Tablighi Jamaat, the Sunni Islamic organisation that was much-maligned last year for allegedly spreading Covid-19, has now taken up the mantle to perform last rites of coronavirus patients in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.
The organisation has founded the COVID-19 Joint Action Committee (JAC) under the Tirupati United Muslim Association to help people during the pandemic and also conduct Covid-19 funerals, regardless of community and religion, The News Minute reported.
JMD Gouse, an active member of Tablighi Jamaat, said that last year, they were blamed for the pandemic but now people are applauding their efforts.
The second wave of the pandemic has been causing devastation across the country, with people scrambling for beds, oxygen and medicines. The massive surge in Covid-19 deaths has also left the country's crematoriums overwhelmed.
At such an hour of crisis, Tablighi Jamaat has come forward to help Covid-19 victims get a dignified funeral.
Gouse said he coordinates with 60 volunteers everyday based on inputs and requests he receives on phone. He said they have been conducting funerals of at least 15 bodies daily for the past month.
Gouse said, in the first wave, there used to be very few deaths, mostly of older people, but now young people are dying too.
"It becomes tough to convince or console the people as they become helpless before conducting the funeral," he added.
Funerals based on different religious norms
Gouse said the 60 members are divided into three teams, and each team is assigned at least four-five bodies everyday. He said they conduct funerals based on their religious traditions.
"If the victim is a Hindu, we put a cloth and flower garland; if they are Christian, we put the body in a coffin and call up a Church father to arrange a prayer; and if they are a Muslim, we hold a Janaze ki Namaz (rituals)," Gouse explained.
He further said they're arranging for PPE kits on their own, with help from Tablighi Jamaat members.
The police, municipality and staff of other departments are also helping them with their service, he added.
The team said they have conducted funerals for 536 people ever since the pandemic broke out. Of these, 134 were in the first wave, while 402 are in the second second wave.
Some of the members will arrange the logistics for shifting bodies to designated funeral grounds.
Have non-Muslim volunteers too
Gouse said the team has volunteers who are auto drivers, workers in restaurants, which have shut now, and daily wagers.
He also said that at least six youths, who are neither part of Tablighi Jamaat nor Muslims, have joined them after being inspired by the work.
Asked how they're helping people after being blamed for the pandemic last year, Gouse said, "Two-three people have gone to Delhi in March 2020 for the congregation, and then several people blamed all of us."
But now "things have changed", he said, adding that people have understood things and that "we will come out of this situation with brotherhood and compassion".