People in Nizamuddin mosque moved to isolation at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, Delhi
People in Nizamuddin mosque moved to isolation at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, Delhi|Photo credit: Deccan Herald
Tamil Nadu

South Indian States On High Alert Following Nizamuddin Event

Tamil Nadu and Telangana report the maximum number of persons who attended the event

Team Lede

Team Lede

Tamil Nadu is facing a grim situation as it attempts to trace around 1200 persons who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Markaz Banglewali mosque in Delhi.

The state has already traced 891 persons who attended the event. Another 400 are currently in Delhi under isolation.

The break up of the districts that the 891 persons belong to is given below.

The number of people identified in TN who attended the Nizamuddin event and returned
The number of people identified in TN who attended the Nizamuddin event and returned Source: TN state government

As per a senior bureaucrat, “Over 1200 persons from Tamil Nadu participated in the conference at Delhi. We have traced 891 persons in Tamil Nadu. Out of 20 tested in Erode, 10 turned positive now. Another 400 are stranded in Delhi who are being screened. There are about 1500 still there from various states and not cooperating with authorities. The fear is that many are turning positive. This is going to be a big challenge to every one of us,” he said.

There are three groups of people that the state is attempting to identify and quarantine. Contact tracing is underway. The first two groups arrived in February itself, before there were any restrictions on air travel from abroad.

The first set of people that the state has already traced are 125 foreign preachers from Indonesia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and other countries. This group split into 13 groups of preachers and moved around 13 districts in Tamil Nadu. While the state has managed to identify and screen all 125, it is now in the process of identifying who they came in contact with. Containment measures have already been initiated for the areas visited by this group of 125 preachers.

The second set of people numbered 79 foreign preachers. They split up into eight groups and moved around eight districts in Tamil Nadu. District authorities have been instructed to identify the areas they went to and launch containment measures. Contact tracing is proving to be very tough in these cases as the preachers moved around uninhibited, said a senior bureaucrat. This group later went to Delhi for the Nizamuddin event.

This, according to sources in the state government, is the reason for the sudden spike in positive cases in Erode, Salem and Madurai. On March 30 alone, 10 new positive cases were reported in Erode.

In Anamalai, near Coimbatore, a 40-year-old man was identified as having attended the Nizamuddin meeting. He, along with six of his primary contacts, have been moved to ESI Hospital in Coimbatore for quarantine. 500 houses surrounding the area he lived in have been sprayed with disinfectants using a fire engine as seen in the visuals below.

The state government is on tenterhooks as they try to trace the remaining persons who attended the Nizamuddin meeting.

Telangana

Six people, who tested positive for COVID-19, have died in Telangana. All of these people had attended the Nizamuddin event.

The state health department said that they had alerted the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), New Delhi, about the possibility of mass transmission of the novel coronavirus in other states.

“It has become a national issue as people from all Indian states had participated in the meet. There is a need for all states to identify people who were present at Markaz (mosque) between March 13 and 15 and isolate all of them, including their close contacts,” sources in the health department told The Lede.

The state government of Telangana has issued an urgent appeal asking those who attended the meeting in Delhi’s Nizamuddin to voluntarily report to the authorities.

The state government has released a list of districts and the number of people who attended the large event of in late March. The list is as follows.

List of people identified by Telangana govt as having attended the Nizamuddin event
List of people identified by Telangana govt as having attended the Nizamuddin event Source: Telangana state government

The state government had upped the ante in the wake of a 75-year-old man, a resident of Khairtabad, dying with symptoms of COVID-19 on March 28. While the state government had only announced that the patient had a travel history to a religious event in Delhi, Saifabad police confirmed to The Lede that he did in fact attend the Nizamuddin event.

Upon return to Telangana at an undisclosed date, he had reported an eye problem and went to get it checked. Following this, he developed high fever and respiratory distress and his family admitted him to a private hospital nearby. When it got worse, he was taken to a larger private hospital, where he died.

The private hospital informed the authorities about him having symptoms of COVID-19 and his samples were tested. They returned positive. The man’s wife and son are currently under quarantine.

Telangana has seen a big spike in the number of cases of COVID-19, following the tracing and testing of those who attended the meeting in Nizamuddin. As on March 31, the state had announced a total of 76 positive cases with 10 discharged after treatment.

Karnataka

The third COVID-19 death recorded in Karnataka appears to have been that of a person who attended the Nizamuddin meeting. A 65-year-old man from Sira in Tumakuru was the victim.

The manager of a local madarassa, he, along with 13 others, boarded the Sampark Kranti train on March 05 and reached Delhi on March 07. They went by taxis to the Jamia Masjid and stayed there.

On March 11, he returned to Yeshwantpur via the Kongu Express train and reached in the wee hours of March 14. He took a KSRTC bus from there to Sira and stayed there for a few days.

“Since he stayed at the Jamia Masjid in Delhi from March 07 to 11, we are tracing all his contacts and coordinating with the Delhi government,” said Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, government of Karnataka.

Four days after he reached Sira, he developed a cough and fever and went to a private hospital in Sira itself. On March 21, he again visited a private clinic and was referred to the district hospital.

On March 23, he visited the district hospital as an outpatient and returned to Sira. The next day he was admitted with Severe Acute Respiratory Infection and was moved to the isolation ward.

He passed away on March 27, according to district authorities.

Eight of his family members have been kept in home quarantine along with the 13 others who travelled with him. Of the family members, one boy, a 13-year-old has tested positive, while the others tested negative.

Andhra Pradesh

In Andhra Pradesh, 711 persons who attended the Nizamuddin meeting have been tracked down by authorities and another 85 are being traced.

Those who have been found have been put into isolation of varying kinds, some at home and others in hospitals, along with their primary contacts.

Andhra has reported one case of a COVID-19 positive man who had attended the Nizamuddin event. He has died.

Andhra government officials were not available to provide further details.

Here is the list of districts where the attendees hail from.

Persons identified by district who were attendees of Nizamuddin event
Persons identified by district who were attendees of Nizamuddin event Source: AP state government

Kerala

The death of a Keralite who attended the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Markaz Banglewali mosque in Delhi has put health officials in the state on their toes as the deaths of many others who attended the meeting are connected to COVID-19.

“At this stage we are tracing the preliminary contacts. We have a list of four. We are making calls. A clear picture is not available yet,” a health surveillance official in Pathanamthitta from where the deceased hails, told The Lede.

According to reports, the Keralite who attended the religious congregation at Nizamuddin in Delhi has been identified as a retired professor.

He was one of the three people from Pathanamthitta who participated in the religious congregation held on March 18.

Before reaching Nizamuddin, he had visited Saudi Arabia and flew directly to Delhi to participate in the congregation.

His mortal remains was not brought to his native place and he was buried in a mosque in Delhi.

The deceased was suffering from heart disease.

His son-in-law and a friend are the other two people who attended the congregation. Both are under observation in Nizamuddin.

Meanwhile, the official in Pathanamthitta added that very soon a clear picture would be available.

His antecedents could not be ascertained, since he had relapsed into a coma after being admitted into the hospital. His relatives told Health Department officials that he had attended a wedding reception and a funeral between March 05 and 23.

Apart from the Pathanamthitta case, a 29-year-old doctor and her 10-month-old daughter, from Kottayam, tested positive for COVID-19 in the Indian Railway Hospital, Coimbatore where she works.

Authorities state that she came into indirect contact with a Thai national who was one of the preachers.

The Kerala state government could not be reached to find out whether they had details of any other persons who attended the Nizamuddin meeting from the state.

Investigating Agencies

Sources in the investigating agencies tasked with tracing those who had gathered at the mosque in Nizamuddin told The Lede that approximately 2054 people had gathered at the mosque.

Some of them went to a Tablighi Jamaat conference held in Malaysia between February 27 and March 01, say investigating officers, although there is no clear number to those who attended the Malaysian conference.

According to an Al Jazeera report on the conference in Malaysia, out of 16,000 people who attended the event, 1500 were foreigners. Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia’s positive cases have their roots at that particular conference, according to the report.

According to the agencies, the list of districts where the attendees of the Nizamuddin event hail from are as follows.

Kerala: Kannur, Ernakulam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Kollam

Tamil Nadu: Chennai, Erode, Salem, Coimbatore, Vellore, Tirupur, Tirunelveli, Chengalpet

Andhra Pradesh: Vizag, Guntur, Nellore, Kurnool, Chittoor

Other states: Panipat and Palwal

The Markaz Nizamuddin has responded to the issue with the following statement reproduced in toto below.

PRESS NOTE ISSUED BY MARKAZ NIZAMUDDIN DATED 31.03.2020

Markaz Nizamuddin is the international headquarters of Tabilghi Jamaat for close to 100 years. Visitors/guests/devotees/worshippers from across the globe throng the place for pre-scheduled programs lasting for no more than 3-5 days. All the programs are decided a year in advance in order to facilitate visitors from far-off places to plan their participation.

When Hon’ble Prime Minister announced the “Janta Curfew”, for 22nd March 2020, the ongoing program in Markaz Nizamuddin was discontinued immediately, however due to sudden cancelation of rail services across the country on 21st March 2020, a large group of visitors who had to depart by way of railways got stuck in the Markaz premises.

On 22nd March 2020, “Janta Curfew” was observed and accordingly visitors were advised not to venture out until 9 PM as desired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, therefore the plans to move back to their native places by way of means other than railways also did not materialize. Before the Janta Curfew could be lifted at 9PM, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi announced lockdown of Delhi beginning at 6AM on 23rd March 2020 till 31st March 2020, thereby further diminishing any chances of these visitors availing road transport for their journey back home. Despite this challenging situation, with the help of Markaz administration, around fifteen hundred visitors left Markaz Nizamuddin by availing whatever meager transport was available.

Suddenly on the evening of 23rd March, a further nationwide lockdown was announced by the Hon’ble Prime Minister with clear message for people to stay-put wherever they are. Under such compelling circumstances there was no option for Markaz Nizamuddin but to accommodate the stranded visitors with prescribed medical precautions till such time that situation becomes conducive for their movement or arrangements are made by the authorities.

On 24th March 2020, suddenly a notice was issued by SHO, P.S. Hazrat Nizamuddin, seeking closure of Markaz premises. The same was responded on 24th March 2020, stating that the compliance of the directions regarding closure of Markaz is already underway and around 1500 people had departed the previous day, thus leaving around 1000 visitors belonging to different states and nationalities in Markaz. It was also informed that the Ld. SDM concerned had been requested to issue vehicle passes so that the remaining people could be sent back to their native places outside of Delhi. It is relevant to indicate here that lists of 17 vehicles with registration numbers along with the names of the drivers plus their license details were submitted to the Ld. SDM so that the stranded visitors/guests could be ferried towards their destination. The requisite permission is still awaited.

On 25th March 2020, the Tehsildaar along with medical team visited the Markaz, full cooperation was provided for their inspection as well as in preparation of list of visitors, many of whom were examined by them.

On 26th March 2020, the Ld. SDM visited Markaz Nizamuddin and called us for a further meeting with the Ld. DM. We met the Ld. DM, apprised him of the stranded visitors and once again sought permission for the vehicles arranged by us.

The next day, i.e. 27th March 2020, six persons were taken for medical check-up.

On 28th March 2020, the Ld. SDM and WHO team visited the Markaz and 33 persons were taken for medical checkup to Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital. Surprisingly on the same day another notice was issued, this time by the Office of ACP, Lajpat Nagar, reiterating the prohibitory orders and warning of legal action, this being totally oblivious of the above deliberations and steps that had already been taken by Markaz Nizamuddin in consultation with the authorities. However, the same was replied in detail vide letter dated 29th March 2020.

Yesterday, 30th March 2020, a rumour started gaining ground across social media that allegedly people affected with COVID-19 are present in Markaz. It is also being circulated that certain deaths have occurred due to the same. Unexpectedly, as reported by ANI, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi went on to say that he has directed authorities to take legal action against the administration of Markaz. It is humbly stated that if the above fact-check could have been done by the Office of Hon’ble Chief Minister, the authorities would have apprised him about their visits, deliberations and cooperation extended by the Markaz in order to disperse the remaining visitors. During this entire episode, Markaz Nizamuddin never violated any provision of law, and always tried to act with compassion and reason towards the visitors who came to Delhi from different states. It did not let them violate the medical guidelines by thronging ISBTs or roaming on streets.

Markaz Nizamuddin would like to humbly offer the entire premises as a quarantine facility to help the authorities tide-over the challenge of current pandemic. Throughout its 100-year existence, Markaz Nizamuddin has an unblemished history of cooperating with administration/ authorities and always upholding the rule of law in letter and spirit. In the present challenge of COVID-19, Markaz stands with the law enforcement authorities and shall remain forthcoming in complying with all the guidelines issued by them.

This is a developing story and The Lede will bring you more updates.

(This report has been updated to add in additional details from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala as well as the statement from Markaz Nizamuddin)

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