Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad Kandhlawi on Wednesday released an audio message, saying he has put himself in self quarantine at an undisclosed location on a doctor’s advice. Several states are still identifying and tracing people linked to a religious event held at the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi last month, after dozens of them began testing positive for Covid-19 in parts of the country in recent days.

“I am in self-quarantine in Delhi as advised by the doctors and appeal to all Jamaat wherever they are in the country to follow the directives of the law,” Kandhlawi said in a voice message released on YouTube. The message came after the Delhi Police registered a first information report against the preacher and others members of the outfit under Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, for organising a congregation amid the coronavirus outbreak. The Delhi government had filed a case against the Markaz administration on Monday.

The religious leader appealed to the members of the Tablighi Jamaat to support the government in fighting the pandemic. “We should avoid gathering at places and follow what the government and law want us to do,” he said. “ It is also our duty to provide support and help to them in these times. Quarantine yourself, no matter where you are, it is not against Islam or Shariyat.”

The Crime Branch of Delhi Police has launched a search operation in the Capital for Kandhlawi and six other Markaz officials, NDTV reported. It conducted raids in several places, including at Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, and has contacted 14 hospitals till now, to track down the missing cleric. A notice was also sent to his home and has been received by his family, who said they would respond through Kandhlawi’s lawyer.

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As reported previously, thousands of Indians and hundreds of foreigners had attended the conference that took place on March 9 and 10 in the densely populated Nizamuddin area. The conference was organised by the Tablighi Jamaat preachers at the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid in Delhi. An Islamic evangelical organisation, the Jamaat, an offshoot of the Deobandi movement, has its presence in several parts of India and countries in South Asia and South-East Asia.

This year so far, nearly 2,100 foreign visitors had come to India for Tablighi activities, and as of March 21, about 824 of them were conducting their activities in the country, the ministry said. The government claimed it had shared details of all these workers with the police in states on March 21 for the purpose of screening and quarantine after some Covid-19 cases were found among them in Telangana.

Additionally, there were about 1,746 persons staying in the mosque as on March 21, including 216 foreigners, the ministry said. Besides, about 2,137 Indian workers have been identified across the country who were conducting the group’s activities, and they are being medically examined and quarantined, the ministry said. The Centre has asked police in states to trace the movement of all such workers.