New Delhi: The vilification campaign launched against the Tablighi Jamaat and circulation of fake news about the quarantined preachers and their consistent naming and shaming is taking the shape of hate crimes against the Muslim community, especially in North India. The latest is a case of alleged mob lynching in Harewali Village in North-West Delhi’s Bawana town. This, when a complete lockdown is underway in the entire country to prevent the further spred of COVID-19.
As per reports, a youth identified as Mahboob Ali aka Dilshad, who returned to the village on April 5 from Raisen district in Madhya Pradesh after spending 40 days with a group of the Tablighi Jamaat, was surrounded and beaten up badly.
The youth was allegedly taken to a field in the village, kicked, punched and threatened that he would be set on fire. The villagers suspected that the youth came to the village to spread the COVID-19 virus. The attackers — in a purported video of the incident — can be heard asking him to reveal the conspiracy of spreading the deadly virus in the village.
The victim apparently reached Delhi from Madhya Pradesh, hiding in a truck carrying vegetables because of complete shutdown of transportation, barring essentials, following thelockdown since March 24. He was apprehended by the Delhi Police from Mahindra Park near Azadpur and rushed to the village following a medical check-up.
However, the youth’s arrival in the village and his association with the Tablighi Jamaat created panic among villagers. Two-three boys of the village allegedly took him to the field by force in the dead of the night, even as the victim kept pleading for mercy with folded hands. The assault on him continued and was allegedly filmed by one of the attackers. The video footage of the incident then went viral on the social media.
The badly injured man was first taken to Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital in Rohini, from where he was referred to GB Pant Hospital, where his condition is said to be stable.
Based on the complaint by the victim’s father, an FIR has been registered at Bawana Police Station under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
A case has also been registered against the victim under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the IPC for violating the government order of complete lockdown.
On April 6, another video went viral on the social media, showing a group of residents, allegedly from Shastri Nagar in New Delhi district ,asking fellow residents not to allow entry of Muslims in their neighbourhood.
A person recording the video is heard saying in the 1.52 minute-long video clip, “No Muslim will be allowed to enter or leave the area without showing Aadhaar card. These people have created a mess. The disease is spreading.”
Another person, who is also not visible in the footage, is heard later stopping a vegetable vendor and asking his and his father’s name. “Do you have an identity card — Aadhaar card? Don’t enter the locality from tomorrow if you don’t carry Aadhaar,” he is heard saying in the purported video.
Though Newsclick could not vouch for the authenticity of the clip independently, the Cyber Cell of the Delhi Police has launched a probe and is trying to reach the person who originally shot the video clip. “Once the authenticity of the video in question is established, we will take appropriate actions,” said a senior official without wishing to be named.
A few residents of the locality this reporter spoke to confirmed that they had decided not to allow any Muslim in the area in the wake of the COVID-19 threat; however, they denied any such meeting held for the purpose.
In another incident, a man reportedly committed suicide in Himachal Pradesh’s Una district on April 5 after alleged harassment by locals for coming in contact with two people from the state who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz’s event. Later, the man was tested negative for the infection.
A purported video shot in Uttarakhand is also doing the rounds, where a few men are heard asking Muslim fruit vendors to wind up, citing the Jamaat event, while non-Muslim vendors are being allowed to continue sales.
RELIGIOUS PROFILING BY GOVTS?
In a departure from the earlier position of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) that it does not believe in any profiling and all cases are equal in the eyes of the government , Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal — who is regularly briefing the media over COVID-19 — on April 3 apparently gave an impression that the number of coronavirus positive cases would have gone up had there not been the congregation at Nizamuddin (where the Tablighi Jamaat headquarters is located).
The Tablighi Jamaat has been finding a mention since April 1 in almost all press briefings of the ministries of health and home.
On April 2, Agarwal gave a state-wise break-up of cases that allegedly spread by people who had taken part in the markaz event. Notably, no such question was asked in this regard by journalists.
In a statement on April 3, suspected or positive cases of COVID-19 infection were reported from 17 states because of the congregation. On April 4, Agarwal again held the Tablighi Jamaat’s event responsible for 30% of the cases reported across the country.
On April 5, Agarwal said, “The doubling rate (of Coronavirus infected patients) in India is 4.1 days. Had the congregation at Nizamuddin not happened and additional cases not come, this would have been about 7.14 days.”
Earlier, the Health Ministry official had refused to share data with reporters when asked about the number of coronavirus positive soldiers and paramilitary jawans. He had said the information he had, suggested not all, whatsoever be the number, were affected during giving services to patients.
The Delhi government, too, is regularly giving a separate break-up of the new cases allegedly because of the congregation. However, only once it was said that action would be taken against the officials of the Delhi government who did not pay attention to the markaz’s request for help to evacuate those stuck there because of the lockdown.
“There were 503 cases in Delhi yesterday, and with 20 new cases in the last 24 hours, there are a total of 523 cases. Out of these 20 new cases, 10 are from markaz and 10 are from other reasons. Out of the total 523 cases in Delhi, 330 cases are from markaz, 61 cases have a history of international travel, 7 people have been confirmed dead with one new death in the last 24 hours. Twenty-five people are in the ICU, 8 people are on ventilators and the rest of the patients are in stable condition,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told the media on April 6 via a digital conference.
The Delhi Chief Minister mentioned the markaz, saying, “In the last few days, it must have seemed like there has been a sudden rise in the COVID-19 positive cases in Delhi. One reason for that rise is the rise in markaz cases, which is evident since 330 out of 523 cases are from the markaz. The second reason is that now we have started getting testing kits and testing capacity has increased across Delhi in the last few days.”
Questions have been raised on the timing of the gathering by Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi, an Islamic missionary movement that works to ensure that Muslims return to practising their religion as it was practised during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, particularly in matters of ritual, dress and personal behaviour.
The movement is estimated to have between 12 million to 80 million followers worldwide and a presence in somewhere between 180 to 200 countries.