In a first, drones to watch over Muslim gatherings in Ramadan

MUMBAI: For the first time, Mumbai Police will deploy drones to keep an eye over Muslim localities as the holy month of Ramzan is set to start from Saturday, a top official said here on Friday.

Simultaneously, Mumbai Police Spokesperson Pranay Ashok said that contrary to speculation, there is no special relaxation in any areas for Muslims to make ‘sehri’ or ‘iftaar’ purchases.

Responding to reports and videos on social media purportedly showing the city police making announcements to the effect, Ashok told IANS that “no such relaxations have been permitted” in view of the lockdown.

Earlier, Deputy Commissioner of Police-Zone I, Sangramsingh Nishandar said that the Mumbai Police is fully geared for the security arrangements during Ramzan.

“All social distancing norms must be followed by our Muslim brethren. No crowds shall be permitted at any mosques, buildings or even terraces. Drones shall monitor the developments and suitable action will be taken, if any violations are found,” he told media persons.

He assured that the Mumbai Police, along with social groups and NGOs will make full arrangements to ensure uninterrupted supply of essential in all Muslim localities including those which are sealed in containment zones.

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“Since nobody from the containment zones is permitted to step outside, we shall make necessary arrangements to fulfill all their needs for ‘sehri’ and ‘iftaar’,” Nishandar assured.

Mosques will be allowed to announce the ‘azaan‘ (the muezzin’s call for prayers), but no other gatherings for ‘namaaz’ or other ceremonies during the lockdown will be allowed, he added.

Usually decorated or lit up with colourful lights, most mosques in Mumbai wore a somber and desolate look on the eve of Ramzan, the most important month in the Islamic Calendar, on Friday.

The entire Mohammed Ali Road – renowned as the ‘Makkah’ for the connoisseurs of the Ramzan food market in south Mumbai – has remained shut for the first time in its 250-year plus history, saddening Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Several political leaders in Maharashtra have greeted the Muslim faithful on the occasion of Ramzan, starting with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, Samajwadi Party state President Abu Asim Azmi, former Congress minister Naseem Khan and other dignitaries.

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In an unprecedented development, the Haji Gulam Mohammed Azam Educational Trust President P. A. Inamdar announced that its sprawling Azam Campus mosque in Pune will now serve as a ‘quarantine centre’ for COVID-19 patients.

The Trust, which manages the Maharashtra Cosmopolitan Education Society, has handed over its 9,000 sq. feet place of worship, along with all amenities and food arrangements for the quarantine patients as well as police personnel, Inamdar said.

Other mosques in Mumbai, and Muslim-dominated pockets of Thane, Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Pune, Aurangabad, Osmanabad, Nashik, Jalgaon, Solapur, Latur, Beed, Sangli, etc, were bereft of the traditional ‘Ramzan fever’.

A majority of Muslim religious, community and political leaders have issued repeated appeals since the past fortnight urging all the faithful to remain strictly indoors in Ramzan and cooperate with the government in the anti-COVID-19 pandemic war.

Maharashtra Police have made stringent security arrangements for all Muslim-majority areas with police, special forces besides technology like drones, public marches and other innovations to ensure a peaceful Ramzan.

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