Sadly, the religious congregation at Nizamuddin proved that the National Lockdown and Social Distancing Advisories apply to Muslims and not to some Hindus factions especially BJP. After CAA NRC Protests, Tablighi Jammat Incident gave National Media exactly what they were looking for, a story to spread hatred towards one specific community. Majority of the National Media distanced themselves from reporting on Madhya Pradesh BJP’s gathering or UP CM Adityanath’s religious ceremony during Lockdown, but, when it Tablighi Jamaat story broke out, it was them, who painted the situation with religious colours.
The Nizamuddin faction of the Tablighi Jamaat held a religious congregational program in Nizamuddin West, Delhi. There was an Ijtema (congregation) in every week of March till March 21 even when the government of Delhi had prohibited such gatherings from 13th March itself. There was also another violation of rules by foreign speakers including misuse of tourist visa for missionary activities and not taking 14-day home quarantine for travellers from abroad. The entire region of the Markaz and the surrounding areas have been quarantined by the police by 30th of March. After evacuation from the Markaz, of the scores of jamaat attendees, 167 of them were quarantined in a railway facility in South-east Delhi amid concerns over their safety and transmission of the virus. There were further complications after the staff at the quarantine facility reported the Tablighi jamaat followers misbehaved with the staff and spat at the doctors looking after them.
Questions have been raised as to how the Delhi Police and the Government of India allowed this event to proceed in the midst of a pandemic. After these actions were carried out, an FIR was filed against the top leadership of the Jamaat under Section 3 of the Epidemic Disease Act.
As the search continues for identifying the remaining members of Tablighi Jamaat, who had attended the religious congregation at Nazimuddin in New Delhi, the situation remains dire. The incident has become the hotspot of the recent coronavirus outbreak in India, responsible for spawning multiple clusters of the said disease across the nation in various states. As of the writing of this story, 7,600 Indians and 1,300 foreigners have been identified with links to the Islamic missionary group the number is suspected to increase, with hundreds of them being infected of COVID 19 after attending the congregation and reportedly 7 have died due to the complication related to the disease.
This incident has sparked a serious discussion across the nation on how flouting social distancing norms and government laws can lead to serious consequences. In times when the total number of cases around the globe is crossing the 900,000 mark with 47,286 reported deaths with total no. of cases in India reaching 2000, the situation has taken a turn for the worse.
Legal action against Tablighi Jamaat Organizers
A case has been registered against Maulana Saad and others of Tablighi Jamaat u/s 3 of Epidemic Disease Act 1897 read with Section 269, 270, 271 and 120-B IPC for violation of government directions.@PMOIndia@HMOIndia @LtGovDelhi
— Delhi Police (@DelhiPolice) March 31, 2020
FIR has been filed against Maulana Saad, the president of Jamaat along with officials namely Dr. Zeeshan, Mufti Shehzad, M Saifi, Younus, Mohd. Salman and Mohd. Ashraf who were also named as accused. Central Government Standing Counsel Gaurang Kanth has been persuading the Delhi High Court Chief Justice to take suo moto cognizance in Nizamuddin Markaz incident in order to punish those who are responsible. Knath has urged the Court to take direct action against the organisers of the said congregation for endangering the lives of people and aiding the spread of the virus.
The FIR was filed under Sec. 270 (to act malignantly in order to spread a virus dangerous to one’s health) and Sec. 271 (flouting quarantine rule) of the IPC, along with Epidemic Diseases Act and Sec. 269 (negligent activities likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) against the people responsible.
The accusation has been made against the Jamaat that it has asked its followers to ignore the social distancing norms, which the government had urged the citizens to follow.
Here it should be borne in mind that many who invoke constitution for the enforcement of their rights, and in particular for fair treatment, need to adhere to the constitutional obligations on the part of the citizens. For instance, the right to freedom of religion enshrined in the constitution under Article 25 subject it to public order, morality and health.
Lockdown only applies to Muslims, not to some Hindus
The defenders of the Jamaat, which they have in the public domain, argued that the Jamaat congregation was singled out, whereas incidences of other large-scale gatherings despite being in public knowledge have been ignored. Many reports on social media also pointed out that similar gatherings by people of majority faiths did not attract such prompt attention by authorities. It was claimed that two days after the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, a large number of Hindu pilgrims gathered in Maharashtra’s Sai Baba temple, which, however, remains a rumour.
Days later, in the State of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the ruling BJP took an oath as the chief minister surrounded by a large crowd, ignoring Prime Minister Modi’s message of social distancing.
A day after Prime Minister Modi announced the lockdown, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, had organised a group religious ceremony in Ayodhya town in an apparent violation of lockdown rules.
The fact remains that the particular incidence worsened corona outbreak in the country which cannot be said in case of other incidences. In times of a great crisis, such lapses invite public anger. Moreover, the willful defiance of the lockdown protocol through acts and statements has only added fuel to the fire.
Many concerned observers have highlighted that there were several lapses on the part of responsible public authorities other than the congregation organisers as well. A very important constitutional edict enshrined as Part IV-A the fundament duties must be followed by one and all. The constitution can guard our rights only when we respect and follow our constitution. In particular, I would like to emphasise the following duties or part of them as they apply in the present context.
To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions…;
It’s the constitution, specifically in the respect of Emergency provisions and in case of crisis expects the citizens to respect the government and local authorities, by following the established norms to deal with the ongoing crisis, in this case being proper social distancing norms and following the lockdown protocol.
To uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
The Constitution calls upon the citizens of the nation to protect the country. In this particular scenario to stay in their homes in order to stop the spread of the virus, which can cause unprecedented casualties, specifically when it comes to the possible loss of life.
To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
In the aforementioned duty, the constitution calls upon the citizens to put the nation before their individual religion, in the current scenario this can be achieved by stopping public celebration of religious festivals and congregation in order to stop the spread of the virus.
To develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
To not to spread false information among the masses, so as to avoid the creation of panic and hysteria, to believe in logic and science and finally to put the nation before the community.
Laws, constitutional or otherwise, are meant to protect and empower the citizens. The constitutional spirit requires that every citizen fulfils civic responsibilities and perform national duties rather than colouring a particular incident with religious bias and propaganda.
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