Community Leaders Ask PM to Address the Nation to Check Hate-mongering over Coronavirus
Mumtaz Alam | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI, APRIL 8— Community and civic leaders have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to appeal to the people to desist from communalising the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed around 150 lives so far and infected several thousand others in the country.
These community leaders have appealed to the PM following several incidents of hate attacks on Muslims in several towns and villages and boycott of Muslim vendors and traders after the revelation that 4,000 Muslims were attending a congregation at Tablighi Jamaat Markaz at Nizamuddin in New Delhi in the last week of March and media, including print, TV channels and social media, propagating that the coronavirus cases in India have gone up due to the Delhi congregation.
While some community leaders are hopeful that the PM would take the initiative, others said that his appeal may not check the hatred and instead, asked the law enforcement agencies to initiate criminal action against hatemongers.
PM and HM Should Intervene
“The way a section of media presented the Nizamuddin incident and tried to communalize it in very irresponsible way, it is the responsibility of the government to stop this trend of hatemongering,” said Mohammad Salim Engineer, Vice President of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
Mohammad Salim Engineer
While welcoming the BJP president’s statement denouncing communalization of the Coronavirus, Jamaat leader urged the PM and Home Minister to come out and initiate action.
“BJP president has made a right statement denouncing any move to communalize the epidemic or link it to a particular community. While welcoming his statement, we want to tell the government that this is the responsibility of the Home Minister. Now the issue has become so big that Prime Minister himself should intervene as hate crimes are taking place here and there and atmosphere of hatred is being created,” said Salim Engineer.
Communalization of Coronavirus, he said, would affect the nation’s united fight against the epidemic.
“If whatever happened at Nizamuddin is seen as an incident and tragedy, to communalize it or link it to a particular community in such critical situation and divide the society is a very dangerous trend and this will harm the united efforts of the nation to fight against the Coronavirus epidemic,” he said.
While urging people to get united in this fight, Jamaat leader urged the PM and HM to take action against hatemongers.
“It is time for the entire nation to stand united against the epidemic. Home Minister, and I would say, even Prime Minister should come up and take action against those, including a section of media, who are involved in hatemongering. By taking strong action over incidents of mob lynching, they should send a message. In the current situation, the entire country – people from all communities, religions and political parties – should get united to fight against the epidemic and strengthen mutual trust and help each other,” Jamaat leader appealed, while talking to India Tomorrow.
Navaid Hamid, National President of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, also sought PM’s intervention to check the large-scale hate campaign against the minority community.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, in which he tagged the PM, Navaid provided figures about the hateful campaign on social media following the Nizamuddin incident.
“Many CMs, most of them from South India, have repeatedly asserted that they would not allow any disinformation and hate campaign in their states. Union government too has repeatedly warned about spreading of disinformation regarding Corona. It's earnestly requested to direct @CyberDost to scrutinise this hate campaign being spread to create social disharmony & unrest in these times of national medical emergency. It would be most appropriate if the concerned ministry immediately takes up the issue with TikTok to remove such hate contents,” said Navaid.
“PM @narendramodi ji! In a coordinated digital hate campaign 30K Fake Clips are in circulation on Tik Tok spreading disinformation about Muslims that they are spreading #Covid_19 in country & these clips are creating tensions between communities across India,” said Navaid and asked the PM to “Consider to issue an advisory to all state governments to keep an eye on the hate campaign and communal propaganda being spread on social media as BJP president @JPNadda has recently appealed to party workers to desist from making #Covid_19 as a communal issue.”
Not Hopeful PM Will Address Nation on This Issue
However, Delhi Minorities Commission Chairman Dr Zafarul Islam Khan is not hopeful that PM and HM would take such initiative.
Dr Zafarul Islam Khan
“The Prime Minister, Home Minister and NSA should come out. But, on the contrary, they are adding fuel to fire. Every government spokesperson who speaks on Coronavirus news, unfailingly mentions Tablighi Jamaat and other officials also mention Tablighi Jamaat,” said Dr Khan, who is a veteran journalist and author of several books.
Lambasting the media, Dr Khan sought the intervention of the Supreme Court.
“Newspapers, some respected newspapers, and TV channels are singling out Tablighi Jamaat. It is a kind of plan and mindset which has set in. I think unless there is some intervention by the Supreme Court, I don’t think this is going to stop. There is no hope. Mr Modi and Mr Amit Shah will never say anything about this,” Dr Khan told India Tomorrow.
When asked if state governments should take legal action against some TV channels for hatemongering, Dr Khan said: “Yes. If they have a will, they will, but the state governments do not have any will. Actually, they have joined this game also in a way, not in the same way as the central government. Mr Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi Chief Minister) is mentioning Tablighi Jamaat and saying Coronavirus spreading in Delhi because of Tablighi Jamaat. This all is wrong and he is putting things out of context, they should not have done this. Maharashtra and Karnataka Chief Ministers have denounced such hatemongering but here in Delhi we are not seeing any such denunciation.”
Dr Kamal Faruqui, former Chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission, is also not hopeful that PM would address the nation on this issue.
“He (PM) should but I doubt he will come up and address the nation. I cannot think that whatever hatemongering is going on, is without the knowledge of the government. I wish he should,” Dr Faruqui.
Should government agencies act against TV channels? He responded: “We are just waiting how far they go. Let them not take action against all these people like Arnab, Sharma and all others who are calling names for Tablighi Jamaat. This is a crime. We have seen in the past that people openly advocated for ‘Goli Maro Sa***n ko’. They went scot-free. Arnab and other anchors are getting scot-free. Let the nation and world know it.”
However, Dr Faruqui said that “civil society should take very serious action against these people. They should be brought to book and prosecuted because you cannot do all these things in our country. I just want to ask one question to all these people: if they (Tablighi) had not been Muslims, would they (media) have done the same kind of treatment as they are doing with these Muslims?”
Eminent human rights activist Ravi Nair strongly criticized the PM.
“This Prime Minister’s behaviour is not that of an Indian Prime Minister. He acts as if he is PM of only those who believe in Hindutva. It is foolish to have any expectations of him,” said Nair.
Even PM’s Speech Won’t Check it; Law Enforcing Agencies Should Act
Businessman and education activist Zafar Sareshwala said that communal hatemongering is not new in the country and it has happened after 1985 and 1992 incidents. He asked the minority community to ignore them and not respond to them.
“The way hatemongering is being created and spread, even PM’s message will not leave any effect. The best answer to hatemongers is that Muslims should ignore them and do not respond at all. The hatemongers will get tired,” said Sareshwala.
He, however, added that governments should come out and tackle the issue.
“Maharashtra Chief Minister has spoken that there is a Coronavirus and there is a communal virus and he would take stringent action against it. Karnataka Chief Minister also said yesterday that false information is being spread against Muslims. I think governments themselves will have to come out to tackle the menace. This is a fire that will engulf every house,” said Sareshwala.
Some government agencies have started taking action against hatemongering. The Noida Police of Uttar Pradesh have rejected as fake and baseless a tweet of ANI news agency regarding Tablighi Jamaat. On Tuesday, Noida DCP wrote on Twitter: “@ANINewsUP people who had come in contact with the positive case were quarantined as per the laid procedure. There was no mention of Tabligh Jamat. You are misquoting and spreading fake news.” Following the snub from the Police, the news agency deleted the tweet.
WHO Speaks Against Communal Profiling of Coronavirus
Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme, has spoken against any communal or racial profiling of the epidemic.
During a press interaction, a journalist raised the issue of the Tablighi Markaz incident and said this gathering caused spike in Coronavirus cases in India. On this, WHO official responded: “It’s very important again; having COVID-19 is not anybody’s fault. Every case is a victim and every case needs to be treated with sensitivity, as the health workers who treat them so it’s very important that we’re not profiling COVID-19 along racial, along religious, along ethnic lines. This is not helpful.”