Mumbai, April 4: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, in a statement issued on Saturday, said the attendees of Nizamuddin Markaz gathering "should be shot". The controversial remarks came in the backdrop of data which suggests the Tablighi Jamaat link to most of the new COVID-19 cases detected in the last 48 hours. Catch live news and updates related to coronavirus pandemic in India and other parts of the world.

"The Markaz issue that took place in Delhi, is exasperating. Why should they be treated? They should be shot. Our country is undergoing such a huge crisis and at such times, they are putting religion above the nation?" Thackeray asked, as he demanded the government to take strict action against those who attended congregation at the Jamaat Markaz in Delhi's Nizamuddin area. Tablighi Jamaat Event Linked to 647 New Coronavirus Cases in 14 States Over Last Two Days: Health Ministry.

"And if there is some devious conspiracy on; then such elements need to be singled out and lashed at physically. And such videos need to go viral. The Prime Minister needs to also speak about such behaviour," the MNS president further added.

The Nizamuddin congregation, that was held between March 13-15, was attended by over 2,000 Jamaat members including foreign nationals who were COVID-19 positive. Since they could not be screened for the virus at the airports, the foreign nationals ended up joining the congregation and spreading the infection to scores of others.

Following the the large congregation held between the above-mentioned dates, smaller events were held at the Markaz on March 18 and March 20-21, reports said. While the Delhi government claimed that they had issued an order on March 13 barring all forms of mass gathering, the Jamaat authorities claim they were not intimated.

Several Jamaat members who returned to their home states following the Markaz congregation recently tested positive for COVID-19. "In the last two days, a total of 647 cases spread over 14 states have been detected," said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, on Friday.

While the Delhi Police drew flak for failing to prevent the gathering at Markaz despite the restrictions announced by the Arvind Kejriwal government, the Maharashtra Police earned praised for revoking the permission granted to the Tablighi Jamaat for a congregation in Vasai in the second week of March.

"I applaud the Maharashtra police force. They stopped a similar Markaz gathering in Maharashtra, permission was not granted. Unfortunately, the Delhi police didn’t preempt the threat of such a gathering," Thackeray said.

Over a fifth of all COVID-19 cases reported in India so far are linked to the Tablighi congregation. The nationwide toll surged to 2,902 on Saturday, including 2650 active cases, 183 who have recovered and 68 persons who have succumbed to death. Thackeray demanded the citizens to adhere with the nationwide lockdown call to reduce the transmission of virus.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 04, 2020 02:16 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website