Wednesday, August 26 2020

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It’s deeply unfair that students of India are asked to sit national exams during the Covid-19 pandemic and while millions have also been impacted by the extreme floods. I stand with their call to #PostponeJEE_NEETinCOVID

That’s Greta Thunberg tweeting in solidarity with thousands of Indian students who want admission tests for medical (NEET) and engineering (JEE) colleges to be postponed—due to the risks posed by the pandemic. The Supreme Court recently dismissed a plea asking for a delay. As of now, both exams are slated for September. Illustration: Parth Savla

Big Story

The case of the Tablighi Jamaat

The TLDR: In recent weeks, a number of courts have thrown out cases brought against members of the Tablighi Jamaat—whose annual conference in March was a ‘superspreader’ event in the early days of the pandemic. We revisit the Tablighi conference, and look at what the court rulings tell us about how the event was framed and prosecuted. 


Tablighi Jamaat: Some background

The Tablighi Jamaat (Society of Preachers) was founded by a Deobandi Islamic scholar in Mewat, India, in 1927. It is likely the largest Muslim organisation in the world, and spread across all continents. The total number of members: at least 80 million. The puritanical organisation is not focused on converting others to Islam, but on ‘purifying’ the Muslim faith. Its annual conference attracts members and non-members from around the world.


The timeline

  • Between March 1-15, more than 8,000 people, including foreigners, gathered at its headquarters—the Markaz—in Nizamuddin West, Delhi. 
  • The purpose: to attend the annual conference, which was held between March 13-15.
  • The vast majority of the international attendees entered the country in February or early March. The date when India closed its borders: March 13.
  • Many remained at the Markaz after the conference, staying in its dorms.
  • Telangana reported the first Tablighi-related case on March 18, but no action was taken at that time.
  • On March 22, the gates of the Markaz were closed after the Delhi government announced a lockdown—with 2,500 devotees still inside. 
  • The Union government announced a nationwide lockdown on March 25.
  • On March 26, police and health authorities descended on the Markaz to screen and quarantine its residents. A nationwide track and trace operation was launched.
  • By early April, more than 25,000 Jamaat members and their contacts had been quarantined across nearly 15 Indian states.
  • Of the 4,400 cases in India, around a third were traced to the conference. Number of attendees who later died: at least 10. 


The framing


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