Mismanagement of Coronavirus Crisis and Witch Hunt of Muslims

Migrant workers try to board a crowded bus as they return to their villages, during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. — Reuters

We must understand that this fight cannot be won by cosmetic exercises such as prayer meets or by banging utensils. It can only be won when people stop the blame game and join hands to fight this war on the killer disease.

Fatima Aijaz | Clarion India

India’s government officials have all along maintained that the country has not entered the critical community transmission stage in the dreaded spread of Coronavirus or COVID-19. However, there has been a surge in new 378 cases in the past 24 hours, sending the number of overall cases to over 2400. This has largely been blamed on the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi.

The annual Tablighi Ijtema, attended by more than 2000 people, began on 3rd March. Although there had been steady growth in Coronavirus cases in India at the time, the Tablighi Jamaat was granted permission by the police. Once the conference ended, many people including some foreigners who were thought to be carriers of the virus stayed back. However, once the lockdown came into effect on March 24, many of them were stranded as all means of transportation were stopped.

There are conflicting accounts as to whether the attendees were asked to leave by the police or not. The Tablighi Markaz says that the ongoing programme at Nizamuddin was discontinued after PM Modi’s announcement of Janta curfew on March 19. Indeed, according to a statement issued by the Markaz, the Jamaat had repeatedly reached out to the Delhi Police and other concerned authorities for permission and ‘travel passes’ for the attendees to leave the Markaz as the country had been placed under a strict lockdown.

As soon as it became known that some members of the conference who were infected had travelled across the country, a media witch hunt began against the Tablighi movement. Terms such as #CoronaJihad were trending across most news channels.

Is it right to place the entire blame on the Tablighi Jamaat when the Ministry of Health had declared on March 13 that the Coronavirus is not a national emergency? While it may be true that the Tablighis behaved in an irresponsible manner by failing to maintain social distancing, it is equally irresponsible of the media to communalise a global pandemic.

When the entire world has united against the disease, we as a nation must do the same. Our media has a tendency to turn every issue into a Hindu Muslim debate. Instead of advising the public about health and safety precautions, news channels have been endlessly debating the Tablighi episode needlessly sensationalising the whole issue. It has also led much of the public to believe that this was the only large gathering to take place during the lockdown whereas the truth is that there have been several large public meetings including those hosted by several Hindu organisations and BJP governments in UP and MP.

On March 8, a 10-day long temple festival commenced in Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala. On March 15, Karnataka Chief Minister Yedyurappa attended a massive wedding function after advising people to avoid gatherings of more than 100 people.

On March 24, hours after Modi’s lockdown announcement, UP CM Yogi Adityanath held a puja programme in Ayodhya with at least 20 people. Singer Kanika Kapoor caused panic when she tested positive for Coronavirus after holding a birthday party attended by various dignitaries.

Responding to Modi’s call, people came out in hoards to bang utensils despite orders to stay at home. Not to mention the thousands of daily wage workers who gathered at bus stands and train stations trying to leave for their home towns after the PM’s sudden lockdown announcement.

While most of us are able to work from home during this trying time, these workers have been left in the lurch without any way to earn or feed themselves. The government had made no arrangements for the lakhs of poor residing in the nation. It was only after the workers set off on foot for their villages that various state governments announced food packages for them.

All this hue and cry in the media, which seems to be aimed at distracting the public attention from the shocking mismanagement and total lack of preparations on the part of the government, gives rise to certain questions.

When foreign visitors arrived for the Nizamuddin conference, why were they not screened at international airports? Why did the police – the police station is right next to the Markaz in Nizamuddin by the way — not put a stop to the programme?

When the PM himself advised people to stay put, did the attendees do right or wrong by staying back? If Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal could direct the Delhi police to register an FIR against the head of the Tablighi Jamaat, why did he claim that he had no control over the police during the Delhi riots?

We must understand that this fight cannot be won by cosmetic exercises such as prayer meets or by banging utensils. It can only be won when people stop the blame game and join hands to fight this war on the killer disease.

The government must also provide better testing and equipment along with housing and food for thousands of workers who have been left jobless. The police must be directed not to treat the daily wage earners in an insensitive manner by spraying them directly with disinfectant or punishing them for trying to reach their villages.

This pandemic requires us to look at each other as humans first rather than through the blinkers of religion, caste, and creed. Religion must not play a part when you decide to help someone.

Fatima Aijaz is a Saudi-based writer. The views are personal and Clarion India doesn’t necessarily subscribe to them


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