Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan claimed the members of the religious sect Tablighi Jamaat aided the spread of coronavirus in the state and accused them of acting “irresponsibly”, PTI reported on Saturday.

Thousands of Indians and hundreds of foreigners had attended a Tablighi Jamaat conference held in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area in March. It later emerged as a coronavirus hotspot. After the event, many participants returned home across the country while others travelled to meetings, raising concerns about the scale of the potential spread of infection. In April, the Centre estimated that more than a third of the country’s cases at that time were connected to the group. Many members were placed in quarantine centres.

In an interview with PTI, Chouhan said the members of the Jamaat who returned to big cities such as Indore and Bhopal, transmitted the virus to others. The situation was exacerbated further as many of the members didn’t cooperate with the government, he added. “They stayed hidden and let the [infection] spread to those who directly or indirectly came in their contact,” he said. “They did not act responsibly.”

Madhya Pradesh has reported 6,170 cases of the coronavirus, with 272 deaths so far. Out of these, nearly 3,000 cases are from Indore, which is the worst-affected district in the state. The city has seen 111 deaths as of Saturday. Bhopal has 1,153 cases and the toll is 40.

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Chouhan said Bhopal and Indore are under the “special care” of the state administration. “The situation seems to be improving and [is] stable now,” he said. “More than 1,500 patients of Indore, Bhopal and Ujjain have recovered. All hospitals and medical centres of these regions have been equipped fully to counter the emergency situations.”

The chief minister also criticised the Congress and said the party keeps accusing his government in order to “hide their failures”. The Congress has repeatedly accused the Madhya Pradesh government of not doing enough to fight the pandemic.

“It is a time [when] we all need to fight this pandemic together, but the Congress is busy in accusing us,” he added. “It shows their concerns and priorities. They could have taken the preventive measures regarding this at much early stages that we did as soon as we took charge of the state.”

Chouhan claimed that when he took over as the chief minister of the state in March, the medical facilities in the state were in a dismal state. “Today, we are in a far better condition than before,” he said. “If the previous government was aware of these facts why didn’t they take measures to overcome these things? They could have done a lot earlier, but they were involved in their internal party conflicts [instead].”

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