Not religion, the Markaz crisis is about health, and irresponsibility | Opinion
While a country-wide impact of this episode is very difficult to ascertain at this moment, it is also unfortunate that a section of media and public has viewed the crisis through the prism of Hindu-Muslim divide.Updated: Apr 03, 2020 21:43 IST
The Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi during the month of March is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Out of the total number of coronavirus positive cases in the country, nearly one-fifth coronavirus positive cases have been linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation . Also, of all the 56 countrywide deaths, 15 were those who had attended the congregation held last month. This has led to widespread negative media coverage against the body which organised the meet and the sect leader Maulana Saad. The facts that have emerged so far point towards the fact that after the Delhi government notification regarding ban on meetings beyond a limit, the Jamat leadership failed to recognise the urgency of the directives related to the prevention of the coronavirus spread. That the infection spread among the participants is a fact. That 15-odd innocent people lost their lives due to the virus is a sad reality. In this situation, it is the government’s utmost duty and responsibility to ensure that all people who attended the meet are tested for the deadly Sars-CoV-2 pathogen and quarantined. The action to sanitise the place of meeting and the campus was urgently required to save everyone from the effects of the deadly virus.
Today, we as a country are up against a deadly virus which has not only disrupted our daily lives but has also brought infinite misery to the most vulnerable sections of the population by depriving them of their means of livelihood. In these pressing times, it is the duty of every citizen to strictly follow the guidelines issued by governments to stop the spread of this deadly virus. Every instruction issued by the authorities has to be adhered to, whether we like it or not. But there are a few who choose to ignore the directives or do not take them seriously. Some temples located across the country had a few thousands devotees even on March 18-19, as per media reports. Fortunately, for them, there have been no reports of the virus spreading at these congregations. But the Tablighi congregation organisers were not that fortunate. They certainly owe the responsibility of not adhering to the guidelines issued. Like the mosque in Malaysia, which became the epicentre of coronavirus cases in that country and had to be closed immediately.
It is heartening to know that very swift action to control the situation due to the Delhi congregation was initiated by the government and all those who had attended the meet are being tracked and tested for the virus. Since the participants were from all across the country and foreign countries, the task is herculean. But it is hoped that soon it will be accomplished and the participants will be saved from the deadly virus. Let us be clear that the effort to track all the participants is to save them, their families and the people who come in contact with them. There is no other motive or intention. It is to be understood that it may be very natural for anyone to resist either the testing, or the quarantine.
While a country-wide impact of this episode is very difficult to ascertain at this moment, it is also unfortunate that a section of media and public has viewed the crisis through the prism of Hindu-Muslim divide. Instead of communalising the crisis, joint and concerted efforts are urgently required to control further transmission of the virus in the community and beyond. It is in this connection that Muslim leaders and the Ulema need to play a vital role. That a large number of attendees of Ijtima at Markaz have disappeared or have remained untraceable, further burdening the government machinery, is despicable. But at the same time, the effort by some TV channels to present the issue as “Corona Jihad” or “bio-jihad”, as it was called, is also shameful. This is undoubtedly a medical emergency, arising out of the irresponsible attitude of the Markaz authorities who, instead of cancelling the event, went ahead with the programme. The Markaz authorities have come out with an explanation that they had approached the Delhi Police and other officers for the evacuation of people from the centre but there was no positive response from them.
However, instead of holding each other responsible for the emergent situation that originated from the Markaz, it is urgently required to nip the crisis in the bud. This would not be possible without the active support of the Muslim community. The identification process of infected people needs to be completed urgently with the help of the community. These infected people should not be allowed to hide in the community as it could prove disastrous for the whole nation. Similarly, saner people on both sides of the divide should effectively launch an exercise to keep the issue within the realm of medical emergency and not turn it into a communal imbroglio.
(VS Pandey is a retired Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer and retired as secretary to the Government of India)