A raft of Sikh pilgrims who had travelled from Punjab to pay their obeisance found themselves cooped up in the Hazur Sahib Gurudwara in Maharashtra’s Nanded after PM Modi’s enforced a nationwide lockdown from March 25 in view of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Nearly 3,500 Sikh pilgrims who visited the hallowed Gurudwara and were stranded there since March 25 have returned after seeking approval from the Union government. They started returning to Punjab from April 22 but the order to quarantine them came five days later. About 197 of those returned from the Maharashtra Gurudwara, one of the holiest sites in Sikhism, have been tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The 197 COVID-19 patients form one-third of the total 585 cases detected in Punjab, sending ripples across the two states-Punjab and Maharashtra for the unusual spike in the number of coronavirus cases.
However, the alarming rise of coronavirus cases among Sikh pilgrims have provided an opportunity for some media outlets such as India Today to take up the cudgel for the delinquent Tablighi Jamaat members. The media group is brazenly and actively equating the much revered Hazur Sahib Gurudwara to the Markaz Nizamuddin headquarter of Tablighi Jamaat who had emerged as one of the most potent coronavirus hotspots in the country.
A report published in India Today read, “After cases in India exploded due to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, Sikh pilgrims now pose a new Covid19 threat in Punjab” essentially draws an equivalence between the Sikh pilgrims who remained penned up in the Gurudwara for about a month to the errant Tablighi Jamaat members, who defied lockdown restrictions and acted as a vector of the intractable contagion, deliberately taking the infection to different parts of the country.
In fact, the unscrupulous attempt to bracket the Sikh pilgrims with Tablighi Jamaat members was also acknowledged by Akal Takht jathedar Harpreet Singh who on Friday claimed that there was a conspiracy to “malign” the Sikhs just as the Muslims were after the Tablighi Jamaat episode
It is downright deplorable and a bit disingenuous that the report published on India Today ran a vilifying campaign against the Sikh pilgrims who have tested positive for the coronavirus and compared them to the Tablighi Jamaat superspreaders who had exhibited malevolent desires to intentionally spread the contagion to others. Not only did Tablighi Jamaat members hid in various parts of the country to avoid detection, but they were also found spitting at quarantine centres and on doctors, attendants and nurses with the evil wish to infect others. Tablighi Jamaat members sheltered in Narela quarantine centre were found defecating in the corridor. While on other the hand, the dignified Sikh pilgrims had dutifully honoured the lockdown called by the Prime Minister and remained hunkered down at the Gurudwara as long as they did not receive an approval from the Union Government to proceed back to their state.
In addition, the Sikh pilgrims are not absconding like many of the Tablighi Jamaat members who have displayed inexplicable obstinance in adhering to the enforced guidelines and a penchant for assaulting healthcare officials. The Sikh pilgrims are complying with the government mandates and fully cooperating with the authorities to stem the further spread of the infection. By drawing a preposterous analogy between the Sikh pilgrims and Tablighi Jamaat super-spreaders, these media outlets are not only attempting to shield the Jamaat members from their crass and patently malicious demeanour but they are also trying to extenuate their behaviour, even if that means casting smear on the Sikh community.
Tablighi Jamaat coronavirus super-spreaders
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. By some estimates, it is believed that the 30 per cent of the country’s total coronavirus infection is linked back to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation.