Muslims with no link to Tablighi Jamaat detained by Delhi Police, sent to quarantine

The Delhi Police randomly picked up more than 20 Muslim men from north-east Delhi on April 1 for their alleged association with Tablighi Jamaat. None of them had been to the conference

Photo courtesy- social media
Photo courtesy- social media

Ashlin Mathew

The Delhi Police randomly picked up more than 20 Muslim men from north-east Delhi on April 1for allegedly being associated with the Tablighi Jamaat conference. None of them had been to the conference or knew anyone who had gone. They all tested negative for Covid-19.

Though at least 20 of them tested negative twice, they have been confined at the Covid-19 quarantine facility at Wazirabad-based Delhi Police Training Academy. At least eight of them are Shastri Park residents. All the rest are from Khajuri Khas, which saw one of the worst pogroms in the national capital in March 2020. Boys as young as 19 were detained, and one of them had just returned from Bulandshahr.

None of them could get in touch with their families as their phone had been confiscated by the police. It was returned to them only on Friday, which was when word began to get out about their confinement.

“I had stepped out to buy fruits on April 1 when I was picked up by the police. I repeatedly told them that I had not attended the Tablighi Jamaat conference at Nizamuddin, but they were not willing to listen. They said they would send us back home in two hours after a couple of tests. First, we were taken to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital for Coronavirus tests. When the doctor found out we were not from Markaz, he said there was no need to test us,” said a resident of Shashtri Park.

Another young man who was on his way to his textile shop was picked up under a ruse. The local police asked him to get photocopies of adocument. When he came back with the papers, he was also herded into an ambulance. One of them was asked to come down to the police station by a neighbour, while he was having breakfast at home.

All of them were made to wait for four hours at RML hospital. The police then promised them that they would be taken home after their tests, but instead all of them were brought to the quarantine centre at Wazirabad.

“Once we were brought to the quarantine centre, on April 1, they conducted the first test on April 4 and then the throat and nasal swabs were taken on April 13. The doctors said we tested negative, but they haven’t given us the certificates. They said they would give it to us once we are allowed to go home,” said another Wazirabad inmate, who has young children at home.

Of the eight men who were picked up from Shastri Park, one is the Imam of the mosque at Shastri Park. On the third floor of the building associated with the mosque, a few foreigners who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat were allowed to stay as the lockdown had been enforced before they could leave.

“None of us, including the Imam, had met them. Several such religious groups are given rooms to stay and the Imam doesn’t have to meet them. This time too, a local Haji had facilitated their stay through the administration. The foreigners kept to themselves and rarely came down. The foreigners were taken in an ambulance by the police. Thinking that the Imam would have interacted with them, he was also asked to go,” said a Wazirabad inmate. The Imam cooperated with the Delhi Police and went with them.

At RML Hospital, when the doctors realised that the Imam had not attended the Markaz meeting, they didn’t test him for the virus. He was eventually tested at Wazirabad twice and both his results showed negative.

Of the eight men from Shastri Park, three turned positive for Coronavirus. One was moved to the Sultanpuri quarantine centre and the other two to a quarantine centre near Sonia Vihar.

None of them know when they will be allowed to go home though it’s been 27 days since they have been kept at Wazirabad. “When we asked the ADM who comes here regularly, he asked us to think of the quarantine centre as our nani’s house. Just like how during vacations, people go to their grandparents’ homes, consider this stay to be that,” said another Wazirabad inmate.

“The foreign inmates here have been given their medical certificate. When we asked for ours, they said, they would give it when we go home. But, when are we going to go home? The authorities say as soon as the health ministry approves. Why is there a delay? For Covid-19, the quarantine period is 14 days. We have been here for 27 days. We don’t know when we will be allowed to leave,” said another resident.

“We were picked up only because we were Muslims. It seems that some local police informers must have mentioned our names to trap us. We don’t why we were detained when we had nothing to do with Tabligh Jamaat conference,” said another young man, who had also tested negative for Coronavirus.

Commiserating with Wazirabad residents, chairman of Delhi Minority CommissionZafar ul Islam Khan said, “It looks like they were picked up when they were outdoors. They were detained for no reason. In their eagerness to show results, the Delhi Police caught people with a beard, pyjama and kurta. They were identified as Tablighis. Most of the people who were detained were at the wrong place at the wrong time. I heard of people who came to attend a wedding and they were picked up.”

The Delhi Police directed the questions to the government of Delhi. “Please ask all questions regarding those who have been quarantined to the government of Delhi,” said MS Randhawa, Delhi Police PRO.

Asked about it, District Magistrate Shashi Kaushal snapped, “They have been quarantined for their good after contact to contact tracing by the government. If they have a problem, they should complain to the police. Who is complaining, give me their names? People have been picked up without any caste or creed. Don’t make an issue out of this when there is no issue.”

When she was asked why the phones of the inmates were taken away, she had said in another interview that it pertained to law and order. Police did so keeping in view the law and order situation, she added.

Calls to both Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain and Principal Secretary Rajesh Prasad went unanswered. When they do answer, this article will be updated.

Issues at Wazirabad Quarantine facility

The quarantine facility at Wazirabad was not prepared to handle all these inmates. A large hall has been divided into makeshift rooms where a minimum of four people have been housed together. “It is a dormitory and not a quarantine centre. There are around 8 bathrooms for more than 100 people. It is extremely hot and on Sunday, after almost a month, they got us table fans. We have been unable to sleep because of the heat and mosquitoes,” said a man who did not want to be identified.

There are several complaints about the food being served at the centre. “For breakfast we get bananas and bread, lunch is usually rice with some pumpkin preparation and in the night we are given poori and vegetable. On some days, dal is served. Our stomachs have started to get affected. Prison inmates get such food,” said an older inmate.

Even after the month of Ramzan began, they were not were given Iftar and Sehri meals until Sunday. “The government said they will not be able to provide us Sehri meals as it is too early in the morning. Now Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has said they will give us Sehri meals. Earlier, we got only two bananas and 3 pieces of dates for Iftar. On Sunday, it was better. They gave us banana, biscuits, dates and pakodas, while Jamiat gave us fruits and chicken biryani for Iftar,” said a Wazirabad resident, who did not want to be identified.

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