The Uttar Pradesh Police on Thursday said passports of eight persons from Iran, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom had been confiscated as they had attended a religious gathering organised by the Tablighi Jamaat in Nizamuddin area of Delhi last month, PTI reported. The gathering, held amid the Covid-19 pandemic, has been a source of dozens of infections across the country.

The foreigners have been quarantined at Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital in Kanpur, Deputy Inspector General of Police Anant Deo Tiwari said.

On Tuesday, the Centre had said most of the foreigners came to India on tourist visas, which does not allow them to conduct religious activities, adding that action will be taken against the visitors for violating visa rules. A missionary visa is required for such work.

Officials in Uttar Pradesh also said that the police has registered 23 first information reports against more than 100 foreigners for violating visa rules.

Police said all the eight foreigners have been charged with relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Foreigners Act. They had been staying at a local mosque in Kanpur since their arrival in the city.

“We were tipped off that some foreign nationals who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation were staying at a mosque in Babupurwa after which they were caught,” police outpost incharge Abdul Kalam said.

Thousands of people from across India and others from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia had visited the headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat, a Sunni Muslim missionary movement, and attended a conference on March 9 and 10. It has now emerged as an infection hotspot after at least 134 people from across the country tested positive for the coronavirus and at least seven died. The missionary sect’s followers also travelled extensively, raising concerns about the scale of the potential spread of infection at the conference.

Several state governments are tracing and identifying all those who attended the gathering. A large number of people in different states have already been placed in quarantine as a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, all occupants of the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters in Nizamuddin were evacuated on Wednesday, The Hindu reported. “The operation lasted for three-and-a-half days, and extensively in the last 36 hours [ending in the early hours of Wednesday],” Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said.

He added that the Delhi government had prepared a list of the people evacuated, along with their phone numbers, and the police were looking into it. “The cyber cell will investigate the numbers and look into who all they met and where are the rest of them,” Sisodia said. “And where are the people who met them.”

Officials said the asymptomatic people, who have been moved to the quarantine facilities, are not being tested immediately, but will closely be monitored. Sisodia requested all those who visited the centre in March to report to the authorities. “If you do not come forward or if you are ill and are hiding it, action will be taken against you,” he said.

Also read:

  1. Tablighi Jamaat: How did the government fail to detect a coronavirus infection hotspot?
  2. Coronavirus: Tablighi Jamaat put its followers at risk — its leadership must rethink how it works