The Tablighi Jamaat participants in Tamil Nadu, that tested positive after having attended the Markaz event in New Delhi's Nizamuddin last month, have come forward for donating their plasma in order to save lives of the infected patients. The event drew flak for being allegedly responsible for spreading the virus in various parts of the country.
Though many states faced challenges in tracing and convincing the participants to get themselves tested, more than 1,000 of them from Tamil Nadu had voluntarily admitted themselves for coronavirus testing. Apart from wanting to help patients, the attendees want to dispel notions that they have not cooperated with the officials.
More than 1,300 of the state's 1,629 coronavirus cases belong to the 'single source' of the Jamaat cluster.
Convalescent Plasma Therapy involves taking antibodies from a recovered patient to treat others suffering from the infection.
Director of Aiman College of Arts and Science for Women in Trichirapalli, M Sheikh Mohammed, who had earlier tested positive for the virus, said that he was ready to donate his plasma if doctors ask him to. "I am 68 years old, but if the doctors give me a go-ahead, I am ready," he said.
He was discharged from the Trichy General hospital on April 16. "Blood donation is very common among Muslims. If we get a chance, we will also come forward to help humanity irrespective of religion or other differences," he added.
Local religious groups and other social workers are coordinating with the attendees, across different districts in the state, to prepare a list of volunteers ready to donate their blood.
Tablighi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad, who recently called on the members to donate their blood, has also helped the cause, according to the attendees.
However, many Jamaat members are wary of the 'consequences' after being scarred by the way they were treated in the society, and just want to be left in peace.
Recovered patients were given forms on discharge in hospitals, requesting them to be ready to give samples among other information, if needed.
"They gave us a document in the hospital which has worried some people; there were a few clauses which said they would take samples, and that there could be some mental issues as well," said Professor Abdul Hameed, professor at Chennai's New College.
The 30-year-old professor was also among the Tablighi Jamaat attendees and had tested positive for the virus, before being discharged from the hospital on April 20.
"It's also going to be Ramzan time, so people may not be able to go whenever they are called. Some are worried if they will then be forced into it," he said.
"However, we are trying to convince them that there would be no issues and that we are only helping. If at all there is a requirement, I will be the first to donate. As the person coordinating, it's only fair that I lead the way," he added.
The participants are clear that the donations should be done in an organised manner with the help of the government so that a message is spread across the public that the Jamaat members have been cooperative and helpful. The attendees feel that media channels have condemed the Muslim community and want the media to now make their effort public so that it does not go unnoticed.
"If everyone donates separately, all our struggles will go unnoticed," explained Hameed, as he recalled the horrifying incident of the attendees being taken from their homes for being tested for coronavirus.
"Now that we are discharged, the public around us don't know that we've recovered. The authorities gave us a good send off at hospitals, but public around still see us with suspicion and fear," he said.
"We will donate blood, but if we do this in an organised manner through the government, the people will get to know that they don't need to ostracise us," he added.
The Tamil Nadu government is waiting for an approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for the trial of plasma therapy.