The Union Ministry of Home Affairs told the Rajya Sabha on Monday that the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi’s Nizamuddin locality in March caused the coronavirus to spread to many individuals, PTI reported.

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy also said that the Delhi Police arrested 233 Tablighi Jamaat members. He said 2,361 people have been evacuated from the Nizamuddin Markaz since March. “However, regarding Jamaat Chief Maulana Mohammad Saad, the investigation is under way,” he added.

A Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Nizamuddin, Delhi, in March was blamed for thousands of coronavirus infections around the country in the initial weeks of the nationwide lockdown which began on March 25. The congregation was attended by many foreigners. The Tablighi Jamaat is a Sunni Muslim sect with followers in over 80 countries.

The government said a huge number of people had assembled inside a closed premises for a long period of time without any physical distancing, without the use of masks or sanitisers. “This also caused the spread of coronavirus infection amongst many persons,” Reddy told the Rajya Sabha.

The Ministry of External Affairs said on August 28 that 1,095 look out circulars have been deleted and 630 foreign members of the Tablighi Jamaat group have left India, PTI reported. Tablighi Jamaat members stuck in India for violating visa rules and pandemic restrictions are being given consular access and “smooth repatriation” to their home countries, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

On August 6, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that foreigners facing charges for attending the Tablighi Jamaat event in India can leave if they tender an apology. The court was hearing petitions filed by 34 foreign visitors, challenging the government’s orders to blacklist them for attending the event.

In July, a court in Delhi had granted bail to 82 Bangladeshis who had attended the event. Sixty-two Malaysians and 11 Saudi Arabians were also released by another local court after payment of fines.

The Centre had in June blacklisted over 2,500 Tablighi members and prohibited their entry into the country for 10 years. The action was taken after several state governments submitted information on those who had been accused of illegally living in mosques and seminaries.

India’s coronavirus count reached 54,87,581 on Monday, after the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported a rise of 86,961 cases in 24 hours. The toll rose by 1,130 to 87,882.

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