On 8th April, a group identifying itself as ‘Indian Scientists’ Response to COVID-19′ (ISRC) issued a public statement giving a clean chit to the Tablighi Jamaat attendees in their role of being super spreaders for Chinese coronavirus in India. Without giving any source for their conclusion, the ‘scientists’ have claimed that there is no data that supports the ‘speculation’ that the Tablighi Jamaatis spiked the coronavirus cases in India.
The group then tries to draw equivalence between the Tablighi Jamaatis who have contributed to over half the total positive cases (about 2/3rd of the total cases in national capital alone) with the Sikh Guru in Punjab who passed away after being tested positive. However, after he was tested positive, 40,000 people were put on quarantine to contain the spread of disease. It is also imperative to note here that those in Punjab who were quarantined did not refuse tests nor did they misbehave with the healthcare workers and authorities, unlike the Tablighi Jamaat attendees who have even refused to get tested claiming that coronavirus is a conspiracy.
In its statement, the ‘scientists’ put the blame on media and politicians for ‘suggesting’ that primary blame of spreading coronavirus in India rests on Tablighis. This, despite the medical tests which prove otherwise. On April 4, 2020, a few days after the Tablighi Jamaatis were discovered at the Nizamuddin Markaz, about 30% of positive cases in India could be traced to Tablighi Jamaat. These are the official numbers of the Union Health Ministry. But the ‘scientists’ have not given any data to back their claims that Tablighi Jamaatis are not responsible for the spread of virus.
An alert Twitter user, Saket, pointed out the dubious and shady members in the group of ‘scientists’ who were quick to give a clean chit to Tablighi Jamaatis despite lack of data (as per their own admission).
While it is called ISRC (Indian Scientist's response to COVID) making it sound like a panel of experts on COVID, it has non-biology, medical background scientists, journalists, "Social Scientists. The halo of "Scientists" is retained to maintain political relevance pic.twitter.com/UG1XqNnfdx— saket साकेत ಸಾಕೇತ್ 🇮🇳 (@saket71) April 11, 2020
The ISRC, by its own admission is a group curated by one Reeteka Sud, who is associated with NIMHANS, Bengaluru and comprises of not only scientists, but also journalists, engineers and ‘social scientists’. Essentially, a group which has given itself a name which sounds like an authority on coronavirus in India comprises of people who may not really know much about it after all.
Further digging into the voluntary group of scientists which now also includes journalists for some reason revealed that many of these same scientists had demanded withdrawal of Citizenship Amendment Act, which fast-tracked Indian citizenship for the persecuted religious minorities in three neighbouring Islamic countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Scientist Aurnab Ghose is signatory on both Kashmir matter and CAA, part of this group. Ditto Gautam Menon of Ashoka University. Rahul Siddharthan. To me with such background and political letters, seem dubious. Nothing on creating anything to fight #Covid_19india— saket साकेत ಸಾಕೇತ್ 🇮🇳 (@saket71) April 11, 2020
As pointed out by Saket, the same group had claimed that ‘careful exclusion’ of Muslims from the list of persecuted minorities in Islamic countries would ‘strain the pluralistic fabric of India’. It is imperative to note here that the Muslims of these three neighbouring countries can apply for Indian citizenship under existing laws. The CAA was specifically only for the persecuted religious minorities in three neighbouring Islamic countries. It did not affect citizenship procedure for anyone else and neither did it affect citizenship status for Indian Muslims.