By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: Communist Party of India -Marxist Leninist- Liberation (CPIML), constituent of the Left Front, on Wednesday condemned the attempts of a section of media which has been selectively criminalizing and communalizing the coronavirus pandemic in the country by referring to the Tablighi Jamaat event held at its headquarters on March 15. It blamed the Central government for not properly screening the foreign visitors and not issuing clear advisories prohibiting large gatherings. It also said the government had made the mockery of the opposition parties warning on the impending danger of Covid-19 wayback in February.
Meanwhile, in a clear rebuttal to media’s vilification campaign, the Union Health Ministry said the Tablighi Jamaat event does not represent a national trend. However, the ministry said the event is one of the reasons for increase in Covid-19 cases.
Since the news broke about Markaz Nizamauddin on last Saturday, the media went overdrive to communalize this humanitarian crisis and some news channels have shown the audacity terming it “pattern” and “Islamic conspiracy”.
Taking the note of this, CPI (ML) said, “The attempts to selectively criminalise and communalise an international religious gathering of the Tableeghi Jamaat in Delhi in mid March are extremely condemnable.”
Senior party leader Brijendra Tiwari said the government is no taking any action to check the openly communal and racist Islamophobic propaganda on media and social media, which is trying to link Covid-19 to the Muslim community or to Chinese people.
People from North East India have already been facing racist discrimination, hate crimes and violence in the name of Covid-19, and now Muslims too are vulnerable to the same, he added.
The communist leader Tiwari also pointed out that, “It is clear that the Central Government had the power and responsibility to screen foreign visitors into the country for the virus, and also to issue clear advisories prohibiting large gatherings. It failed to do so.”
“Instead, well past mid March the Central Govt was still denying that Covid-19 represented a health emergency in India, and was accusing Opposition politicians raising concerns about the virus of “panic-mongering.
It is to be noted that India recorded its first case of #COVID19 on January 30, 2020. But throughout February, the Central Government failed to act to curb the spread of the virus or make preparations to deal with it.
He listed the events held by the BJP and the government. “Instead the Central Government organised large crowds and rallies to greet US President Trump, exposing thousands to the danger of the virus. The supporters of the ruling BJP- led “communal” mobs in North East Delhi in February.
Warnings by Opposition leaders in early February about the approaching Covid-19 epidemic were met with mockery by the Central Government, he added.
Not only that, BJP leaders and supporters led the way in holding large gatherings even after the danger was clear and the lockdown was announced. 700 MPs attended Parliament; the BJP performed its coup in the MP Assembly, held a large gathering to celebrate the coup on 24 March and UP Chief Minister also held a gathering in Ayodhya in violation of lockdown.
The party also flayed the Delhi government led by Aam Aadmi Party for registering cases against Tablighi Jamaat leadership.
“The Delhi Govt also has chosen to file criminal charges against the Tablighi Jamaat for a gathering which was in no way illegal. In fact the gathering was held with the approval and cooperation of Delhi Police (which falls under the Central Home Ministry) and the concerned SDM office which falls under the Delhi Govt.
If the gathering was illegal why did the Delhi Govt not issue an order stopping it at the time? It asked.
Moreover, filing criminal charges against the Jamaat, accompanied by the vicious communal and dehumanising propaganda by TV channels and on social media, will deter participants on the gatherings and potential patients from coming forward for screening and treatment.
Several Covid-19 cases and deaths have been traced to that gathering. The fact remains however that several other large religious and political gatherings were held in the same period, and since testing in India is low, it is difficult to know how many cases could be linked to those gatherings.
The other religious gatherings include those at the Shirdi Saibaba temple, gatherings by a Sikh preacher, and quite recently, pilgrims to Vaishno Devi who are stranded there during the lockdown (and who may well have carried the virus to remote hill communities).
“These gatherings and those of the Tablighi Jamaat should not be criminalised, let alone communalized”, CPIML said.
The responsibility rests with the Central Govt which gave mixed messages and failed to issue clear guidelines, leaving decisions about gatherings to the wisdom of organisations and individuals, it added.
The CPI (ML) also the slammed Modi government the way it announced the national lockdown.
“It is clear that the lockdown has created the very crowds it was meant to deter, and has also resulted in deaths from hunger, road accidents, police brutality, and farmers’ suicides as well as suffering for migrant workers and the poor workers and peasants.”
It also alleged that the government is trying to get the Court order to gag all media and social media coverage of the Covid-19 crisis that is not “approved by the Govt”.
The party urged the people of the country to firmly rebuff the “conspiracy to communalise the Covid-19 pandemic”, and do their utmost to help all people avoid crowds and maintain precautions so as to prevent the spread of the virus.