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Tablighi Jamaat chaos- Need for improving India’s visa-regime-regulations

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G Indira
G Indira
Author of the book: The India I Know and of Hinduism. Ex-Publications in -charge Pragna Bharati Organisation, Hyderabad. Academician and free-lancer

Covid-19 is shaking the world and is challenging mankind. In India, it started a little late but gained ground after the Tablighi’s massive meet at Delhi wherein thousands of Indian delegates and foreign leaders gathered. As per the recent Health Ministry officials press briefing the cases were increasing by day. These additional cases were due to Tablighi Jamaat event, they stated. Had that event not taken place, the doubling rate would have been less, the ministry briefed. 

Many in India are questioning visas given to Tablighis that have come from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other lands. Though they have come on visiting visas, they started roaming around India on proselytizing missions. When tourist visas should not be used for evangelism, how are they allowed to do so?- is a genuine question asked by people. 

The Tablighis are a notorious sect among Muslims. Their menace struck Pakistan also recently. Owais Tohid, a leading Pakistani journalist in his column: “Pakistani Preachers Turning into Super Spreaders” (https://arab.news/9jsbb) on April 02,2020 in Arab news writes on Tablighi Jamaat spread coronavirus in Pakistan. According to him: The (recent) Pakistani Tablighi Jamaat went ahead with its annual congregation, the Ijtima (despite covid-threat)- the annual three-day event with hundreds of thousands from across the world. The preachers went across the country preaching. Because of that, reported cases of COVID-doubled (in Pakistan) in a week.

The police force had to be used to close the mosque where they congregated. People in Pakistan took to fighting with police officials demanding a re-opening. Among the Islamic clerics some called the pandemic the wrath of God, others termed it a conspiracy of the West to weaken the Muslim Ummah. Some clerics even said that they found the virus cure on national television, but were unwilling to reveal it! – So, on the whole Tablighis are crazy people. Taking them as cue, the entire Muslim community cannot be blamed. 

At the end of the column Owais Tohid, the writer, laments: “The danger looms large. Meanwhile, groups of tablighis, carrying not just their shoulder bags but possibly also the virus, continue their far flung journeys across the country.” So, the fanaticism of Tablighis is now a known-fact. To know how they entered India to preach- is the question. 

Kanchan Gupta, Head of ORF, of late, conducted an interesting @orfonline program on the topic: ‘Strict Visa norms Required for Religious Tourism’, in the context of Tablighis’ spread of coronavirus in India. Former Head of Intelligence Vikram Sood, when asked whether it was Intelligence/Police failure (to allow foreign Tablighi Jamaat leaders in India), he did not agree that the Tablighis-meet, followed by spread of coronavirus, was an intelligence/police failure. He said, Intelligence would not act on its own. However, he agreed that the host was responsible for its guest. He wanted a revamp in the system of allowing people, as both sides of neighbours for India were inimical. To watch half to one million people coming into India as tourists was difficult, as India did not have a means to do it. Hence police reforms were needed, he opined. He wanted FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Agents) to be proactive. 

For the question of issuance of visas to Tablighis, Diplomat Navdeep Suri said, their visas were issued much before February. He said, India’s Visa-regime was too complicated. There were as many as 18-categories of visas. India would get a lot of foreign exchange through tourism in general and religious tourism in particular (such as: Radha Swamy, Buddhist events, Saranath, Kasi etc.). Police, in any case, should not often stop a tourist and ask on the status of (the person’s) Visa. That discourages tourism which gives employment to many. People should be checked at immigration counter and also to have a watch on the hosts that were organising the meet. That would suffice, he stated. 

However, Sushant Saran differed with the diplomat by saying Tablighis had a dubious reputation. The cop-station was next to Markaz. If they were for the religious congregation, how could they roam around the country, was his query. This sense of entitlement and impunity most people who enter into the country, should end. Violation of visa regulations should be checked, was his suggestion.  

In any case, Tablighi Jamaat attendees infected people of India in many states. Time can only tell how much the damage is, quantifiably. The shade of darkness caused by the coronavirus in people’s lives was dispelled by the PM’S call for lighting lamps on 5th April. A ‘Tamaso ma Jyotirgamaya’ moment. ‘Tamaso ma Jyotirgamaya’ meant: instead of cursing the darkness around, try lighting a lamp. The country answered his call with huge participation. 

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G Indira
G Indira
Author of the book: The India I Know and of Hinduism. Ex-Publications in -charge Pragna Bharati Organisation, Hyderabad. Academician and free-lancer
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