Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Monday appealed to Muslims to strictly follow social distancing and lockdown guidelines during the holy month of Ramzan starting later this month in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
He urged them to offer prayers and perform other religious rituals like the "iftar (breaking of fast) staying inside their homes during the month of Ramzan, which will begin from April 24 or April 25.
A 21-day lockdown was put in place from March 25 and is likely to be extended in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases in the country. Several states like Odisha and Punjab have already announced extension of the lockdown.
Mr Naqvi's appeal came after he spoke with various religious leaders, representatives of social and religious organisations, officials and other office-bearers of state waqf boards, asking them to ensure implementation of lockdown and social distancing guidelines during Ramzan.
The minister also held meetings in this regard at the ministry on Monday.
Mr Naqvi, who is also the Chairman of the Central Waqf Council, said more than seven lakh registered mosques, eidgahs, imambadas, dargahs and other religious institutions come under the state waqf boards across the country.
It is to be noted that most of the Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia, have called for having no mass gathering during Ramadan at religious places.
The state waqf boards, through the Central Waqf Council, have been directed to ensure that the people do not gather at religious and other places under any circumstances during Ramzan, NAQVI said.
There is a need to take help of people, various religious and social organisations and local administration in this regard, he said.
Mr Naqvi said due to the proactive, effective and positive efforts of the state waqf boards and religious-social organisations, Muslims in the country observed Shab-e-Barat on April 8 and 9 by offering prayers and performing all other religious rituals staying inside their homes.
He said that in view of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the cooperation of Muslims in implementation of the guidelines of lockdown and social distancing on Shab-e-Barat has been laudable.
All the religious activities at temples, mosques, gurdwaras, churches and other religious places in the country have been cancelled in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
Guidelines of lockdown and social distancing are being followed effectively, he said.
Traditionally people gather in large numbers at lakhs of mosques, dargahs, imambadas, eidgahs, madrassas and other religious places across the country to offer prayers and performing other religious rituals, including ''iftaar'' during Ramzan, he noted.
"But due to coronavirus pandemic, lockdown, curfew, social distancing, have been implemented by the Centre and all the state governments," he said, adding that there is a need to make people aware so that they perform all the religious rituals inside their homes during Ramzan.
Such efforts are not only needed at mosques and other religious places but also at public as well as private places where Muslims gather during Ramzan to perform religious rituals.
Mr Naqvi said the entire country is seriously and honestly following lockdown and social distancing guidelines on the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Any type of carelessness can be harmful for us, our family, the society and the entire country. We should follow the guidelines of the administration to defeat coronavirus with all seriousness and honesty," he asserted.