Chennai: Tamil Nadu government has constructed a foreigner’s detention centre at the Borstal school in the Puzhal prison complex in the northeast Chennai.
This detention centre is one of its kinds where 125 foreign nationals belonging to Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) will be housed. They are currently under house arrest at Saidapet Sub-jail located in central Chennai.
The foreign TJ members were arrested from various parts of Tamil Nadu for violating visa norms. They will be shifted to the special camp at Borstal school, once they get regular bail from the competent court.
Among the 125 foreign nationals, there are 12 are women preachers. There are 13 male members from Bangladesh, 13 from Myanmar, 14 from Thailand, more than 10 from Malaysia, 46 from Indonesia among them 6 are women, 8 from Ethiopia among them 4 are women and 9 from France, besides other countries.
Many among those foreign TJ members arrested are no way connected to the Tablighi Jamaat event that took place in New Delhi and were in Tamil Nadu much before the TJ- Corona linkage was found.
The Federation of Muslim Organizations and Parties condemned the arrest of the Tablighi Jamaat preachers from the foreign countries.
P A Kajamoinudeen Bakavi, President of the federation which comprises of 24 organizations and political parties demanded the immediate release of the preachers and their deportation to respective countries.
The federation expressed concern over the way the Tamil Nadu government is treating these foreign nationals. “These foreign preachers had travelled to Tamil Nadu with valid travel documents, but they are treated like terrorists,” Bakavi said in a statement.
“I have asked the state government to treat the preachers respectfully and take necessary measures to send them to their respective countries,” Bakavi said.
M. H. Jawahirullah President of ‘Manithaneya Makkal Katchi,’ a Muslim political party, questioned the rationale of creation of the dentation center for the foreigners TJ members in the state.
“It is perhaps first time in the history that a detention camp is established for foreigners visiting another country,” he said.
“The foreigner’s belonging to the Tablighi Jamaat had come to the state on a pilgrimage but were arrested on false charges at the behest of the Central government,” which is biased towards Muslims as everyone knows, he said.
“Those arrested are kept in the Sidapet sub-jail and are living in human conditions. This is because this jail was constructed during the British rule and its floors are damaged. The foreigners are made to sleep on the floor which has rough surface,” he said.
The MMK leader said, “It is not the first time anyone has violated the visa rules but it is the first time any foreigner is arrested for breaking this rule. Now they have to go through the motion of bail and face the trial courts before they are sent back. Till then they have to be kept in the special camp. This is ludicrous,” he said.
M. H. Jawahirullah who is busy in getting bails for the foreign TJ members said; So far, only six of them have got bail and sent to Borstal school special camp, the bail plea of the rest is being delayed for some reason or other. This shows the anti-Muslim attitude of the Tamil Nadu government, the MMK leader said.
M. H. Jawahirullah begged for global attention for the way foreigners are treated in Tamil Nadu. “I wondered if the Tamil Nadu government would have done the same to the foreign members of other religions travelling to the state for preaching purposes,’ he said.
The ‘Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, President demanded the immediate release of all the foreign TJ members and asked the state government to take necessary measures to send them as quickly as possible. He also demanded the immediate closure of the special camp which is a gross human rights violation that too of the foreigners visiting the largest democracy in the world.
These foreigner TJ members had come to India on tourist visas. They visited various parts of Tamil Nadu for preaching purposes. Some of them had come to the state earlier to the Corona- Markaz linkage was discovered and some had come after attending the TJ conference in New Delhi. The State police arrested all them apparently at the behest of the Ministry of Home Affairs New Delhi.
The Prison Department had taken steps to ensure that they are kept under close observation by medical teams. They will remain in detention till their trail gets over and ordered for deportation.
The Director-General of Police, prisons, Sunil Kumar Singh said these foreign TJ members will have no access to the other three prisons in the Puzhal prison complex. “There is no possibility of old prisoners, including convicts, getting affected by the Covid-19 because there is absolutely no chance of their coming into contact with newcomers because the Borstal school is totally a separate entity in the Puzhal prison complex,” he added.
Among those who are in house arrest in Sidapet’ sub-jail only 6 Thai nationals have obtained bail and are shifted to the Borstal school in the Puzhal jail.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org