The whole world has suddenly been taken hostage by the novel Corona virus. It feels as if the whole world slept one night and got up to see the devastation wreaked by an unknown, invisible enemy. From Wuhan to Milan, from Mumbai to New York, people are living in the fear of a virus. Front pages of almost all newspapers are fraught with one word- Corona/Covid19, which perhaps was heard of by nobody earlier. Even during the 1st World War and 2nd World War, the impact of devastation did not have as far reaching as this one. Economies are shut, businesses as usual are closed and the health departments are facing shortfall in Personal Protective Equipments, masks and Hydroxychloroquine. This is a new scenario engendered by this novel pathogenic, perhaps the world has never imagined or faced in the last 100 years or so. The world has come to a standstill suddenly. Governments are trying hard to contain the spread of the micro-organism. However, no country is self-sufficient under these circumstances. Even most advanced countries like United States of America and Italy have become victim of the pathogenic.
In the United States of America, number of positive cases have exceeded 468895 with death toll of 16697; while in Italy, it is 143626 with 18279 number of death from Corona. The contagious disease has not spared high and mighty like Prince Charles of England, Prime Minister of England and family members of King Solomon of Saudi Arabia. Even America had to ask for Hydroxychloroquine from India. Back in India, as of now there are around 6761 positive cases with a death toll of 206. Compared to the global as well as Indian scenario, Assam has a very less number of cases and only one death till now although a large number of Assam’s population have come from infected zone. Thanks to the exemplary leadership of the health department of the state.
The few cases the state have found was because of the return of Tablighi Jamaatis from Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz. These people have returned to the state after attending a religious congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz which was attended by delegates from across the world. As soon as the news broke, the people went into a panic mode. It is natural under such circumstances to vilify those who have returned from such event and kept themselves under clandestine hide out without consulting doctors or sharing their travel history. In no time, social media platform started trading barbs on the name of community, from both sides. Thanks to the Assam Police which has arrested a number of them and put a check on circulation of rumour, fake news and propaganda by social networking sites.
The Government must be given credit that it has not tried to polarise the situation. Given that the situation was pretty ripe to create a communal chasm between the minority Muslims and Majority Hindus, the political leadership could have utilize the opportunity. The stage was set; the only requirement was to stoke the fire. However, majority of our leaders have shown maturity to not vitiate the atmosphere. Badruddin Ajmal who has a track record of communal politics has also urged the Muslim community to not hide their travel history. Except a few like Dhing MLA Aminul Islam, all political leaders across party lines have given clarion call for unity. So, here stays the state united fighting the Corona virus.
But, is it fear to blame the Tablighi Jamaatis?
Tablighi Jamaat is not a new thing. It happens every year in Delhi around early March. Delegates from across the world visits for religious congregation where Ulemas and Maulabis deliver lecture. In the early March, there was no lockdown in the country and, therefore, there is no questioning of not gathering at a place. In fact, life was as usual in India till March 22. Many Hindu festivals or gathering had taken place during the time. But, does this justify the congregation? Not at all. Given that the world was facing crisis at the moment, the Tablighis should have rethought their plan, particularly because a large array of delegates were coming from already affected countries. It was, at the least, foolish on the part of the Tablighi Organisation to undertake an adventure of this nature. Moreover, passport law mandates that a person who enters India on a tourist visa cannot attend religious preachings or congregation. As per reports, most of the foreign delegates have violated this norm of the passport law. The violators must be punished. Whether permission was taken from the competent authority or not is not clear yet. If no permission was taken from the competent authority, then proceeding should be initiated to book the organisers.
But, was that a Himalayan blunder to organise a religious congregation? No, as long as they have followed all the due procedure laid down by law. But, if they have violated some due process of law like violation of passport Act or congregation without permission, they would undoubtedly attract penal provision. That would have been the case in normal circumstances also. However, what makes the situation a little more tangy is the post-congregation phenomenon. Most of the Jamaatis have not voluntarily gone for a health check up despite repeated call by the government. After a few Jamaatis were tested positive in Telangana, the central government had immediately sent list of persons attending the Tablighi Jamaat to all states to immediately quarantine them least they spread the disease further more. Despite repeated calls by our Health Minister, many have not responded till the last moment when the administration had sent a strong message of initiating legal proceeding under Disaster Management Act. Here, they must be blamed.
But, does this warrant vilification of all Muslims? No. Because, it is an act of a few handful most of who are illiterate. Illiterate people often have a fear for the administration. They might have misconstrued the well intention of the administration. But as soon as they realised their mistake they have come forward although a few still might not have. It is attesting time for all of us and we need to stand united in fight against Corona. Polarisation of any sort by either community would only create misunderstanding and deteriorate the situation. Better would be, we as a people give a call for love, peace and unity in the trying times.