At least 28 of the 37 people identified by the Jharkhand Police as attendees at a Tablighi Jamaat conference in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area denied having attended the event or even being present in the national capital when it took place. These included the son of a Jharkhand minister. On 30 March, the special branch of the Jharkhand Police released a list of 37 persons, and claimed that all of them attended the conference by the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic revivalist organisation, held on 13 March. The police released the list via a notice, which claimed that the 37 people mentioned had returned to Jharkhand over the previous week. The notice read, “According to the information received, the persons mentioned in the attached list attended a religious event/Tablighi Jamaat gathering at Hazrat Nizamuddin, New Delhi and have returned within the last 07 days. Necessary inquiry is required after the necessary medical examination of the said persons, after verification.” It bore the signature of the special branch’s superintendent of police for intelligence.
The notice included the names of these 37 people along with their mobile numbers. The Caravan managed to establish contact with 28 of the people on the list. Every single one of them denied having attended the event—27 said they had not been to Delhi in a long time. Some said they had visited Delhi at least a year earlier, while others said it had been between two and five years since they travelled to the capital. All 28 confirmed that they were either presently associated with the Tablighi Jamaat or had been in the past, but denied the travel history that the notice claimed.
The Tablighi Jamaat conference was held over ten days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19. In late March, news broke that six of the conference’s attendees—many of whom had travelled from abroad—had tested positive for COVID-19. The emergence of these cases led to a public frenzy. Both the government and the media highlighted them almost non-stop. The ministry of home affairs repeatedly claimed that a majority of India’s COVID-19 cases were linked to the Jamaat event, while news reports christened the conference India’s “biggest COVID-19 hotspot.” At a press briefing held on 4 April, the MHA’s Punya Salila Srivastava, a joint secretary, said that the law-enforcement agencies had, “through a massive effort, located and placed around 22,000 Tablighi Jamaat workers and their contacts in quarantine.”