The Tablighi Jamaat issue has been picked up by the Indian media and has been turned on its head. Instead of being seen as a failure of the government to ensure the Nizamuddin Markaz was vacated, it has now become a Hindu-Muslim issue.
Indian Twitter and media jumped up on the opportunity to call this event a ‘planned attack’ by the Muslim community on India. Tablighi Jamaat is being called an extension of the Al Qaeda. Many news channels are claiming that this a well-planned conspiracy by the Tableeghi Jamaat. They say that that Jamaat has conspired and sent their workers all over the country to spread the virus. According to news channels, the Tablighi Jamaat told all their followers to purposely defy rules of the lockdown. Based on evidence this claim is false.
The Indian media has had a field day with the issue and has pushed the blame of the outbreak on the Jamaat. There is proof that there has been a clear lapse on the government’s part in handling the outbreak. The Indian media, though, has completely skipped over this fact and targeted the community. The COVID-19 issue is no more focused on the government’s failure to contain the outbreak.
While the attention is diverted on the Jamaat none of the news channels are discussing other gatherings, especially gatherings organized by BJP leaders and Hindu groups, that were functioning during this period of the health emergency.
Official Gatherings that violated the curfew and lockdown guidelines
On March 14th the Karnataka government advised people to avoid mass gatherings, including weddings and engage in social distancing. On the 15th of March, Karnataka CM BS Yedyurappa attended a wedding ceremony with 2000 people in attendance and violated his own government order. There were no arrests made in this case and the BJP government did not pull him up for this gross violation of a health advisory.
On March 14th Bihar Health Minister Magal Pandey attended a regional workshop for BJP party workers. In another part of the state Bhupendra Yadav (BJP leader) attended a similar workshop. Both members were flouting the health advisory rules and no action was taken against them
On March 18th, when the number of COVID-19 cases were 162 and the Delhi government had given a health advisory to ensure social distancing, President Ram Nath Kovind was hosting Ministers from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh for breakfast at the Rashtrapati Bhavan
BJP party workers and MLAs in Madhya Pradesh came together to celebrate the return of the BJP government into power. On the 23rd of March the government was sworn in and a large gathering was present at the BJP office despite the PMs orders to maintain social distancing.
On March 20th BJP leaders in Mathura attended the Rani Avantibai Balidan Divas. There were 150 people present at this gathering. This was after the government announcement to ensure that large gatherings should not take place. No action was taken against any of the people present
On the 22nd of March hundreds of people came out on the streets clanging vessels, cheering, and ignoring social distancing protocols in an effort to show enthusiasm in clapping for the front line workers. There were no arrests made even though this was a clear violation of the lockdown
On 28th March thousands of migrant workers thronged to bus stops to go back to their hometowns and were packed in buses by the UP and Delhi government in unsanitary conditions.
In all of these instances the government was directly involved in not maintaining protocol of social distancing and enforcing it. In the case of the migrants the state and the centre governments made no safe arrangements to get them back home.
Gau Mutra party, Tirupathi temple, and Yogi´s Temple Run
On 14th of March the ABVP hosted a Gau Mutra Party to ward off coronavirus and 200 people were in attendance. No action was taken against them
On March 15th 1.5 lakh people attended a temple festival in Andhra Pradesh, by which time the cases had crossed 100, and there were no protocols being followed endangering lakhs of people in the state.
Up till the 20th of March the Tirupati Balaji Temple was still open and up till the 18th had 40, 000 people visiting it on a daily basis. There has been no testing that has been done of the devotees who visited the temple and the temple has not faced any heat for not following social distancing protocols
On 24th of March, 12 hours after the lockdown was announced, Yogi Adityanath attended an event to inaugurate a temple on the Babri Masjid land. There were 100 people in attendance. No FIR was filed against the CM for violating the lockdown rules
The news channels have turned a blind eye towards these cases of violation and in the process given a clean chit to the government. The BJP is not going to be questioned about organizing these events despite the lockdown. They will not be questioned on why they did not stop vacate the Markaz, they will not be questioned on the lack of masks and PPE kits being sent to frontline workers, they will not be questioned about the low economic package that has been released for the poor, and they will not be questioned for the lack of testing that has been taking place. Instead all the questions will be aimed at the Tablighi Jamaat and their role in the COVID-19 outbreak in India.