In a sad development, Kashmir recorded its COVID-19 fatality with the passing away of the 65-year-old cleric hailing from Hyderpora area of the city. His case had become a subject of some debate and contention as he was found to have continued his religious activities even after developing COVID-19 symptoms. Later four more people who were in touch with him have been found to be infected with the disease. This had taken the number of cases in J&K to eleven.
There has been thus legitimate public anger against the preachers who ask their followers to violate official advisory against organizing gatherings. There is also anger against people hiding their travel history. The Hyderpora resident with an affiliation to Tabligi Jamaat, a religious outfit devoted to preaching and propagation of Islam, had recently travelled to Andaman & Nicobar. On his way back he was reported to have visited New Delhi and travelled to Nizam-u- Din Markaz of Jamat and attened a congregation there. It was here he was believed to have come into contact with Tablighi members from Malaysia and Indonesia and contracted infection. He was said to have then travelled to Deoband by a local train and from there to Jammu where he had attended a function at a mosque in Bari Brahmana. From Jammu he had taken a flight to Srinagar where he had first gone to his home in the city and visited his office. He had later travelled to North Kashmir town of Sopore and attended Friday prayers at the town’s major Tablighi Jamat mosque.
This has put a question mark on the health of the hundreds of people in J&K who had met him or attended prayers with him, not to mention those unknown people who must have travelled alongside him during his journey to Deoband and back to Srinagar.
Authorities are now busy tracing his contacts and subjecting them to tests. The detection of four more cases has triggered alarm bells in the Valley where the health infrastructure can hardly cope with the enormity of challenge. Kashmir has just 97 ventilators and 85 ICU beds. This is why the effort is to keep the infections as low as possible. Any increase in the number will strain the available resources.
People are cognizant of this reality and have so far cooperated in the effort. At the same time, many other religious preachers have woken up to the threat and advised people against taking part in gatherings including congregational prayers. They have also urged people returning from outside J&K to reveal their travel history to authorities. Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulama or Kashmir Ulema Council is a religious grouping that has called on people to engage in responsible behaviour during the current crisis. And people are also largely following the government guidelines. This should go a long way to help us win the war against coronavirus.