India Charges Muslim Leader with Homicide After Group Linked to 1000+ Coronavirus Cases

A group of Indian Muslims carry their relative who died due to natural reasons for burial during 21 day nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the new coronavirus New Delhi, India, Monday, April 13, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, …
AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Indian police brought charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the leader of a Muslim group for organizing a gathering last month that caused a surge in Wuhan coronavirus infections, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Authorities sealed the local headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi on March 31 after dozens tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus and several people reportedly died following a large religious gathering on the premises from March 13-15. The gathering reportedly attracted over 8,000 people.

At the government’s urging, Delhi police filed a criminal case against event organizer, Muhammad Saad Kandhalvi, on March 31 — including criminal conspiracy — for defying a ban on large gatherings meant to curb the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

On Thursday, police said they had now invoked a law against culpable homicide.

“Delhi police had filed a first information report earlier against the Tablighi chief, now section 304 has been added,” a police spokesman said. “Culpable homicide,” akin to manslaughter in U.S. law, carries a maximum sentence of ten years.

The Delhi event has prompted a nationwide search for those who attended it to prevent the spread of the virus. An “Islamic missionary movement,” Tablighi Jamaat, is especially popular in South Asia. The far-reaching Sunni group promotes proselytizing, known as dawah, by which it has gained millions of followers worldwide.

On April 1, government authorities sent health workers to screen suspected attendees of the Tablighi Jamaat event for coronavirus in southern India. Lead by a woman, the health workers were “manhandled” by a mob of 40-50 Muslim men at the instruction of a local mosque in an act condemned by the Indian government.

In Delhi, 1,080 of its 1,561 Wuhan coronavirus cases were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering, according to the capital’s official government data on Wednesday.

Indian authorities estimate that a third of the nearly 3,000 Wuhan coronavirus cases recorded in India at the beginning of April were either people who attended the Delhi gathering or those who were later exposed to them.

India’s coronavirus cases have since jumped to 12,759 infections at press time on Thursday, with the country counting 423 deaths so far.

Similar Tablighi Jamaat events held in Pakistan and Malaysia during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic have been blamed for spreading the coronavirus to other regions.

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