Covid-19 and Tablighi Jamaat: Unanswered questions

Covid-19 and Tablighi Jamaat: Unanswered questions

Hari Jaisingh

Hari Jaisingh

India right now is badly caught in a shadow of corona virus. This shadow is not notional, but real as the country is undergoing the national lock down, with looming economic distress across various sectors and related human sufferings. In most industrial areas,factories are left with no choice but to let go their workers, mostly migrants, who are still nursing their own wounds of woes and deprivations.

While the Modi government has followed its own disaster rules strictly, what it has lacked is flexibility in approach and responses to the unprecedented range and dimension of the greatest human tragedy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his interaction with Chief Ministers talked about the “areas of focus” in the country’s war against corona virus. He also rightly suggested to the Chief Ministers to “formulate a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of the population once the lock down ends” on April 14.

I, however, honestly feel that the Prime Minister himself should have taken the initiative to work out a coordinated agenda and strategies keeping in view the farmers’ sufferings, the uprooting of workers, the people below the poverty line and the have-nots in general. Equally vital exercise in this area is the revival of the economy. The economy has further slowed down. Even the demand for work by households under the MGNREGA programme surged to a nine-year high in 2019-20. This calls for revamping of the national job guarantee scheme which was launched in 2006 from 200 districts. These are the areas of real challenge for the Prime Minister.

As it is, the official communications network is widespread and strong. What matters is the quality of communication and information to the people in different segments.

What is needed is not a knee-jerk reaction but large-heart edness like those factory owners who decided not to leave their workers in the lurch but to keep them while taking a more long-term business view.

For instance, Coimbatore-based KPR Mill has 17,500 workers on its premises. This is positive news in an otherwise grim situation. Most of the states are suffering because of non-availability of medical supplies like personal protective equipment (PPEs), masks, sanitisers,ventilators, trained staff, risky slum areas, poor infrastructure and financial grants. These may look like routine matters but in a country like ours, the overall system is oriented towards the Prime Minister.

Things move faster when the PM takes interest and intervenes in public interest areas. My emphasis, therefore, is on Prime Minister Modi playing a proactive role in Covid-19-related matters.

I have talked about coronavirus-related areas of focus, but one issue which is bothering me as well as millions of Indians is how the Tablighi Jamaat event of Nizamuddin Markaz in New Delhi turned into a coronavirus hotspot. The person to blame for this serious setback is Maulana Saad Kandhalvi.

The 56-year-old Chief of the Tablighi Jamaat is now faced with an FIR registered against him on charges of ignoring the government directions prohibiting public gatherings and for maintaining social distance to contain the spread of Covid-19 under the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Maulana Saad apart, Zeeshan Mufti Shehzad, M Saifi, Younus, Mohd. Salman and Mohammed Ashraf have also been named in the FIR. Saad has gone underground since then.

It is said that the Tablighi Jamaat thrives on the “culture of secrecy". This is how National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had told a media organization as far back as September 2013.

In view of the assessment by Ajit Doval, my point is: how come the authorities ignored its activities? They ought to have acted firmly and decisively against the Tablighi Jamaat and not allowed it to hold its gathering at Nizamuddin.

It is no secret that over 2000 people, including foreigners andIndians from across the country participated in the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi’s Nizamuddin. It is reported that over 440 people showed symptoms of Covid-19 after attending the congregation at Nizamuddin. This is a highly serious matter since the country is paying a heavy price as the rise of over 30 per cent positive cases so far is linked to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in mid-March.

My question is: who is to blame for allowing this gathering? To know the truth I suggest that the country must go in for an independent inquiry. Only an impartial probe can help us know the exact role played by the Jamaat as well as the authorities. On the face of varied happenings, I believe that the role of the Delhi government authorities, the police, intelligence agencies and related areas needs to be examined and guilty persons punished accordingly.

The inquiry agencies should also critically examine Maulana Saad’s audio-tape which was played for the gathering a number of times.

Therein he has reportedly said: “Do not pay heed if they (police) ask us to lock down mosques”.

“There is no better place to die than a mosque”.

“Allah is punishing us for abandoning mosques.”

“Won’t pay heed if even doctors advise us not to pray in mosques.”

The Maulana’s message is clear and candid as he says that coronavirus“ is an expression of Allah’s wrath because of the sins of us human beings.”

It may be restated that even Saudi Arabia suspended prayers at Mecca and Medina on March 20. Similar restrictions were later imposed in therest of the Arab world and some other Muslim countries. While India too shut temples, churches, gurdwaras and most mosques, why was the Tablighi outfit treated lightly? The nation has the right to know full facts about the Tablighi Jamaat activities in Delhi and the rest of India. We must not allow the Tablighi Jamaat to become a fertile ground for objectionable preaching in the name of Islam and a breeding ground for radical Islamic activities.