As on March 21, there were 1746 people including 216 foreigners at Markaz: MHA

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People being taken to hospital at the Nizamuddin area in New Delhi on Tuesday.

As many as 2100 foreigners visited India for Tablighi activities since January 1 and all of them first reported at its headquarters in Delhi's Nizamuddin, said the government Tuesday, which has apparently become a coronavirus hotspot. In a statement, the home ministry said while approximately 824 of them, as on March 21, were dispersed in different parts of the country, 216 of them were staying at Nizamuddin Markaz, where several of them tested COVID-19 positive.

It is estimated that from January 1 onwards, approximately 2100 foreigners had visited India for Tabligh activities, the statement said. Tablighi Jamaat workers, both foreigners as well Indians, indulge in preaching tours or Chilla across the country throughout the year.

Meanwhile, earlier today, dismissing reports that quarantine protocols were not practiced at New Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz, the mosque administration on Tuesday clarified that it had tried to comply with them but a large group of visitors were stuck at the markaz (centre) as the government suspended all passenger train operations across the country till March 31.

It also said that the organisation had requested the concerned Sub-Divisional Magistrate to issue vehicle passes so that the stranded guests can go back home, but the permission is yet to be granted.

Parts of southeast Nizamuddin West in Delhi have been put under a strict lockdown after 24 people tested positive for COVID-19. It is also being linked to cases in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andaman islands, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and five deaths in Telangana. All of them are said to have attended a congregation at the Nizamuddin mosque in Mid-March. Over 1,000 people continued to stay at the Tablighi Jamaat's Markaj even as a 21-day nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 24.

The Delhi government accused the organisation of "gross negligence" and said it plans to lodge an FIR against the maulana of the mosque.

People who showed coronavirus symptoms being taken to various hospitals from the Nizamuddin area in New Delhi on Monday. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

In a press note, Nizamuddin Markaz — the Delhi headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat — said after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for 'Janata curfew' on March 22, the ongoing program was discontinued. However, as the Indian Railways suspended its operations, it had to accommodate the stranded guests.

"Before the Janta Curfew could be lifted at 9 PM, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi announced lockdown of Delhi beginning at 6 AM 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." The lockdown was further extended to three-weeks on March 23.

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Parts of southeast Nizamuddin West in Delhi have been put under a strict lockdown after 18 people tested positive for COVID-19.

"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," it further added.

The organisation also added that a Tehsildaar along with a medical team visited the Markaz on March 25 to examine the visitors.

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Over 1,000 people continued to stay at the Jamaat's Markaj even after this period even as a 21-day nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 24.

"It is also being circulated that certain deaths have occurred due to the same. 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," it said, further offering its premises as a quarantine facility.

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