Washington Post article on India’s coronavirus response fails to convey real picture
It misses out on crucial information and ends up with a narrative that is neither factual nor convincing
US daily Washington Post in its opinion piece, ‘Islamophobia taints India’s response to the coronavirus’, published on April 7, questions the country’s secular credentials and taints its image disconcertingly.
IndiavsDisinformation.com rebuts the US daily’s charges point-by-point with facts and figures.
The Indian government linked more than a thousand cases to the Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary group that held its annual meeting in a community center in Nizamuddin from March 8-10, days before India declared a health emergency and called for a national lockdown.
The Tablighi Jamaat held its meeting at Nizamuddin-based Markaz Masjid from 13-15 March. This was held despite the explicit government order prohibiting any religious/social gathering in Delhi. In fact, between March 12 and March 16, the Delhi government came out with three circulars—DE.5/43/04/Exam/2018-420-425;DE41/SPORTS/2019-20/19917-19966; F-51/DGHS/PH-IV/COVID-19/2020.
Through these circulars, the Delhi government not only called for creating awareness in general public about frequent hand wash, adoption of respiratory etiquettes and avoidance of public gatherings, but also directed closure of all government, government aided, private recognized (unaided) schools, sports activities and any other gathering in order to prevent and control the outbreak of coronavirus in the national capital till March 31.
It didn’t take long before India’s response to the coronavirus was tainted by the kind of discrimination and Islamophobia that has characterized the nationalist administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It is baseless to say that the Tabighi Jamaat congregation and its association with the jump in coronavirus cases in India has led to an anti-Muslim feeling across the country. Instead, the fact is, from liberals to Muslim leaders, everyone has condemned the group for holding a congregation at a time when the country and the world were grappling with the deadly virus. Mahmood Madani, General Secretary of Jamiat Ulema I Hind, one of the largest organizations of Muslims in India, was quoted by Hindu BusinessLine as saying that, “The Tablighi Jamaat should not have held such a meeting at a time when the whole world is fighting the epidemic”.
Mahmood Kooria, who teaches history at Ashoka University, has said on record that “religious gatherings across Asia have been at the forefront of spreading the virus, whether churches or mosques in South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, and we see that happening in India too now.”
Various religious groups held temple gatherings across India during the same period of time, putting lives at risk. In the northern state of Madhya Pradesh, more than 25,000 people have been placed in quarantine after a man who traveled from Dubai performed Hindu rituals with 1,200 people on March 20.
This is yet another attempt to introduce a communal angle to what is a serious health emergency being tackled across India. All states are taking steps to control the spread of the virus in accordance with advisories and guidelines issued by the state and central governments.
In Madhya Pradesh’s Morena district, more than 1,500 people attended the March 20 feast ceremony in honour of a 40-year-old man’s mother who had died on March 8. All those who had attended the feast were immediately quarantined and the locality where the venue of the feast was situated was sealed after the man and his wife who had returned from Dubai tested positive.
The toxic display of Islamophobia soon found its way into court orders. The high court of the western state of Gujarat on April 3 cited the Muslim congregation as the reason for the exponential growth of the pandemic in the country.
On April 3, the Gujarat High Court did take suo motu cognizance of the religious congregation of people at a mosque situated in Delhi’s Nizamuddin areas which has led to rise in the corona positive cases; the court asked for a detailed report by the centre and the state government, regarding the steps taken by the authorities for identification and isolation of the people who gathered at the mosque. The court had taken up the matter following the filing of a public interest litigation (PIL). But the rise in coronavirus cases and its link with the Tablighi Jamaat’s congregation was established by none other than the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
In the daily press briefing on April 3, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said that of the total 2,301 confirmed cases, 647 were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation. “There has been an increase in cases over the last two days. Though Covid-19 positive cases were being reported, the surge has happened only over the last two days. This shows that one mistake can have repercussions and can put back our efforts in fighting such a pandemic,” Agarwal said during the briefing. By April 6, the total coronavirus cases in India jumped to 4,067. Of this, as many as 1,445 cases were related to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation.
In February, New Delhi exploded in anti-Muslim riots that left more than 50 people dead. While our neighbor China battled the epidemic, India was in international headlines for the carnage flamed in part by hate speech given by leaders of Modi’s ruling party. Not a single culprit has been arrested. But it took just one day for the Indian police to slap the draconian National Security Act on members of the Muslim congregation.
The Delhi Police carried out extensive investigations, registered 254 First Information Reports (FIRs) and arrested 903 people in connection with the violence in the national capital. And then, the Delhi riots were not anti-Muslim violence. As per official record, of the 52 people killed in the Delhi conflagration, more than 20 belonged to the Hindu community. Therefore, calling the Delhi violence as anti-Muslim riots is egregious and provocative.