New Delhi: Two years after it was sealed amid a spike in Covid-19 cases, locals welcomed the complete reopening of the Tablighi Jamaat’s headquarters — the Nizamuddin Markaz — in Delhi Friday.
A congregation of the Tablighi Jamaat — a transnational Sunni Islamic missionary movement — last took place in February 2020. It came under the scanner in March that year after it was seen as the reason behind a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.
The Delhi police, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Union ministry of home affairs, raided the Markaz in April 2020 and registered an FIR for the violation of orders against large gatherings amid Covid pandemic. The building and Nizamuddin area was sealed after over 200 people who had gathered for the congregation tested positive for Covid.
The full reopening of the Markaz building came after the Delhi High Court, on 29 September, ordered the Delhi Police to hand over keys of the Markaz to Tablighi Jamaat chief, Maulana Saad.
In May this year, the high court had issued an interim order enabling the reopening of the mosque inside the Markaz that had been shut after the controversial Tablighi Jamaat meeting. But the HC order was opposed by the central government.
Meanwhile, the reopening of Markaz has renewed the influx of Tablighi Jamaat followers from around the country and revived businesses in the neighbourhood.
“The headquarters were closed because of false propaganda… The coronavirus caused many tragedies in the country, but there was no need to humiliate Nizamuddin for it” said Mehboob Ali, a resident of the area.
After the sealing of the Markaz in 2020, the Muslim community had suffered immense outrage, hate speech and religious violence amid lockdown across the country.
Professor Tanweer Fazal, a sociologist at the University of Hyderabad, had said,”The vilification of Muslims was done to hide the government’s mismanagement in dealing with the virus and their callousness.”
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‘They have seen enough, won’t talk’
As members of the Tablighi Jamaat from the Markaz headed out on the streets Friday, they evaded questions from the media and refused to talk to ThePrint.
Visibly perturbed post the long-drawn controversy that vilified their community, the Tablighi members hurriedly walked back inside the Markaz building saying, “No, we don’t want to talk.”
A burqa clad-woman, resident of Nizamuddin, who wished to not be named said, “They will not speak to you. They have seen enough. But I can tell you that they have been restless and awaiting their return to the Markaz.”
ThePrint tried to head inside the women’s section of the Markaz, accessible through a lane towards the back of the building, but was not allowed.
A man in his 50s, who had come with his family from Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh and was visiting the area, told ThePrint, “We are God-fearing people. We always have been. Blaming the Tablighi Jamaat for the rise in coronavirus cases was nothing but a weapon to hurt our community. Everyone was falling sick around the country. Why were we alone blamed for it?”
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‘Businesses booming again’
On Friday, the lane leading to the Nizamuddin Auliya dargah, a shrine dedicated to revered Sufi saint Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya, was lit. The streets across the neighbourhood, dotted with flower shops, dry fruit shops, and vegetable and fruit sellers, were abuzz.
“The market is flourishing and my business has boomed again after these two years. We are glad that the Markaz has opened its doors to the Tablighi Jamaat members again,” said Bhola, selling dupattas outside the Nizamuddin dargah, near the Markaz, told ThePrint.
Most shop owners and visitors denied that there was any merit in the media reportage around the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in 2020.
Mashoor, a shop owner in the area, told ThePrint there were at least 2,000 people inside the Markaz when they were told about the government orders against large gatherings. “How were they supposed to just go back to where they came from?” he said.
(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)
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