As India continues to battle against the rising number of Coronavirus cases Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday urged Muslims to observe Shab-e-Barat by staying inside their homes, and also suggested that the birth anniversary celebrations of Dr BR Ambedkar be postponed in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a post on his Facebook page Pawar said, Shab-e-Barat, also known as the night of forgiveness, will be observed on April 8 where members of the Muslim community visit graveyards to remember their ancestors, and called for taking precautions to avoid gathering of people given the coronavirus crisis.

Pawar said congregation such as the one held last month in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area by Tablighi Jamaat could have been avoided, and urged people to ensure there is no repeat of such meetings on Shab-e-Barat.

“The meeting should have been avoided, but it was not and others may have to pay for it,” Pawar said referring to the religious meeting in the national capital.

He said the “possibility of some people who attended the meeting carrying the disease cannot be ruled out” and pressed for maintaining discipline given the situation caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Shab-e-Barat is on April 8. Muslims remember their relatives, who are no more, by visiting kabrastan (graveyard). It should be observed inside home. Precaution should be taken to see there is no repeat of the Nizamuddin meeting-like episode,” he said.

Pawar said people should also think about postponing Ambedkar’s birth anniversary celebrations. “We normally celebrate it (the anniversary) for two or so months. We should think whether we should really observe the programme at this juncture (given the coronavirus threat). If we come together, we may have to face health issues,” the former Union minister said. He said in general, 90 per cent people have been observing the lockdown, but 10 per cent are not doing so.

The Centre and the Maharashtra government may have to extend the lockdown period if discipline is not observed till April 14 (till when the lockdown is in force), he said, urging people to toe the line in the interest of each other.

Authorities across states have identified more than 6,000 people who attended the Nizamuddin Tablighi Jamaat congregation, the biggest coronavirus hotspot in the country.

A massive operation of tracing the people connected to the hotspot is on. More than 5,000 of those identified to have attended the congregation have been quarantined, including in hospitals across states, while efforts are on to trace another 2,000 including in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.