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By Syed Ali Mujtaba, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, New York, TIO: New Delhi: Two hundred fifty foreign Tablighi Jamat members (TJ) out of 900 from 34 countries have accepted the plea bargain offer of the government and have agreed to deposit fines to the PM Cares as a bargain to walk free.
These 250 foreign TJ members have paid a total sum of INR 434000615000 or Four hundred thirty-four billion six hundred fifteen thousand to PM Cares so far.
PM Cares – an acronym for Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations, was set up in March 2020 with the objective of being a “dedicated national fund” to deal with “any kind of emergency or distress situation”.
It has run into controversy after opposition parties questioned the rationale of PM Cares when the PM National Relief Fund is already operational. The political parties have further raised concerns about the transparency of the PM Cares as the funds parked in this coffer cannot be audited independently.
This matter had gone to the Supreme Court under public interest litigation but the Apex Court has ruled in favor of the government and upheld the government’s view that PM Cares cannot be subjected to any external auditing.
However, this does not absolve the government from the concerned citizen’s suspicion that PM Cares is an extortion racket that the government of the day has opened to accumulate money in the shadow of the pandemics.
Notwithstanding the facts, so far 34 Thai nationals, 22 Nepali nationals, 98 from Indonesians, 23 from Kyrgyzstan, 62 from Malaysian, and 11 from Saudi Arabia have deposited their ‘freedom money’ in the PM Cares.
The 34 Thai nationals have paid the fine of Rs 6,000 each totaling INR 204000. The 22 Nepalese nationals paid a fine of 4,000 each totaling INR 88,000. The 98 Indonesians have paid 10,000 each totaling INR 98000. The 23 Kyrgyzstan nationals paid 5000 each totaling INR 115000. The 62 Malaysian paid 7,000 each totaling INR 434000. The 11 Saudi Arabian paid 10,000 each totaling 110000.
A grand total of all these money deposited in the PM Cares is staggering INR 434000615000 or Four hundred thirty-four billion six hundred fifteen thousand. The amount so far deposited to the PM Cares is only of 250 TJ members and 650 members have to pay their freedom money to walk free.
Hearing the case of 34 Thai nationals, the Delhi Metropolitan Magistrate Gagandeep Jindal had given the foreigners the bargaining process option to accept their guilt and pay a fine of Rs 6,000 each to the PM Cares Fund. The 34 Thai TJ members have deposited INR 204000 to seek amnesty.
Similarly, another court had directed 22 Nepalese to walk free on a payment of Rs 4,000 fine each. They Nepalese nationals together have deposited INR 88,000 to the PM Cares.
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A Metropolitan magistrate Rajat Goyal allowed 98 Indonesians to walk free under the plea bargain process on payment of a fine of Rs 10,000 each. They have deposited INR 98000 to the PM Cares.
Similarly, another Metropolitan magistrate Rohit Gullia allowed 23 TJ members from Kyrgyzstan to walk free on payment of Rs 5,000 each as a fine. As a result, the Kyrgyz have submitted INR 115000 to the PM Cares.
In the same process, Metropolitan Magistrate Siddharth Malik had asked 62 Malaysian nationals to pay 7,000 each to gain freedom. They deposited a total sum of INR 434000 to the PM Cares.
Another court of Metropolitan Magistrate Ashish Gupta allowed 11 Saudi Arabian nationals to walk free upon payment of 10,000 each. The Saudis paid a sum of INR 110000 to the PM Cares.
A total of 900 foreign nationals from 34 countries had come to India to participate in the Tablighi Jamaat congregation held in mid-March 2020 in Delhi.
The government has found them guilty on several charges. The first charge is, they are super-spreaders of coronavirus that include culpable homicide. This charge was leveled at a time when the COVID 19 figures were not even 500 in the entire country.
Now when the COVID 19 cases are touching three million, the government is finding it hard to substantiate its charge that it has leveled on TJ members as super-spreaders of coronavirus and thus committing culpable homicide. This charge of the government has become a laughing stock in the courts.
The second charge is that these foreign nationals are guilty of violating government orders to the Covid-19 lockdown. This charge is also being contested as Tabligi members have given the entire schedule of their activity during the lockdown and have alleged that it’s the government that has disrupted its schedule by announcing the lockdown on midnight of March 24. The TJ members defend themselves saying they have not violated any lockdown norms.
The third charge leveled against the foreign Tablighi Jamat members is that they have misused the visa norms. They had come to India on tourist visas but had indulged in religious preaching activity and they were indulging in conversion activity.
This allegation of the government is also being contested by the TJ members who say that it is the Indian government’s ingenuity that has bestowed on them the certificate preachers to otherwise half-literate people, who had come to this great country for learning and traveling purposes. They say that tourist visas are the most appropriate category for such purposes. The Judge sitting in judgment has to decide whether Tabligis are preachers or teachers or just ordinary monks who had come in pursuit of knowledge.
The most serious among all the charges leveled by the government is the allegation of money laundering by the Tablighi Jamat members. The government has used its Enforcement Directorate to raid on several places connected with Tabiligi Jamat to dig out an illegal trail of money being laundered by TJ members. The ED has also asked the money changer shop in front of Tabligi Jamat Markaz in Delhi to provide them a report of 6 years of money being exchanged by the foreign TJ members.
The money laundering charge has far not come up for a trial but such charge-sheet is reportedly being prepared country-wise.
The idea behind this is to somehow nail the ‘Tablighi Jamat’ on such an allegation and ban this organization in the entire country.
How far the government of the day is going to be successful on this will depend upon the court’s wisdom to put or not to put its stamp of approval on the government’s allegations right now that is something that needs to be watched with care.
In this story of the plea bargaining offer and acceptance of guilt and its amnesty by paying fine in PM Cares, stand tall some 44 foreign Tablighi Jamat members. They have hit a discordant chord and dug in before the court ready to face the trial until they are exonerated from all the charges leveled by the government.
Among them, there are 7 Thai nationals who want the government to proceed with the charges against them and they are ready to face the trial. They have made public that they will not accept the plea bargain offer and will not get released by paying a fine to the PM Cares. They say they have not done crime nor are they guilty of any misconduct. They have challenged the government to prove their allegations and are ready to face the gallows.
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In the shadow of Pandemics, this is a very interesting battle going between the government and some courageous religious soul. The government of the day wants to break their courage with the bait o freedom, while these religious strong heads have their own point to prove and that is nail this government as anti-Islam and anti-Muslim in its code of conduct.
The government’s messages to the 34 Muslim countries whose nationals are withheld in India now for over six months now that this how this brand new nation and that is how it addresses the issue of Islamic religious activity in India.
Compiled by Humra Kidwai Curated By Azain Rizvi