Hyderabad: A massive hunt is on to trace all those who had attended the five-day congregation at Tablighi-e-Markaz in Delhi around the middle of the last month as they contributed to 65% of fresh cases of coronavirus positive since the last week of March. Central agencies like IB (Intelligence Bureau) and state police are working together in this drive.
It is Telangana police which first tipped off their Delhi counterparts about the source of spread of the virus and alerted them about the motives of the organisers of the religious gathering in the national capital, despite the alarming conditions in the country. “Now the top priority is to find out the motives of the event as their movements give scope for suspicion at many levels,” said an official in Hyderabad police.
Of the around 9,000 persons who turned up at the Nizamuddin gathering from 13- 15 March, around 1,030 were from Telangana and 1,085 from Andhra Pradesh. This abnormal number of participants from the two Telugu speaking states has puzzled the cops in both the states. Unusually, the representation of participation is from all districts, both rural and urban.
Hyderabad, which accounts for a large number of Muslims in its Old City, registered 670 participants, while some other districts highly populated by the community sent the rest.
But a large number of attendees from Andhra Pradesh, where Muslims generally speak Telugu, but not Urdu like in Hyderabad, that too from remote rural areas, is being monitored by the intelligence wing of the police.
The presence of 20 Muslims from Indonesia in Karimnagar district headquarters in Telangana was first noticed when they tested positive. When the police grilled them, they admitted that they had escaped from the thermal screening at the Shamshabad International Airport a few days ago by taking paracetamol tablets in the aircraft.
Later, they told the police that they had come to attend the Delhi event.
The situation triggered by Covid-19 appeared abating by the fourth week of March in Telangana as well as Andhra Pradesh, but suddenly, it flared up as many fresh cases were detected from the districts, and they all were found to be attendees of Tablighi-e-Jamaat. Of the nine persons who died of Covid-19 till now, eight of them were Delhi attendees, while another old man was a Saudi Arabia returnee from Karnataka.
On 1 and 2 April alone, more than 150 virus positive cases were reported in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and all of them related to those who participated in the Delhi religious gathering. Of course, there are pleas by Muslim leaders as well as other civil society activists that Covid cases should not be communalized and that Muslims as a community should not be blamed for the pandemic.
However, the police are at a loss to understand why the affected attendees had tried to conceal their identity and source of their infection till the last minute, until their health condition deteriorated warranting their hospitalization, that too in private hospitals. The cops are looking into why the affected Tablighi attendees had stayed with their family members and others, disregarding social distance norms for over two weeks.
As a result, a 70-year-old Urdu journalist (now not working) from the Old City of Hyderabad had died of Covid last week and five others in his family were infected by the virus. The police are trying to find out whether any of his family members were aware of his dangerous medical condition after he returned from Delhi. So is the case with several others who had died in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
“So far, we could trace around 900 of the Tablighi attendees in Telangana and another 130 are at large. Hunt is on to trace them. What is surprising is non-cooperation from the side of the affected and their refusal to give us information about the gathering,” said a police official in Hyderabad. In Andhra Pradesh, around 800 were traced and the remaining are yet to be contacted. The blunt non-cooperation from some educated and decently employed attendees is in fact, giving scope for more suspicion by the cops. The attendees are also not revealing whom they had come in contact with in the last two weeks, since returning from Delhi. “The IB will find out the bigger issues like whether there is any criminal conspiracy behind this non-cooperation,” the police official said.
Now, the police are trying to find out was it the first time the attendees went to the Tablighi meet; who booked their railway or flight tickets; who funded their travel and who was their first contact from Delhi; and whether they were aware of the facilities offered by the governments for Covid patients and, if so, why they didn’t go to government hospitals after they felt sick, etc.

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