Around 2,300 foreigners who had come to India to attend a congregation organised by the Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat in March have been blacklisted for 10 years. The event in Delhi's Nizamuddin area, which violated curbs on large gatherings, had emerged as a major hotspot for coronavirus in India.
Home Ministry officials on Thursday said that the foreign members of the group had violated visa rules and will not be allowed to enter the country for 10 years. They include around 900 foreigners who were blacklisted in April.
The action has been taken by the Home Ministry after various state governments provided details of the foreigners who were found to be illegally living in mosques and religious seminaries across the country.
Investigators had earlier charged the chief of the group Maulana Saad Kandhalvi with culpable homicide for its role in a big jump in COVID-19 infections in the country. He has also been implicated in a money laundering case.
The religious congregation was held at the Nizamuddin Markaz, the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat in a cramped corner of New Delhi in mid-March.
Thousands, including foreigners from countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh, gathered at the mosque complex, and many stayed in a six-floor dormitory on the campus.
As members returned to their homes across the country, over 15,000 coronavirus cases with links to the Delhi event were reported, leaving states scrambling to track them down. Some foreigners were also arrested as they tried to leave the country.
The Tablighi Jamaat is one of the world's biggest Sunni Muslim proselytising organisations with followers in more than 80 countries, promoting a pure form of Islam.
The group had said that many of the followers who had visited its offices in a narrow, winding lane in Delhi's historic Nizamuddin area were stranded after the government declared the three-week lockdown, and the centre had to offer them shelter.
However, the Delhi government said the congregation had violated its rules that were introduced days before the nationwide lockdown and banned large gatherings to stop the spread of COVID-19.
(With inputs from agencies)