The so-called ‘Special Camp’ where the foreigners have been kept is a “horrible” and “extremely unhygienic” place with no proper facilities of water and toilets. “Even the criminals should not be kept in such conditions.”
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – Tablighi Jamaat delegates of foreign origin who are detained in Tamil Nadu are victim of “dirty politics” that the BJP is playing in the state. These foreigners should be released immediately as they are not criminals. The state government should treat them humanely, said V. Suresh, national general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
Speaking to Clarion India on the phone from Chennai, Suresh said communal angle in dealing with the Tablighis cannot be ruled out. “Their only crime is that they came to India on a religious learning programme. They are non-political people but the ruling AIADMK in the state and the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre are using them for political purposes,” said Suresh.
The Tamil Nadu unit of PUCL, the oldest human rights organisation formed by Jayaprakash Narain, has demanded immediate release of all the 129 foreigners, including 12 women, hailing from Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe. “Their illegal confinement must come to an end,” said a press release issued by PUCL state unit recently.
They were arrested on charges of visa violations and spreading of coronavirus under Foreigners Act 1946 and Tamil Nadu Public Health Act 1939, in late March and the first week of April. Based on the complaints from 15 police stations across the state, they were arrested by Tamil Nadu Police and imprisoned in a juvenile prison called Borstal School which is situated inside Puzhal prison campus, Chennai. The government has designated it as the ‘Special Camp’.
Suresh said the so-called ‘Special Camp’ is a “horrible” and “extremely unhygienic” place with no proper facilities of water and toilets. “Even the criminals should not be kept in such conditions.” He alleged that Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami was doing this to please Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah who are manipulating the Tablighi episode for political gains.
Palaniswami knows that his All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) cannot be re-elected without the support of the Centre. State election is due later this year. Palaniswami knows his party will be thrown out of power if he antagonises the Centre. It’s because of this reason that the foreign Tablighis, despite getting bail from Madras High Court, continue to be under detention.
According to Suresh, the BJP has no immediate future in Tamil Nadu. So, they are propping up the AIADMK as part of a long-term strategy. Keeping AIADMK in power serves BJP’s political interest as also economic interest as it gets huge funding from the state, Suresh said. The Tablighis’ suffering in Tamil Nadu is directly linked to politics of the two parties, he added.
The PUCL official made another point which he said the media, especially in the North, did not highlight. According to him, it is wrong to say that Tablighis, foreign as well as domestic, were “traced” or “arrested”. They reported themselves to police. Muslims of Tamil Nadu are politically aware. They were quick to understand the implications of the epidemic. Within 24 hours, various Muslim groups were able to locate 95 percent of those who had attended the Tablighi ijtema in Delhi. The list of people was handed over to police who took them into custody. This is a fact which the chief minister has acknowledged publicly.
Out of 129 foreign Tablighis, 98 were granted bail by the Madras High Court in twelve cases on personal bond and all of them were advised to stay within the city limit. Similarly, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court granted bail to remaining 31. Instead of releasing them, they were once again locked and lodged in the same Borstal prison in Puzal.
The Madurai Bench also observed that there is no proof that they had spread corona. Also the court acquitted and absolved all of them from all cases and stated that they also had undergone sufficient sentence for visa violations. The court also pointed out that Article 21 (Right to life) applies to all persons including foreigners.
The PUCL demanded that all pending cases against 98 Tablighis be dropped on humanitarian grounds. It said, as pointed out by Madurai Bench of the high court, the foreign nationals should be lodged in Jamia Qasmiyah Arabi College in Washermanpet, Chenna, instead of the camp at Puzhal until their deportation.
The Wire news portal recently quoted Union Home Ministry to say that over 3,500 foreigners from 35 different countries have been stranded in different parts of India. But the condition of 129 foreigners in Tamil Nadu – among them at least 12 women, some young mothers – has arguably been the worst, reported The Wire.
Of the 129, 53 are from Indonesia, 17 from Malaysia, 14 from Bangladesh, 14 from Thailand, 13 from Myanmar, eight from Ethiopia, five from France, three from Cameroon and one each from Congo and Belgium.