“You’ve filed the FIRs you needed to against Tablighi Jamaat members, you’re conducting the investigation you need to, you’ve also sanitised the Markaz building. Then why are you not opening the Markaz like you are opening all other religious places since 8 June?” Naved Khan, a doctor by profession, told The Quint while speaking about the legal notice he sent to the concerned District Magistrate on 13 June.
In this letter, seen by this reporter, Khan’s lawyers have noted that ‘it is the apprehension of our client that under the colour of your power you are furthering an agenda of institutional discrimination by keeping the Markaz complex restricted for access despite your order dated 07.06.2020, even though there is no discernible reason for the continued deprivation of access of the Markaz complex. (sic)’
The order of 7 June that is being referred is when the Markaz area of Nizamuddin was removed from being a containment or red zone by the Delhi government.
The Quint took a walk around the Markaz and found it locked from outside with security presence around it as well. We found no circular on the walls of the markaz explaining why the building was locked. Speaking to a man who was inside regarding why the structure was locked, he said, “We are here, a few of us. The police opens the locks for us and then lets us in. Then after we offer prayers they open the locks and let us out,” he said. When asked why was everything happening so secretively, the man looked over this reporter’s shoulder noticing security officials walk towards us. He began requesting us to leave the area again and again, looking nervous. We were also disallowed from taking more pictures.
Tablighi Jamaat’s lawyer Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi said, “Yes, 5-6 people are permitted to offer prayers by the authorities. But of course we would want the same relaxations that are applicable to any other religious place of worship, like a temple or gurdwara, as mandated under the 8 June Ministry of Home Guidelines.”
In the MHA guidelines for reopening of lockdown, called Unlock 1 by the government, phase 1 of it would see religious places and places of worship being open to the public from 8 June onwards
The guidelines read that ‘Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will issue Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the above activities in consultation with the Central Ministries/Departments concerned and other stakeholders, for ensuring social distancing and to contain the spread of COVID-19.”
This reporter reached out to the Delhi chief secretary, who was also marked on this notice, who directed us to the office of the divisional commissioner (revenue). He further directed us to speak to the office of Southeast Delhi district magistrate Harleen Kaur. Kaur told this reporter that she has not received this notice.
When asked why the Markaz was locked, she said “My sub-divisonal magistrate and myself have not ordered for the Markaz to remain closed.”
She went on to add, “Our concern with the area of Nizamuddin and Markaz was solely regarding the containment of COVID-19. We achieved the purpose by following due protocol and ensuring de-containment of the area on 7 June. From my side there is no restriction at all. If the police is doing something, I am not aware of that, nor am I kept in the loop and nor am I supposed to be. The area is under my territorial jurisdiction but there are other agencies who have their own tasks. They have their own mandates. For example, law and order, which comes under the jurisdiction of Delhi Police. When it comes to the area, it has been de-contained at power with other areas which have been de-contained.”
Speaking about the goodwill created by the work of the Tablighi Jamaat in the past, Ayyubi said, “This movement was born in India and went global from here, something that India is proud of.”
The Tablighi Jamaat was founded in 1926 in British India by Muhammad Illyas Kandhalwi, a scholar from Darul Uloom Deoband. Kandhalwi then set Delhi as the headquarters.
Ayubbi asks, “If fetters are placed on the head office of the Tablight Jamaat then what is the signal we are sending to the world?”
Adding that, “No one can deny the fact that huge goodwill is generated by this movement for India in over 150 countries and amongst millions of people. That's why thousands of foreigners across the globe come here with respect. What is the need for this?.”
We reached out to Hazrat Nizamuddin police station SHO (station house officer) who said that he was not authorised to speak to the media and that I must reach out to the South DCP R P Meena. The Quint made calls, sent him messages and reminders. We waited for over twenty four hours for a response. This copy will be updated if the official responds.
Naved Khan however is looking forward to returning to the Markaz after following due protocols, “The Markaz was a centre where we went every Thursday. We were told of various ways to take the work of the Jamaat forward. The Markaz would decide who will be sent where and once the work ended we would again come back to Markaz and report.”
He also has an important question to ask, “If due to a legal problem we are not being able to communicate with the Markaz, then the concept of the Tablighi Jamaat itself ends. No one has a problem with the concept of the Tablighi Jamaat right?,” he asks.