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India charges Muslim leader with 'culpable homicide' after gathering during coronavirus epidemic

Police say a Tablighi Jamaat event led to a surge in coronavirus cases [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 April, 2020

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Indian Muslims have been faced with heightened Islamophobia during the pandemic, with some accused of 'deliberately' spreading the novel coronavirus.
India has charged the leader of a Muslim missionary group with "culpable homicide" after a religious gathering was held last month that authorities say led to a surge in coronavirus cases, Reuters reported.

Police initially filed a case against Muhammad Saad Kandhalvi over violating a ban on gatherings when thousands of followers met at the Tablighi Jamaat group's headquarters in New Delhi.

Authorities have now added charges of culpable homicide, referring to actions that led to someone's death but do not amount to murder. The charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.

The Tablighi is one of the world's largest Sunni Muslim proselytising organisations with branches in more than 80 countries.

Authorities said earlier this month that a third of the coronavirus cases detected at that time were either people who attended the Tablighi gathering last month or those who were later exposed to them.

In Delhi, 1,080 out of 1,561 Covid-19 cases have been linked to the group's gathering, according to city government data. India has confirmed a total of 12,380 cases nationwide, including 414 deaths.

Thousands of the group's followers, some of them from Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh, have been quarantined in the Tablighi headquarters.

Read more: India's coronavirus outbreak unmasks the ugly face of Islamophobia

Critics accused India's Hindu nationalist government of fanning the flames of communal tensions by placing the blame for the rising number of coronavirus cases on the Muslim community.

While only a small number of Muslims follow the Tablighi group, India's 200 million-strong Muslim population has been targeting with Islamophobic accusations of attempting to deliberately spread the highly contagious virus.
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Memes shared on social media accuse Muslims of waging "Corona Jihad" against Hindus, with some sharing videos that falsely claim to show Muslims intentionally spitting at or coughing on others.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been accused of enacting anti-Muslim legislation.

Officials deny taking such action and insist that the Tablighi group has to be rebuked as members ignored social distancing rules.

The Tablighi group has also been linked to a surge of cases in neighbouring Pakistan, where it cancelled a similar gathering at the last minute after tens of thousands of followers had already arrived at its centre in Lahore.

A gathering organised by the group in Malaysia has also been linked to a large number of cases there and in other Southeast Asian countries.


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