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Tamil Nadu is worst-hit by Tablighi Jamaat event, but also seeing men admit participation




The Nizamuddin Markaz mosque in Delhi, centre of Tablighi Jamaat activities in India | Image: ThePrintTeam
File image of the Nizamuddin Markaz mosque in Delhi, which was the centre of Tablighi Jamaat activities | ThePrintTeam

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Chennai: Around 92 per cent of the total coronavirus-positive cases in Tamil Nadu are linked to Delhi’s Tablighi Jamaat congregation, making it one of the worst-hit by the fallout of the event.

As many as 574 out of the 621 coronavirus-positive patients are Tablighi event attendees.

The state government has found that 1,500 Tamil Muslims had attended the Delhi event in the Nizamuddin mosque in mid-March. The event had seen the participation of over 3,000 people, including foreigners. 

According to Tamil Nadu Health Secretary Dr Beela Rajesh, 1,427 attendees of the event have been traced and isolated so far. The state government is also tracing their family members and others they were in touch with, but there is no official communication on these details yet.

Tamil Nadu has also seen attendees of the congregation coming forward and declaring themselves voluntarily. 

Also read: Tablighi Jamaat will have to change its ways in post-Covid world order

Tablighis don’t have much impact on Tamil Muslims

Tablighi Jamaat came to Tamil Nadu nearly 50-60 years ago, said a leader of Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath (TNTJ), an Islamic organisation and a critic of the Tablighi Jamaat.

Although Tablighis have been active in the state for several years now, they have very little impact on the Muslims in the state, which account for 5.8 per cent of the population.

Their orthodox preaching never became a way of life, except for a very few.

Political observers in Tamil Nadu say the Tablighi Jamaat never got into any controversy in the state as they do their activities without much show-off. They also do not have the support of a majority of Muslims.

Explaining why Tablighi Jamaat attendees from Tamil Nadu were more inclined to report themselves to the authorities, unlike in other states, where many attendees have gone missing, a political observer offered several reasons.

“Firstly, the government has been talking to the local religious leaders to help them convince the attendees to come forward. Secondly, there is nothing for them to fear, unlike the north Indian states, which are communally charged up. If they come out, they will not be stigmatised in the state and, hence, we saw a good turn out unlike other states,” said the political observer, who doesn’t want to be named.

A Muslim scholar from Tiruchirapalli explained to ThePrint how the religious lifestyle of Tablighi Jamaat followers could potentially aid in the spread of the virus.

“… When these Tablighis, who are very particular about offering prayers five times a day, come together for namaaz, then as a habit, they wipe their face during prayers. They also use mats to kneel down during prayers and these mats are then used by others in the congregation. This essentially risks pathogen transfer,” said the scholar, who didn’t want to be identified.

“They are very minimalist. They use the same plates among themselves to eat. Also, all of them do musafa (holding each other’s hands and then hugging thrice) every time they come across a senior/VIP in the Jamaat. These are also potential ways of virus transfer. All the instructions from the state government to local clerics to avoid such risks came only much later,” the scholar added.

Also read: RSS says Tablighi Jamaat conduct not reflection on all Muslims, they’re aiding govt in fight

How Tablighis function in Tamil Nadu

Tablighi Jamaat’s primary responsibility is to travel to different places and preach to the Muslim community about Islam.

Dindigul district acts like a headquarters of the Tablighis in the state, said an academic, who has made a documentary on the history and cultural identity of Tamil Muslims. 

A member of the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath gave details of how Tablighis function. 

“Tablighis move to different towns to interact with and preach to individuals coming for namaaz in mosques. When they go to preach in a town, they find few new people to join them, while some leave the group.

“The group, with the remaining people and the new people, then move to the next city to preach. This chain continues without any break and, hence, (the groups have) a large following.”

According to the leader: “… the chain that was initiated by founder (of Tablighi Jamaat) Muhammed Ilyas is continued even now. Some might have just served (the Jamaat) for a week, some six months and others a few years. People come and go at different points, but the chain (of preaching by moving to different places) continues.”

Giving more details about how their functioning, a Jamaat member from Ooty told ThePrint that they get in touch with people by visiting the local mosques, where they tell them about Islam by quoting the Prophet.

“1,500 is a very usual number for any state attending the (Jamaat) meeting. In Tamil Nadu, it is mostly operational district wise. Every district has a senior person, who leads them,” said the member.

“They preach orthodox practices in Islam. With the changing lifestyle of many within the community, they (Tablighis) still insist on the fundamentals. For example, to pray five times a day, to keep a beard, to read the Prophet, etc.”

Tablighis preach for attaining a “heavenly life” and for that they insist on giving up the worldly pleasures.

“They won’t even have a TV in their house. They won’t take a loan/interest from the bank. Their women are repressed. Their day involves only work and zikr (devotional act over prayer beads),” said a female relative of a Tablighi worker.

The Jamaat member from Ooty quoted above said the Tablighis are “non-intrusive” in most circumstances. 

“They do not keep banners/posters like others to show their presence. They get in touch with the people by visiting the local mosques,” he added.

Tablighi congregations happen all over the year, he said, adding they are like “workshops”.

“The silver lining amidst all these is that the attendees can’t go anywhere outside the markaz (headquarters) and mosques or wherever they are put in during the congregations. They are not supposed to eat outside or at their homes. They reside in mosques and talk to people who go there for namaz.”

Tablighi events & fatwas against them  

Institutional support from some institutes such as Madrasa Kashiful Huda in Chennai and Anwarul Uloom Arabic College in Tiruchirappalli, has helped and encouraged the Tablighi Jamaat in the state.

An all-India Jamaat congregation had happened in Tiruchirappalli district last year. In 1996, there was a big congregation in Puthalam town in Kanyakumari district. 

But, there have always been a lot of unpleasantries between Tablighis and other Islamic organisations in the state.

Many organisations had even issued fatwas against Tablighis, including the Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, a Muslim outfit of scholars and clerics, in 1965 because of their religious activities.

Baqiyat Islamic College in Vellore and Kayalpatnam Mahlarathul Qadriya Arabic College had also issued fatwas against the Tablighis in 1971.

In 2018, there was an appeal to Tamil Nadu Jamathul Ulama from 60 other ulamas in the state to raise voice against the activities of Tablighi Jamaat. 

A large section of Muslims in Tamil Nadu are known to follow a syncretic tradition. Syncretism is the combining of different religious beliefs.

Theemithi (walking over the fire), thee satti (holding burning fire pot), which were part of the Mariyamman Hindu festival, were also observed by Muslims on occasions like Muharram. These practices were, however, opposed by the Tablighis. 

“There has always been huge criticism of Tablighis within the Islamic community for spending resources on organising summits and meetings instead of utilising them to support educational institutions or economically backward Muslims in the state,” said the academic, who has been quoted in the beginning. 

Also read: Tablighi Jamaat was a serious security lapse. Futile to argue Hindu temples too were open


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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