While the corona virus is confounding scientists-medicos worldwide, another disease, nurtured by the communal-fundamentalist politics of hate and bigotry also continues to afflict the suffering humanity with no less ferocity. The coronavirus pandemic has so far taken over 700 lives in India. But the disease of communal hatred precipitated by the quarters of vested interest has killed thousands over the years and even at this hour of grave health crisis, is showing no sign of relent. A glaring case in point is the communal virus spread by the arch Hindu communal RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar centring on the Tablighi Jamaat meeting held in mid-March at Banglewali Markaz Masjid at Nizamuddin Mosque in Delhi. Tablighi Jamaat is a radical religious organization of Sunni faction of the Muslim Community. There is no reason to believe that it represents the entire Muslim people just like the way RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar are no representative of the Hindu populace. These are all self-appointed guardians of the respective religions though what they preach smack of fundamentalism, religious blindness and fanaticism which have nothing to do with the concerned religions at all. They all are hypocrite flaunters of their respective religious doctrines. No religion or for that matter, none of the revered religious preachers of yester years ever preached any such blindness, fanaticism or hatred towards other religions. Coming back to the Tablighi Jamaat conclave, it was on 13 March last that around 3000 people including participants from several foreign countries gathered at the Nizamuddin Markaz. Two days back, WHO had declared Corona-19 as a pandemic. But the BJP-led Indian government showed no concern at it at that point of time. Only on 16 March, the Delhi government declared health emergency and restricting religious gathering to 50 only. But it is true that the people at the Nizamuddin Markaz still continued to stay put and the organizers also did not show any concern. The local Police Station is virtually adjacent to the venue of the conclave.
But neither the Delhi Government nor the Delhi Police under the Union Home Ministry took any effort to stop the entry of any person or vacate the premises. Even the BJP-led central government which issued visa to reportedly around 800 foreign nationals attending the conclave made no attempt to deport them. It was on 4 March that the union minister of health and family welfare, announced compulsory screening of all international passengers arriving in India. Were not the foreigners who came to join the Jamaat not screened? If screened, did they test positive? If so, why were they allowed entry? If not, how could have they infected others in India? There is no answer to all these crucial questions. Everything happened under the very nose of both the central and state governments. While the Maharashtra government stopped Tablighi Jamaat from holding a similar meeting in Upnagar, Mumbai, what prompted the Central government to grant them permission? Why was the huge gathering of people from different parts of India and the world allowed to stay on till 20 March, a day before all the trains to and from Delhi were stopped? Why did they not intervene in time when such a gathering was perceived to be a potential threat of corona contagion? The Prime Minister called for Janta Curfew throughout the country and banned public gathering on that day. By that time, many participants had left the place and spread at various places of the country. Is it to be believed that the police or central home ministry had no knowledge of that? On 24 March when 21-day lockdown was announced, the local police asked the remaining people to vacate the area. But, it was found on 25 march that around 1000 people were still residing in the area defying lockdown orders. It was only as late as on 28 March that Delhi police started to escort people out of Nizamuddin Markaz. By that time, it came to light that some of the people who attended the conclave tested positive of corona infection. Also conspicuous is the meeting of Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor of the central BJP government with Maulana Saad, Tablighi Jamaat Markaz chief, at eerie hours on 28 March and then the sudden vanishing of Maulana Saad on the very night. Questions have been raised, and rightly so, as to why did Doval and not the Delhi Police Commissioner meet Maulana Saad? Who deputed Doval to meet the Maulana and why? Why till 28 March Maulana was not arrested or FIR lodged when the action had begun against Tablighi Jamaat by that time?
Though all these questions remained unanswered, a few toxic television channels owing allegiance to the ruling dispensation did not delay in pushing up a narrative that Tablighi Jamaat is solely and singly responsible for the spread of coronavirus infections all over India. Immediately dozens of fake videos and WhatsApp messages became viral accusing the entire Muslim community of flouting social distancing, alleged spitting at people to “infect” them got into circulation. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a central BJP minister called the Markaz gathering a “Talibani crime”. On 1 April, Amit Malviya, BJP IT cell head commented on Twitter that “Delhi dark underbelly is exploding! Last 3 months have been Islamic insurrection of sorts, first in the name of anti-CAA protest from Shaheen Bagh to Jamia and Jaffrabad to Seelampur. And now the illegal gathering of the radical Tablighi Jamaat at the Markaz. It needs a fix! Foremost is the chronology of the Nizamuddin Markaz episode that needs to be solved in proper order.” Do not all these smack of a definite design? True that the organizers paid no heed to the early warnings and violated lockdown protocol. It is also true that person of any religious faith is also supposed to be a responsible citizen. He or she needs to uphold the law of the land and follow what is good for the fellow citizens. Complying with government-formulated rules and medical advice of experts are essential obligations, incumbent upon each one of us. These precautions are to secure the safety and health of all citizens – no one has the authority to override them. But why did it take as long as upto 28 March for the Delhi Police to swing into action? Moreover, a gomutra (cow urine) party was allowed to take place in Delhi on 14 March. On 17 March, 40,000 visitors were allowed to assemble at Tirupati temple. Amid the nationwide lockdown, Yogi Adityanath, BJP Chief Minister of UP, led a contingent to Ayodhya on 26 March to put Ram Lala from pandal to silver pedestal. On 16 April, the people of Kalaburgi in Karnataka turned out in crowds to celebrate the Siddhalingeswara temple chariot festival. Kalaburagi is a coronavirus hotspot in Karnataka. In the way Talibaghi Jamat are guilty of violating health warning and some of their members accused of being carriers of this deadly virus, are not the others championing so called Hindutva and having organized or allowed to organize religious festivals equally guilty of defying government orders and threatening spread of Covid-19? Why then single out the Tablighi Jamaat? It is a fact that the Tablighi participants did spread the virus in parts of Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, but it defies all logic to say that it is they who are responsible for all Covid-19 cases in India, in every state and town. In Mumbai, the worst affected city, corona virus is cutting across religion, caste and class, with Dharavi slum being the most affected followed by the posh Malabar Hill area. Even ‘The Indian Scientists’ Response to Covid-19’ (ISRC), a group seeking to provide authentic information and bust myths about the pandemic, strongly condemned on 11 April last any attempt to communalise the pandemic. While the Tablighi Jamaat had erred by not cancelling the event, the ISRC said, the central and state governments should acknowledge their administrative lapses. Visibly upset over the issue, even the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) asked the Indian government to check growing ‘Islamophobia’ in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak.
But the government or RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar and their pliant media are not putting the Hindutva brigade in the dock for the wrongdoings. Their whole and sole target has been to find a scapegoat in Tablighi Jamaat with a view to spewing anti-minority venom. It is obvious that with countrywide surge of massive anti-NRC anti-CAA protests involving all sections of the toiling masses and cementing the struggling unity of the people rising above all so called religious-casteist-ethnic divides, the ploy of the RSS-BJP to drive a wedge into the unity of the countrymen raising bogey of illegal infiltration and stay of ‘illegal foreigners” fell through. Moreover, Shaheen Bagh of Delhi became an icon of that movement. In such a position, outbreak of Covid-19 and then irresponsible convening of the Tablighi Jamaat opened a new opportunity before the Hindutva zealots to uproot the Shaheen Bagh movement and instead stoke and intensify anti-minority hatred and pose before the majority population that had not the Tablighi Jamaat taken place, blowout of the contamination would not have been so much. Is it then to be inferred that the central government deliberately allowed such a violation to take place with a view to communalizing even such a deadly pandemic and the AAP-led Delhi government acquiesced in the move? It might apparently look mysterious but a careful rational analysis of the sequence of events, acts and utterances cannot but point at the aforesaid inference to be a logical conclusion.