however continue to deal with hate


The Delhi Police had filed over 50 chargesheets in what was branded the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz case. The right wing propaganda machine successfully branded them ‘super spreaders’ of coronavirus in the country. State governments ran exclusive bulieteins of TJ members testing positive for Covid-19 and accused them of spreading it. Communal social media trolls turned ‘experts’ on both Covid-19 and religion and fanned hate fires against all Muslims. Indian Muslims once again found themselves attacked, ostracised and continue to be vilified even if they have no connection with the Jammat. 

After all that breaking news now reports that Malaysia and Saudi citizens who had come to attend the annual meeting of Tabhilghi Jamaat and allegedly overstayed / flouted visa rules, will now fly home after paying a small fine. According to reportage by CNN-NEWS18, these 121 men from Malaysia and 11 more from 1 from Saudi Arabia had pleaded guilty to of violating Covid-19 lockdown rules and visa rules. They were then meted out a punishment of a fine between Rs 7,000-Rs10000.

The first batch may leave early next week. According to the news report, Delhi Police which had swooped down on the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters at Nizammudin, in one of the most publicized events in the city, had not raised any objections to the foreigners being let off with a mere fine. They had chargesheeted 956 foreigners in the case.



According to the news report these TJ members “moved their applications for plea bargaining,” and the metropolitan courts recorded “the mutually satisfactory disposition between the State and the convict.” Those who came from Saudi Arabia may be allowed to return home on “protective passes after a magistrate issued appropriate directions to the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) a day ago,” stated the news. All the foreign nationals were punished with a fine that ranged between Rs 7,000 and Rs 10,000. 

Interestingly, the CNN-NEWS18 report added that the foreigners were also “given a token punishment of imprisonment till the rising of the court. This got over the same day and they were off the hook within hours.”  Reportedly the the Delhi Police has clarified that “none of the 956 foreigners had been charged under serious charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder or the attempt to commit the crime.“

The foreign nationals then moved their bail pleas, which was also not resisted by the Delhi Police. Subsequently, applications for plea bargaining were filed by those out on bail. This time too, the Delhi Police did not oppose. Makes one wonder what all the hue and cry over the Tablighi Jamaat was for? Not to mention the hate and vilification of Indian Muslims, who continue to deal with the consequences in various degrees, across the country.

According to the CNN-NEWS18 report, “Officers of the Delhi Police Crime Branch are currently busy in identifying the hundreds of foreign nationals so that they could plead guilty and be free”.

A criminal case was registered against Maulana Saad, and other members of the Tablighi Jamaat were booked under some sections of the Disaster Management Act and Sections 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease), 271 (disobedience to quarantine rule) and 120b (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

On its part, Markaz Nizamuddin, the international headquarters of the Jamaat for nearly 100 years, had said when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the “Janta Curfew” on March 22, they discontinued ongoing programmes but a large number of people were stuck there because of the closure of transport services.

Last month, in two separate bail orders, the Allahabad High Court and the Madras High Court had given protection, in their respective cases, to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation members who had gathered at Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi. These foreign nationals have been arrested on the ground that they had engaged in religious activities in breach of the visa conditions and for violating the lockdown regulations issued by the government.

At Allahabad High Court (Lucknow bench), the single judge bench of Justice Attau Rahman Masoodi, in the order dated June 9, noted the constitutional provisions under Article 20 of the Constitution of India which guarantees an equal protection to foreign nationals in the matter of trial in criminal cases and Article 21 which guarantees protection of life and personal liberty in equal measure. The applicants have been booked under section 188 [Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant] of the IPC; Section 3 [penalty for disobeying regulation] Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897; Section 56 [Failure of officer in duty or his connivance at the contravention of the provisions of this Act] of Disaster Management Act, 2005; Sections 13 [Attempts to contravene the provisions of this Act], 14B [Penalty for using forged passport] and 14C [penalty for abetment] of the Foreigners Act,

As reported earlier, most news coverage related to the breakout of the COVID 19 pandemic had  been sensationalised and concentrated on the Tablighi Jamaat’s Congregation held from March 11-13 in Delhi. The Delhi government had called it a ‘Covid-19 hotspot’.

Most mainstream ignored the events that followed, even when many members of Tablighi Jamaat were the first to donate blood plasma after they recovered from Covid19. Plasma donation has now become a nationwide call. The communalisation of the pandemic however continued to be fuelled by some TV news channels. 

The focus for many news channels even as Covid-19 pandemic raged on was on an anti-Muslim narrative so that viewers develop animosity towards their fellow members of society and even people who have lived in harmony, start discriminating against families belonging to Muslim communities. For instance, India TV in one of its shows claimed, “Doctors and Experts are of the opinion that had Jamaatis not hidden themselves at Markaz (Nizamuddin) then the lockdown could have ended on April 15”, without any expert quotes or data to back the same. Further, India Today aired a show called “Madrasa Hotspots” whereby a sting operation was conducted on Madrasas, which serve as hostels for poor, destitute and orphaned children and they were compared with the Tablighi Jamaat incident saying that despite warnings, children are kept crammed up in Madrasas. The complaint questions why Madrasas were being selectively targeted saying, “If madrasas are doing something wrong by keeping children within their premises, taking care of their needs, then by that logic, your channel should go on to question orphanages and old age homes as well.”

The Supreme Court, on May 27, had asked the Centre to submit a response in three combined petitions which seek strict action against the media for communalisation of the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi. The three petitioners are Jamiat-ulema-I-Hind, DJ Halli Federation of Masjid Madaaris and Wakf Institute.

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) called out the blatant communalisation of the pandemic. CJP  sent written complaints to news channels like India TV and India Today which had made false claims relating to Tablighi Jamaat and its connection with COVID19 as well as for sensationalising and communalising news reportage of the pandemic. In these complaints, CJP has brought the news channels’ attention to the fact that “Inciteful speech has been recognised by innumerable Judicial Commissions adjudicating into communally targeted pogroms (read “riots”) to have created a complicit public atmosphere where wider social sanction is given to such othering by hate which –after this kind of hate speech is widespread and systemic –then can lead to killing, later extermination.” It also emphasized that “such selective, sensational narratives created and promoted by the electronic media that influence social behaviour, legitimises the spread of exclusion and hate, and in extreme conditions leads to killing and violence”. 



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