As many as 4,200 foreigners have been blacklisted by the Home Ministry’s Immigration Department for flouting tourist visa norms and engaging in Tablighi activities, particularly missionary work, since 2015.
The focus on Tablighi Jamaat has come after a large number of its workers were infected with the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen that causes Covid-19 virus from foreigners visiting the Markaz in Nizamuddin last month.
While Maulana Saad, the fourth emir of Jamaat, has made it clear from his quarantine that Tablighi workers must follow medical advice, the initial resistance or hesitation by the group has been blamed for a spike in virus positive cases all over India.
About 216 foreigners were still in the six-storey building in central Delhi when Indian officials began their evacuation a few days back. Another 824 had touched base at Nizamuddin before dispersing to different parts of the country for their activities.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba has told state police chiefs to run a quick background check on them to ascertain their activities.
According to North Block officials, Tablighi followers from abroad attract the immigration blacklist if they are found preaching or proselytizing in India. It is not a violation to merely listen to sermons from the Jamaat leadership, one official clarified.
Once it is found that an individual engaged in missionary work on a tourist visa, the Tablighi Jamaat follower is blacklisted for two years. Since January 2020, more than 2,000 foreigners particularly from Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Myanmar have visited the Markaz at Nizamuddin.
It is understood that in cases where the immigration finds that a Tablighi preacher with a big following is misusing the visa norms by not applying for a missionary visa but coming on a tourist visa, then the Home Ministry blacklists the culprit permanently.
A foreigner on the blacklist will not be given a visa again for two years. Now the Home Ministry is debating if it should extend the validity of the blacklist to at least four years or more to send a strong message.
“Under the existing provisions, such kind of visa condition violations do not attract permanent blacklisting. But we intend to revisit the issue,” said a senior official.
The Tablighi Jamaat, an off-shoot of Deobandi movement, preaches on how to be a good Muslim by focusing on Quran and Hadiths while also incorporating some of the local traditions. In that way, it is different from Ahle-Hadith and Wahabbi movements of Islam.