India cracks down on Muslim groups emerging as coronavirus clusters


India is in a state of national lockdown and authorities are now clamping down on religious gatherings, some of which have continued despite the strict health warnings.

The headquarters of a Muslim missionary group were the latest to be sealed off on Tuesday (March 31) after the country’s health minister revealed at least 24 people who took part one such gathering at a mosque New Delhi tested positive for the coronavirus.

As many as 1,500 Muslims from India and other countries had attended a congregation of Islamic preachers amid the nationwide lockdown, out of which several developed coronavirus-like symptoms.

Authorities evacuated over 1,000 people from the area where the congregation was held, health authorities said. The area was later cordoned off by police.

Prior to the health crisis, Muslims in India were already facing tense times, due to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s controversial citizenship bill which critics have described as anti-Muslim.

Last week, Modi ordered the country's 1.3 billion people to remain indoors until at least April 15, saying the lockdown would hopefully stop the coronavirus pandemic.

However, tens of thousands of out-of-work migrants are apparently undermining the restrictions by fleeing cities and heading to the countryside.