Over 16k visited Tablighi Jamaat markaz in Delhi from March 13-24
At least 16,500 people visited Tablighi Jamaat’s headquarters in Nizamuddin around the time it emerged as a Covid-19 hotspot between March 13 and 24, according to a Delhi police report that an officer said has been compiled after the biggest exercise the force has ever undertaken.
The mid-level police officer, who did not wish to be named, said the exercise involved contact tracing using cell phone data and physical verification of those who had been to the markaz (headquarters).
The police have estimated the number of visitors in the report, which has been submitted to the state and central governments, based on active cell phones inside the six-storey headquarters.
A Delhi government official, who did not wish to be named, said around 1,000 people from outside Delhi had come for the gathering. Over the last four weeks, police have checked call details and the locations of all the 16,500 people and found that they had come in close contact with around 15,000. While some stayed at the markaz, others left and visited different places of Delhi. These 15,000 persons were contacted over the phone and interviewed in person.
“All the units of the police force were used in this exercise. For example, the traffic police were engaged in analysing those who had come in contact with these 16,500. Another team then contacted all those vulnerable people from the second group. Some units of the armed police, which is responsible for transporting prisoners from jails to courts, also took part in the exercise... Even the security unit was brought to help in contact tracing,” the officer said.
The teams then informed the health department about the suspected cases and people were accordingly advised to self-isolate, quarantine or were hospitalised.
Another police officer, who was part of the contact tracing exercise, said they analysed data of cell phones in the area in the weeks before the curbs for social distancing were put in place.
“The data showed a massive jump after March 13. The markaz had a massive gathering for their congregation,” the second police officer said.
Police are probing the case against the Jamaat functionaries under stringent sections that include those related to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The Jamaat has maintained that people from outside were stuck because of the lockdown first announced by the Delhi government on March 24 and later due to the nationwide curbs ordered from March 25.
Between March 29 and 31, police and the health department evacuated around 2,300 people from the markaz. Also, in the first week of April, police found around 200 Jamaat members at different mosques across the city, who had left the headquarters before the evacuation began.
The markaz has been the biggest source of Covid-19 infections in Delhi. Of the 3,515 Covid-19 cases in Delhi, at least 1,080 (30.72%) have been linked to it, according to union health ministry data.
Tablighi Jamaat head Maulana Saad and six other functionaries of the group have been named in a First Information Report for organising a religious gathering at the markaz despite restrictions on such congregations to check the Covid-19 spread.
The gathering was held even as the Delhi government banned all religious events on March 13. Gatherings were restricted to 200 people on March 16 before a four-person limit was put on March 21 on them.
The data will also be used as evidence against Saad and the other accused of allegedly having defied the orders.
The markaz has been linked to infections in at least 17 states and Union territories, according to Union health ministry data.