National Herald, The Congress mouthpiece, published an opinion piece by Vikas Bajpai, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, that absolved the Tablighi Jamaat of all its crimes and instead accused political parties and the media of ‘scapegoating’ them. Furthermore, the author went ahead with taking potshots at the Hindu community and indulging in rabid Hinduphobia, all the while he engages in apologia for the Islamic missionary organization.
The article attributed the reasons behind the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus entirely to the government while claiming that it was unfair to blame the Islamic event at the Markaz Nizamuddin of Tablighi Jamaat for the spread of the disease. Needless to say, although the article is headlined “Hysteria over Tablighi Jamaat turns out to be counterproductive”, it doesn’t really say how it is proving to be counterproductive.
The article claimed, “It is easy to blame the Markaj for holding the congregation between March 13 to March 15; easier to forget that on March 13 Health ministry officials said on record that the coronavirus was not a health or national emergency. It is easy to blame the Markaj in hindsight and ask why the congregation did not leave after March 15 but perhaps easier to forget the confusion, chaos and conflicting voices emanating from the Government at the time.” The author takes equal opportunity to blame the Delhi Government and the Union Government but has no words to offer for the deplorable conduct of the Tablighi Jamaat.
Throughout the article, the author blames ‘godi media’ and ‘gobar’ politics, however, it doesn’t even bother to mention the fact that members of the Tablighi Jamaat have been doing everything they can to hide themselves from authorities. It is rather perplexing that the author makes it a point to take vulgar jibes at the Hindu community even as he attempts to whitewash the sins of the Islamic missionary organization. The bigoted sectarian nature of his worldview is evident from the fact that he goes out of his way to drag the Hindu community in a matter that it has nothing to do with. To uphold secularism, it appears, denigrating the Hindu community while defending Islamic fundamentalists simultaneously is essential.
The author doesn’t mention the fact that the Jamaatis have not been cooperating with the healthcare workers at all and in certain instances, have engaged in sexually predatory behaviour against nurses and female staff at hospitals. They have also thrown tantrums and embarked on a spitting spree to further spread the Wuhan Coronavirus. Gathering in large numbers violating government guidelines was only the first of a series of atrocious conduct by the Tablighi Jamaat members. Their actions sinc them have only grown infinitely worse.
The article claims that there is an ‘enormous shortage’ of PPE, despite several clarifications from the government that there is a sufficient supply of equipment as of now. Most dangerously, the author provides justification for the Jamaatis to hide from the authorities. He says, “What then makes us believe that the Tablighis or the migrants would willingly reveal themselves to the authorities were they to fall sick? Their treatment as villains, above all by the agencies of the state, would have made even other people wary.” It needs to be mentioned here that the migrants have made no effort to hide from any authority. In fact, they have come forward because they are in great need of help and every state and the central government is working towards providing them with the help they need. Therefore, clubbing them with Jamaatis is itself driven by ulterior motives.
Furthermore, the Jamaatis have not been cooperating with authorities as it is. Blaming the government and media due to their conduct is a deliberate attempt to deflect attention from the problematic religious beliefs of the Islamic Missionary organization. Maulana Saad of Markaz Nizamuddin was preaching that the Wuhan Coronavirus is a conspiracy against Islam and advocated continued physical proximity when social distancing is essential towards combating the virus. Furthermore, the Maulana preached that if 70,000 angels could not save Muslims, then no doctor could possibly cure them. Under such circumstances, if the government and media is blamed for the lack of cooperation on the part of the Jamaatis, it is little more than a malicious lie.
The author further says, “If official statistics are to be relied upon, India is as yet nowhere near to the scale of the COVID-19 calamity that has already visited countries much smaller in population as compared to India’s, with the singular exception of China. Yet from none of these countries have we heard of victims of the pandemic being treated as culprits or criminals”. The author conveniently forgets that authorities in South Korea have charged a Christian sect for spreading the Wuhan Coronavirus.
The article was an elaborate effort to absolve the Tablighi Jamaat of all sins and place the blame, instead, at the feet of the central and Dehi government. While there have been missteps on certain occasions, however, this is an unprecedented situation and any government cannot be expected to get everything right a hundred percent of the time. A lot of the times, the government had to make a choice between two extremely bad options. Thus, migrants have suffered due to the lockdown. However, it was necessary in order to curb the spread. While the author is overeager to excuse the misconduct of the Tablighi Jamaat, he is only driven to blame the government for unavoidable hardships due to his personal political biases.
The Tablighi Jamaat time bomb erupted across the country in the last week of March when around 200 people with Wuhan Coronavirus symptoms were admitted to various hospitals in Delhi from the Markaz Nizamuddin and surrounding places. Subsequently, the area around the Markaz Nizamuddin was cordoned off by the Delhi Police. Soon, cases began to erupt across the country with links to the Tablighi Jamaat and the country stood horrified as the magnitude of the Islamic Missionary organization’s transgressions became known. But even so, a significant section of the media and the political class is going out of its way to whitewash and hide the crimes of the Tablighi Jamaat. And some, like the National Herald, believe that the proper way forward is to take jibes at the Hindu community instead.