A report published in the Indian Express today claims that the Delhi police suspects that the video where the Markaz Nizamuddin head Maulana Saad Kandhalvi of the Tablighi Jamaat was heard asking Muslims not to follow social distancing norms amidst the Coronavirus pandemic may be ‘doctored’. However, the claims made in the report don’t seem to add up.
What the Indian Express report claims about the video of Maulana Saad of Tablighi Jamaat
The Indian Express report first and foremost claims that the video may have been “doctored” by a Tablighi Jamaat member himself. Attributing their assertions to ‘highly placed sources’, Indian Express claims that the Delhi Police recovered a laptop from a Markaz member where they recovered over 350 audio clips. These 350 audio clips were purportedly in three forms – raw clips of Markaz events, audio clips sent to their followers, and ones uploaded on their YouTube channel.
In the audio clip that had gone viral, Maulana Saad had claimed that there was no need for social distancing since it was not mandated in their religion (Islam). However, according to the Indian Express report, the Delhi Police have found ‘no such audio’ in the laptop and asserted that the viral audio could have been the result of over 20 audio clips being ‘stitched together’.
The report also claims that the original viral audio and all the other audio clips found have been sent to the FSL for further forensic analysis.
By this logic, most videos on YouTube is ‘doctored’
It is entirely possible, that like many videos and audios uploaded on YouTube, the one by Delhi Markaz of Maulana Saad was ‘edited’ before uploading as a routine procedure, to make the video more cohesive for viewers. It is usual practice for there to be various takes and then, ultimately, a video being pieced together from the various audios. It is not exactly a complicated process or even a novel discovery. Unless the video is streamed live on youtube of any other platform, videos uploaded on to any platform may go through the basic phase of editing before it is finally presented to the audience. That the video of Maulana Saad was ‘edited’ and a product of audio clips ‘stitched together’ does not prove that Maulana Saad did not say what he was heard saying in the viral video.
Even by the Indian Express’ own report, the police found several ‘raw files’ in the laptop of the Markaz member and that indicates that the Tablighi Jamaat member was going through the normal process of editing before uploading the video for final consumption.
The video of Maulana Saad was uploaded on Delhi Markaz’s official YouTube page
It could be termed a bit of a stretch of the imagination when one claims that the video, which was uploaded on the official, verified page of Delhi Markaz on Twitter was somehow ‘doctored’ to implicate the Markaz Nizamuddin head Maulana Saad Kandhalvi. The connotation that is now being peddled is that, somehow, it was some elements who wanted to see Maulana Saad implicated falsely, probably individuals from the other side of the ideological spectrum who had doctored the video. However, even as per the Indian Express, it was not “doctored” or uploaded by anyone else, but Tablighi Jamaat members themselves on the official Delhi Markaz page.
In fact, that video uploaded on the official page is still there.
The insinuations that Maulana Saad was trapped and set-up by elements against the Tablighi Jamaat, Maulana Saad, Delhi Markaz or even Muslims is a long stretch that is now being furthered by many based on the headline of the Indian Express article, without any understanding of the issue at hand.
The Police Probe has said that the Tablihi Jamaat tapes were doctored. All those news channels that completely castigated them will they , should they now on AIR NOT apologize? https://t.co/uf4UT7otEe— Tehseen Poonawalla Official (@tehseenp) May 9, 2020
Tablighi FIR: Police probe indicates Maulana Saad audio clip was doctored— Tufail Ahmad (@tufailelif) May 9, 2020
The audio clip mentioned in the FIR against Maulana Saad had suggested that he had asked Tablighi Jamaat members not to follow social distancing norms https://t.co/hb7VZm3dqb via @IndianExpress
If the video was doctored by Tablighi Jamaat itself, why is Maulana Saad on the run?
After the audio clip went viral, Maulana Saad went into hiding. While the Delhi Police had booked Maulana Saad on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder (IPC Section 304) for going ahead with a gathering of around 2,000 people at the mosque in the Capital’s Nizamuddin West in late March despite warnings from authorities, Maulana Saab continued to abscond.
The Delhi Police crime branch sent multiple notices to Maulana Saad under Section 91 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The police had asked Maulana Saad to provide some documents. There were reports that the head of the Tablighi Jamaat, Maulana Saad, who claims to have quarantined himself in the wake of the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak, was reportedly using his time to gather support and mobilise the Jamaatis. Saad, a resident of Zakir Nagar is allegedly hiding on the outskirts of Delhi at a supporter’s house. Reportedly, the Islamic cleric had hidden in a densely populated area, knowing well that it could help evade arrest.
it is pertinent to ask here that if the video was doctored, why is the Maulana on the run, evading questioning by the relevant authorities. Maulana Saad in his own right is a highly placed cleric and it is obvious that he had no fear of physical harm coming to him after the arrest. Thus, one has to ask the question whether he was scared of the Epidemic Act being imposed on him in the light of his video. If he knew the video was doctored, he could have simply returned and demanded that the video be analysed forensically to prove his innocence. Or, he could have asked the police to question his own Tablighi Jamaat member who is not being thrown under the bus for “doctoring” the video.
However, none of this was done. Maulana ran and wilfully absconding from the police and continues to do so.
An attempt to save Maulana Saad?
The Markaz, Nizamuddin in Delhi is at the heart of the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak in the country. Hundreds of potential infections have occurred during a religious event organized at the place earlier this month. Moreover, around 2500 people were housed at the Masjid as late as the 22nd of March and after 1,500 of them left on the 23rd, around a thousand people were still holed up inside.
The whole episode escalated when 163 people who were present at the Markaz, Nizamuddin were admitted to the Lok Nayak Hospital after showing symptoms of the Wuhan Coronavirus. At least eight people who attended the event have died of the virus thus far. The Delhi Police on Monday announced that it will request the Delhi Police to register an FIR against the Maulana of Markaz, Nizamuddin. Since then, an FIR has been registered against the Maulana and others under Section 3 of The Epidemic Diseases Act (1897) for organizing the Islamic event at Markz, Nizamuddin amidst the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic.
Ever since the Tablighi Jamaat event exploded, spreading the Coronavirus in the country, a concerted attempt has been underway to shield Tablighi Jamaat members, the Markaz and even Maulana Saad. Anyone who questioned the conduct of the Jamaatis was branded Islamophobic and ostracised for assigning religion to the pandemic, completely ignoring the fact that it was indeed the Jamaatis who wilfully spread the virus in the country.
With the media playing an active role in the “save the Jamaatis” project and politicians playing along by replacing ‘Nizamuddin Markaz’ in their Coronavirus updates to ‘Single source event’, the entire narrative of the video being doctored seems to be yet another attempt to exonerate Tablighi Jamaat and Maulana Saad of the grave crimes against humanity they seem to have committed by willfully risking public health in the midst of a pandemic.