‘Why Are We in Quarantine for Over A Month?’ Tablighi Members Ask
“We need our COVID-19 reports so we are not harassed, but they say they do not have orders from above,” Imran says.
Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj
It is a lonely Ramzan for 48-year-old Abdul Bari in Delhi.
While his wife and four children tested positive for COVID-19 and are receiving treatment in hospitals in Delhi, he wished he would be able to spend time with his two kids, 13-year-old Zahra and 12-year-old Arshad Jamal, who tested negative at the Dwarka quaratine centre.
"Both tested negative in their first test on 4 April and then the second one on 14 April. The 14 days of quarantine ended two weeks ago, it is over a month today. I do not even know who I can call and ask about them. If I was there I would be able to ask, but what can I do from outside? They're only children. I am a father and obviously worried about their safety and health," when asked who was looking after them, Bari said he keeps calling other Tablighi Jamaat members who he has requested to help.
Bari is not the only one who is worried about when his kids will step out of quarantine, The Quint spoke to Tablighi Jamaat members in Delhi’s quaratine centres and found that they’re worried, scared and without any answers even after spending over a month in quarantine.
'Not Told if We Test Positive or Negative'
38-year-old Imran Rehman from Delhi was brought, like many others, to the facility in Dwarka on 31 March night. On the same day 46-year-old Siraj Ud Din, from Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, was sent to the quarantine centre in Delhi's Sultanpuri. Both say they have had two tests.
Explaining how Siraj knows he has been texted negative, he says, "The first time it was around 10 April and the second time on 25 April. Both times I was not told if I had tested positive or negative by a doctor or authorities. The only way you know is if they take you out of your room, which you are sharing with one other person, and get you to stay in isolation at a hospital. If they don't do that you're safe. It took us a while of not getting any answers to understand this."
Rehman says, they keep asking authorities when they can go home. More so after he tested negative on two tests conducted on 5 and 14 April.
He says others who have been tested at the nearby hospital have been sent home, "People who are coming to the hospital close by, they are being checked and sent away within 2-3 days. But those who are from the Markaz are being made to observe these long quarantine period. This long a quarantine period exists nowhere. Then after that also they are not telling us what will happen. This is making me mentally sick inside. We have our family right here, in Delhi. Till when do they plan to keep us here? We are not animals."
Rehman has tried to reason with all authorities.
“We asked them why we were not being sent home, but we never get a straight answer. They would say they do not have information, that they are waiting for orders, that they do not know or that we should ask other people. This feels like jail sometimes. The least you must do is tell us what is happening.”
45-year-old Mohd Ibrahim from the Sultanpuri centre says he has been tested negative thrice. “My first test was on 31 March, second on 7 April and third on 26 April. I live right opposite this quarantine centre where my six children and wife are. It is not only me but two others, Arbaz Ali and Adil, who have also been tested negative since day one but not allowed to leave.”
Ibrahim says that when he tried to ask people what the issue was, the officials told him that they have not got orders from above.
'Where Are Our Blood Reports?'
Not only are Tablighi Jamaat members not formally told they have been tested negative, but they say they have not been given their medical reports as well.
"They are not even giving us our reports. We need them to ensure we are not harassed in the future. Above that we need that for any other health complications we may have as it is an important record. Even for that they say they do not have orders," Rehman says adding that while he is from Delhi, members from other states have been pleading with authorities too.
"I at least live in Delhi, these people will go back home to Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, etc. How will they return to get the records? Will they even get records if they return? There is so much uncertainity, it is unsettling."
Siraj says he deserves to see his reports, "Either way at least they should tell us what the reports say, we can't keep guessing for ourselves. We should not have to. There is no person here to speak to. No nodal officer or someone who is tasked with answering our queries or anything. Do I not deserve to have my health reports in my hand?," he asks.
He says there are over 700 people at the quarantine centre in Sultanpuri of which 190 people are from Tamil Nadu, but no one is certain how many have COVID-19.
"I've been here since 31 March. When the first lockdown was to end on 14 April, some of the staff then had told us that we would probably be allowed to leave after. But then the lockdown got extended. It is Ramadan, if I am safe and so are the others from Tamil Nadu maybe we can be allowed to go home in some arrangement? I want to go home. I have my father, mother and brothers back home in Tirupur."
'No One Communicates With Us'
A concern everyone who The Quint spoke to raised was about how no one was properly telling those in quarantine, what was happening.
48-year-old Shamshul Arafin is in a centre in Dwarka. From Delhi, he has a family of four who are waiting for him to return home. "I've tested negative both times tests were conducted. The first one was on 5 April and the second one was on 14 April. If anyone tests positive they are taken away to a school in Wazirabad but the biggest problem is no one communicates properly."
When Arafin tried and asked them why they were not letting us go home, they would say, "We have not got orders from above. The food is good, they keep the place clean. All that is there. There is also no issue as far as observing Ramzan is concerned. No tensions for our food or anything, we would just like to go home since we have completed our quarantine."
Arafin alleges that others who are taken to the hospital and test negative are allowed to go home. "Why are we being treated any differently from anyone else? These rules would be the same for everyone right? They say they have not got the orders to let us go, then why are others being allowed to go? If they’re from Delhi so am I," he asks.
‘Let Them Go Home’: Delhi Minorities Commission and Tablighi Jamaat
The Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) wrote to Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on 27 April, saying that the people brought to quarantine camps from Tabligh Markaz in Hazrat Nizamuddin were unnecessarily kept in detention when 14 days is the longest period for the appearance of COVID-19 symptoms in an infected person.
People in other quarantine centres have been allowed to go home after 14 days if they tested negative, the DMC claimed.
The commission said that all such people who have spent over a month in these camps and have not not tested positive for COVID-19 should be allowed to go home or at least allowed to live somewhere else in Delhi while the lockdown continues.
Advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, who heads the group of laywers for Tablighi Jamaat, told The Quint it was important people were allowed to go to their homes to avoid them feeling that they were being treated any differently.
“It is very surprising that firstly the 14 day quarantine period ended, then the next 14 days ended and till now there is no clarity about when these people will be allowed to go. These are people who were found negative in two tests. We urge the government to look into this matter. When they have already spent over a month with patience in quarantine, it is important they do not feel like they are being treated wrongly,” Ayyubi said.
Delhi Govt’s Response
Speaking about those who have been tested negative and are from outside Delhi AAP spokesperson and member of the Dialogue and Development Commission Aswathi Muralidharan said, “Since the lockdown has been extended, where can they go? They can not cross the borders. It all depends on the central government now. The moment they give us the go ahead, we will look into it.”
Referring to the 29 April Ministry of Home Affairs guideline that allows for the movement of students, pilgrims and migrant workers with conditions, Aswathi said, “When the plan is made, it will be for all the people who are stranded in Delhi. The logistics will then need to be worked out, how many states and how many buses. That is being worked out right now.”
When asked about those who were from Delhi, Aswathi said, “I need to find out. There must be some reason due to which this has happened. I have passed on your query to the department, when I get a response I will let you know.”
The Quint waited for a response from the AAP government. The story will be updated if and when the government responds.
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