NEW DELHI, AUGUST 9—A 42-year old US citizen, Ahmad Ali, is among 44 foreign activists of Tablighi Jamaat, who has decided to face the trial instead of opting a plea bargain and paying fines ranging from Rs 5,000-10,000 to leave his country.
Ali, New York based pharmacist, is not accepting that he has violated visa rules and COVID 19 regulations as he had left the Markaz Tablighi Jamaat well before the announcement of lockdown on March 24.
In an interview to The Indian Express, he says that he has taken a tough decision. But this is not first time that he has taken this kind of decision.
He originally belongs to Myanmar where he as university student had led an underground movement against military regime of Myanmar. He was residing at Yangon in Mayanmar. He had to pay a heavy price of the movement as in 2005 he had to leave Yangon and took shelter in a refugee camp in Thailand leaving his parents behind. Two years ago, his father had passed away.
Ali, who is at present staying at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, says why he should ask a plea bargain. What his guilt is. He has not broken any law. He left the Markaz Nizamuddin before the announcement of national lockdown. He is not accepting that as a US citizen he has broken any law in India.
Delhi government on April 2 had evacuated 2,346 Tablighi Jamaat activists in batches in a 36-hour operation from Markaz Nizamuddin, the international headquarters of the Jamaat. There were 2,547 Covid cases in the country on April 3. The government claimed that of them 25 per cent were linked with the Tablighi Jamaat who travelled from Delhi to other states of the country.
The US citizen came to India on March 12 with his wife and her parents. They are still with him in India.
They lived for five days in Markaz. Later they took shelter in a mosque in Old Delhi where from the police took them to quarantine centre.
The Delhi government ordered on May 10 to release all the Tablighi members from the centres and 18 days later Delhi High Court allowed them for shifting to alternative accommodations. Some of them shifted to private schools run by community members while Ali had taken accommodation in Shaheen Bagh.
Between all this shifting, Ali was tested Corona positive and had to live for 20 days in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash hospital.
A Delhi government official said that plea bargain after paying penalty is a legal provision that a foreigner can use after consultation with his embassy and the lawyer.
But a 52-year old Indonesian Tablighi, Afuuan who has also decided for a trail said that he was not at fault. He left the Markaz on March 17. He has travelled world over and no where he has violated visa rule. Same is the case here.
Afuuan said that all the foreign Tablighis had been accused of indulging in preaching while on a tourist visa. This is wrong allegation. The foreign Tabligh activists were here to learn. They were not here to teach or preach.
They want to leave for their countries but not before they are proved not guilty, he said.
He said that he had learnt a lot from this country and would not like to return in a bitter state of mind.
A 49 year old French national, Mahdi Draa who has a car repair business in Paris said that he had bitter experience of misbehaviour and ill-treatment by staff of quarantine centres. He could not step out of his room for 50 days without a shout. Once he pointed out a piece of soap from the food he was served.
(The story has been written by Syed Ali Ahmed)