Why Blame 'Tablighis' Alone?
Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI, APRIL 23—More than 620 foreigners, mostly members of Tablighi Jamaat, have so far been arrested in different states of the country on charges of violations of visa rules.
Cases have also been booked against hundreds of other foreign ‘tablighis’ also but they are yet to be arrested.
The charges against these Tablighis are that they have violated visa rules. According to police, all of them came to India on tourist visa but were indulging into religious activities not allowed for foreigners under the existing Indian laws.
Foreigners Banned From ‘Tabligh’(Preaching) Activities in India:
This is true. Para 15 of ‘The General Policy Guidelines Relating to Indian Visa’ under the Passport (Entry into India) Act clearly imposes restrictions on foreign nationals engaging in ‘tabligh’ activities.
According to the guidelines, foreign nationals holding any type of visa and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders are not permitted to engage themselves in ‘tabligh’ activities or propagation of religion in any manner within the territory of India, without prior permission from the government of India. The word ‘tabligh’ is clearly mentioned in the guidelines, leaving no scope for any confusion in this matter.
However, the law permits foreign nationals to visit religious places and attending normal religious activities like attending religious discourses. Bu it prohibits foreign nationals from “preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in religious places, distribution of audio or visual display/pamphlets pertaining to religious ideologies, spreading conversion etc”.
What is the Question?
But the question arises: It is not for the first time that foreign ‘Tablighis’ came to India on tourist visas and went around the country for months together preaching religious ideologies in violation of the rules. Foreign ‘tablighis’ have been coming to India for decades on tourist visas and touring every city and town throughout the length and breadth of India. In fact, the Tablighi Jamaat’s headquarters at Hazrat Nizamuddin maintains a register of all ‘tablighis’ coming to its headquarters and also keep details of the mosques in various cities and towns where they were sent. ‘Tablighis’ on their own are not permitted for preaching in a mosque or a town and city of their own choosing. They are allotted the town and mosques from the Markaz itself. The same is true for Indian or domestic ‘tablighis’. All of them have to come to the Markaz from where they are assigned their preaching jobs in different states.
The visas to foreign ‘tablighis’ coming as tourists are issued by Indian embassies in their respective countries and details about them are sent by embassies to the Union Home Ministry.
Why did Police Allow Foreign ‘Tablighis’ to Preach?
The questions is: What has the Union Home Ministry and police department of different states been doing? Why did the sleuths not keep watch on them when they moved from mosques to mosque, from town to town and from one city to another? And they did not stay in these mosques for just one night or for one day. They generally stayed for days together and sometimes for weeks. They did not preach in mosques only. They also went from house to house, asking local Muslims to come to mosques and listen to their short sermons. However, ‘tablighis’, whether locals or foreigners, never approach non-Muslims nor they preach them Islam. They confine their activities only up to Muslims. And this is not in India alone. This is universal.
According to Home Ministry details, foreign ‘tablighis’ did not come in ones or twos but they came in hundreds and at any point of time, there were thousands of foreign ‘tablighis’ touring in different part of the country. Their presence in the country without valid permission is also a serious security breach. Why did the police overlook their presence and activity which was not allowed under the law?
Does Part of the Blame Lies With Police Also?
If the Tablighi Markaz at Hazrat Nizamuddin is to blame for organising a congregation in violation of the government notification after Covid-19 outbreak, the police as well as various intelligence agencies operating within the country as well as outside are equally to blame. If the Markaz is to be blamed twice: for allowing foreigners to preach in the mosques under their control without permission and holding a congregation after outbreak of Covid-19 with participation of foreign nationals, the police and security agencies are to blame for overlooking the foreigners indulging in missionary or ‘tabligh’ activities in clear violation of visa rules. While the investigating agencies are hounding Maulana Mohammed Saad, head of the Tablighi Jamaat, for lapses on his part, who will be held responsible for the lapses on the part of the police and security agencies because allowing thousands of foreigners roaming within the country without valid travel documents is a direct threat to national security?
Is it fair for the government and top security agencies to target one group of individuals accused of an offence but overlook another set of individuals who have also committed the same crime and in fact, bigger crime because the issue involves national security and this group of individuals was particularly assigned this as part of its official duty and it did not carry out its job. In fact, the agencies who overlooked the roaming of foreign ‘tablighis’ all over the country by not doing their duty, deserve more severe punishment than others.
Sad to Communalise ‘Tabligh’ Issue, Backlash from Arab World
Sadly, the government and its agencies are communalising the issue by repeatedly publicising that ‘tablighis’ have been responsible for the corona infection in the country. The officials of the union health ministry as also Delhi state government used to give break-up of the corona infection, like figures of infections caused by ‘tablighis’ meaning Muslims and others that led to generation of hatred against Muslims in the Hindu society. The result was incidents of attacks on and lynching of Muslims and their trade boycott as people began avoiding buying vegetables and fruit from Muslim vendors saying that they were spreading corona and were enemies of the nation. The two agencies stopped using word ‘tablighis’ only after Delhi Minorities Commission chief Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan admonished them not to mention the name of ‘tablighis’ and Muslims in their official briefings as it was leading to hate-mongering. This was also perhaps responsible for a group of right-linked Hindu social media users to attack Muslims and Islam all over the globe for spreading corona across the world. They also targeted the Arab Muslims and taunted them for their religion calling Islam a “religion of donkeys”, that resulted into a backlash from none other that one of the female members of the UAE’s royal family, rebuking that “it would not go unnoticed”. Reports reaching here say that several Indian Hindus have been sacked from their jobs in UAE though it is not likely to affect the relations between India and the Arab world which are very strong at governmental level. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped in to control the situation by saying that “virus does not discriminate between people on the basis of faith, community, race or nationality” but the damage had already been done. He should have woken up much early.
Majority of Arrested ‘Tablighis’ are from Bangladesh
According to Home Ministry sources, all of the arrested foreign nationals, barring a few, are connected with Tablighi Jamaat and had attended the Tablighi congregation in Delhi in March.
Uttar Pradesh accounts for the maximum number of arrested foreign nationals (341), followed by Maharashtra (157), Bihar (66), Karnataka (34) and Jharkhand (21).
According to Home Ministry sources, three other states have also booked FIRs against foreign nationals but the arrests are yet to be made. They are Telangana that has booked offences against 88 foreigners, Tamilnadu against 72 and Madhya Pradesh against 65.
Majority of the arrested foreigners, according to police, are from Bangladesh and the rest are from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The foreigners have been mostly booked under Section 14 (b) of the Foreigners Act, 1946.