300 Bangladeshis stranded as India restricts Tabligh activities

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury  | Published: 22:47, Jun 05,2020


The Indian government has imposed restrictions on foreigners ‘on engaging in Tabligh activities’ with provisions for imposing a penalty of $500 for violation of visa guidelines in this regard, according to a report of the Hindu.  

Over 300 Bangladeshis are now stranded in India for over two and half a month due legal complications and a good number of them ‘are in look-out list’ of the Indian authorities.

Indian immigration authorities in Petrapole outpost, adjacent to Benapole border of Bangladesh, aborted a move of the Bangladesh missions in New Delhi and Kolkata to send a group of 19 stranded Bangladeshis back home last week although the external affairs ministry approved them to leave the country, Bangladesh officials in Kolkata said.

They added that those 19 people were asked to report to the Delhi police.

‘There is serious lack of coordination between the Indian home and external affairs ministries,’ said an official.

After ending the 14-day quarantine period since mid-March, most of the 300 Bangladeshis are now facing charges for violations of rules involving spread of disease, visa regulations and money laundering.  

Most of them are kept in custody of Indian local Tabligh people, according to an official at Bangladesh Tabligh centre in Kakrail. 

Bangladesh high commissioner in New Delhi Muhammad Imran told New Age on Friday that they were in touch with the Indian authorities for sending the Tabligh people back home.

‘We are waiting for something positive,’ he said, adding that there were some legal complications as some charges were brought against the people. 

The amended Indian visa guidelines read, ‘Foreign nationals granted any type of visa...shall not be permitted to engage themselves in Tabligh work,’ according to report of the Hindu.

‘There will be no restriction in visiting religious places and attending normal religious activities like attending religious discourse. However, preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in religious places, distribution of audio or visual display/pamphlets pertaining to religious ideologies, spreading conversion etc. will not allowed,’ read the visa guidelines, issued by the Indian home ministry. 

The $500 fine is also applicable for other violations such as overstay of more than two years, visiting protected areas and cases involving both overstay and visa violations. 

The Indian government blacklisted a total of 2,600 foreign Tabligh followers, till June 2, from entering the country for 10 years; and 960 of them participated in a Tabligh Jamaat event at Nizamuddin markaz (centre) in Delhi in early March.  

The Indian government also cancelled their visas.

The blacklisted foreigners included 379 Indonesians, 110 Bangladeshis, 77 Kyrgyzstan people, 75 Malaysians, 65 Thai people, 63 Myanmar national, 33 Sri Lankans, 12 Vietnamese, nine Saudi Arabians, nine Britons, six Chinese people, four Americans and three French people.

The Indian home ministry wrote to the states that around 2,000 Tabligh people from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, who entered India on tourist visa appear to ‘potential carriers’ of COVID-19.

The ministry said in letter submitted to the Gujarat High Court, on April 2, stating that the foreigners had violated provisions of the Visa Manual 2019 and were also liable under the provisions of Section 13 and 14 of the Foreigners Act 1946, punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment upon conviction.

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