Lucknow: Maroof Ansari (name changed) has completed almost 49 days in a quarantine centre, triple the period he was supposed to be in the government isolation ward in Barabanki, 26 km away from the state capital of Uttar Pradesh. He wonders why he has still not been allowed to go home.
"It has been almost one and half months and two coronavirus tests which came out negative, yet I am held up in this centre. I am not being allowed to go home, or even meet my family members," Ansari, 59, told NewsClick from the quarantine centre in Barabanki's Haidargad area. "This will be a black Eid for us, it seems," he adds.
Ever since Tablighi Jamaat members were held accountable for spreading the virus by Right-wing groups, a section of the media left no stone unturned to communally polarise the pandemic by targeting TablighiJamaat and describing the Nizamuddin Markaz incident as “corona terrorism."
Ansari said for the first time in his living memory, he, along with 13 others, all of them from Western UP's Saharanpur, observed 25 'rozas' (fast) at a quarantine centre.
Ansari and others, all members of the Tablighi Jamaat, were brought to Bilali Masjid, Court Wali Masjid and Umar Masjid quarantine facilities on March 13. A diabetic, he had to run from pillar to post for his medicines.
Mohd Kamran (name changed) also said that despite completing 49 days in different centres, they were not being released. He said everyone had tested negative, yet were being confined for over thrice the mandatory coronavirus isolation period of 14 days, which was“tantamount” to illegal detention. Some of them questioned why they were being punished after Tablighi Jamaat leader Maulana Saad’s name appeared, holding him responsible for outbreak.
Kamran also expressed frustration over the lack of food for sehri(the pre-dawn meal during Ramzan) and iftar(Muslims break their fast at sunset with a meal called iftar), making it difficult for them to observe the fast during the holy month.
Mohd Tarique Khan, a senior journalist based in Barabanki, told NewsClick, "On March 13, at least 48 people, 13 from Saharanpur and 35 people from Assam landed up in Barabanki's Banki area. When Maulana Saad was named in a First Information Report (FIR), the district administration stepped up witch-hunting of other Tablighi members. A responsible member of the Barabanki unit of Jamaat, Hafiz Yusuf, even went to meet district authority with the full details of Tablighi members who were lodged in different quarantine centres of the district, including in Haidargarh," Khan told NewsClick, adding that on March 18, people from Assam had return tickets to their state and had even shown these to the district administration, but were not released.
Khan said between May 13 to 17, people from Assam, when they got permission, after a month, left Barabanki in their own conveyance, but 13 Tablighi members of Saharanpur did not get permission even after 49 days.
NewsClick spoke to Adarsh Singh, district magistrate of Barabanki, but he refused to comment on why Tablighi Jamaat members were being kept in quarantine for such a long period even after testing negative. He said he was just following government directives.
"Who stopped them from going to their hometowns, they are quarantined in their mosque, there are no such restriction on them," Arvind Chaturvedi, SP, Barabanki told NewsClick.
When asked why they were being held up despite having spent more days than required, more so as Eid was just around the corner, the SP asked this reporter to speak to the DM.
Randhir Singh Suman, an advocate in Barabanki and state council member of Communist Party of India (CPI), who has written a letter to the Chief Minister and DM in this regard,termed this as“unlawful detention” by the district administration and a clear violation of section 342 ((punishment for wrongful confinement) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
"A group of people associated with Tablighi Jamaat came from Saharanpur and when they supposed to leave for their hometown, the Haidargarh administration did not let them go which a serious offence under IPC 342. Even a local chap who was also quarantined not allowed to go home despite being tested negative,” he said, alleging that all this seems “planned.”
Singh said according to Epidemic Diseases Act, it was the administration’s responsibility to provide food and other basic amenities once the quarantine period is over. “It’s administration duty to send them to their hometowns safely. They are not doing their duty," he said.
Accusing Barabanki administration of being “callous", Singh said similar cases were also reported from Ayodhya and Basti, but the administration of both places sent the Jamaatis to their hometowns after they completed their quarantine period.
Meanwhile, Lucknow-based Jamiat-e-Ulema has also written a letter to Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police demanding the release of all these people ahead of Eid, as all of them have tested Covid-19 negative.
60Tablighi Members Quarantined In Gonda
Kamruddin, former chairman of Gonda Municipality, Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Rajesh Dixit and member of legislative assembly Gonda Mahfooz Khan have also written a letter to the Gonda DM stating that the Delhi government’s confinement of TablighiJamaat attendees at various Covid-19 quarantine centres was illegal.
The letter says that nine members of the Tablighi Jamaat at Madarsa Anwarul Uloom in Dhanepur, 13 people at Janta Inter College in Khodare15 at Maharajganj area and 12 members at Janta Inter Collge were quarantined since April 1, 2020. They have spent 40-days in these centres and should be released, the letter added.
Advocate Suresh Tripathi, who is Uttar Pradesh general secretary of Indian Association of Lawyers, said mounting pressure on the administration over the “illegal detention” of Tablighi members may yield results soon.
"Whatever has been done with them is against law and the Constitution," he said.
NewsClick had earlier reported that over 60 members of the Tablighi Jamaat who have been quarantined in the Sikandra area of Agra had not been released, despite twice testing negative for COVID-19 and their 14-day quarantine period over long ago. Twenty four persons from among them have health issues, ranging from diabetes to heart-related ailments.
Also Read: Agra: Despite Twice Testing Negative for COVID-19, Tablighi Jamaat Members Continue to Remain in Quarantine