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Hindu, Muslim NRI groups pan ‘escalation of Islamophobia’ in India after Tablighi incident

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As many as 300 foreigners from 16 countries had attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi in March (representational image) | Photo : Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
Nearly 4,000, including foreigners, had attended the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi (representational image) | Photo : Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint


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New Delhi: Non-resident Indians across the Hindu and Muslim communities in the US have condemned an “escalation of Islamophobia” in India in the wake of several Covid-19 cases among participants of Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat’s event last month in the national capital.

US-based organisations, the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) and Hindus For Human Rights (HfHR), issued a joint statement Saturday to criticise the “horrifying levels of vitriol poured on Muslims by several media outlets and some public figures” that has resulted in an increase in alleged assaults on the community.

“In parts of the country the social and economic boycott of Muslims is being openly pursued as a response to a healthcare and humanitarian crisis that requires a unified response from the entire populace,” the statement said, appealing for a rejection of “hate politics”.

It added that Islamophobia has “risen exponentially” in the country since reports came that some members of the Tablighi Jamaat had met at an annual conference at Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz in mid-March and later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

While the Narendra Modi government had carried out an intense contact tracing exercise and large-scale tests for the event participants, some sections have fanned communal passions over this. Public figures, including BJP leader from Karnataka Shobha Karandlaje, who referred to the Tablighi event as “Corona Jihad”, also communalised the incident.

The IAMC describes itself as an advocacy group “dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos”. The HfHR advocates for “an inclusive and egalitarian Hinduism”.


Also read: RSS says Tablighi Jamaat conduct not reflection on all Muslims, they’re aiding govt in fight


‘Publicly condemn falsehoods about Muslims’

In their joint statement, IAMC and HfHR pointed out that the Tablighi Jamaat conference took place before the lockdown “when it was business as usual for the entire country”, adding that at the time, India hadn’t begun social distancing.

The statement quoted Union health secretary Lav Agarwal saying on 13 March that the coronavirus outbreak is “not a health emergency” while cautioning against panic.

“It was at least four days after the conference ended that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a daylong curfew for March 22. Air travel and trains halted only that day. Mr. Modi’s announcement of a 21-day lockdown came even later, on March 24,” it said.

It quoted IAMC president Ahsan Khan to call the Covid-19 crisis exploitation “shameful”. “The absurdity of the idea that Muslims of a specific group are working to spread the deadly disease is matched only by the brazenness with which it is being vocalized by some politicians and influential media anchors,” Khan said in the statement.

HfHR co-founder Sunita Viswanath urged the Modi government to “publicly condemn this falsehood about Muslims”.


Also read: Call it a mistake, not conspiracy against India, say Muslim scholars on Tablighi Jamaat event


Other places of worship

The IAMC and HfHR statement said people who believe the “canard of devious Muslims” working to spread the disease must ask themselves why Home Minister Amit Shah was the chief guest at an AIIMS convocation in Rishikesh on 14 March, the first day of the two-day Tablighi event.

“They must also ask why places of worship across India were open for days after the two-day Tablighi event ended on March 15. The Saibaba temple at Shirdi city in Maharashtra and the Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati city in Andhra Pradesh, each averaging over 50,000 pilgrims a day, closed only on March 17 and 19, respectively,” it said.

On 17 March, the Uttar Pradesh government insisted it would go ahead with the 10-day Ramnavami celebrations from 25 March through 4 April in Ayodhya, where a million Hindu pilgrims were expected, said the statement, adding that it was cancelled only on 21 March.

It also highlighted the violation of social distancing norms violations on 22 March amid Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s curfew call.

‘Slandering the Tablighi Jamaat’

The IAMC and HfHR also criticised the role of Indian media in spreading the hatred, noting that the police had to “debunk their propaganda”.

“Both IAMC and HfHR are united in their condemnation of the constant barrage of anger and hate being spouted by anchors on news channels such as Zee News, ANI and Times Now, as well as media outlets of some vernacular languages. It is a measure of the bias and irrationality that is being disseminated on these channels, that the police had to publicly debunk their propaganda on Twitter and warn them against spreading fake news,” it said.

The two US organisations called upon the Modi government to crack down on fake content making “outrageous and patently false claims about Tablighi Jamaat members misbehaving with medical staff” while in quarantine.

“Such fake content has been circulating on social media and shared by millions, not only slandering the Tablighi Jamaat and the entire Muslim community by extension, but creating a dangerous and volatile situation for millions of people,” it said.

Viswanath said the greatest ethical and civic responsibility at this time is to ensure “social distancing”, and that the poor, sick and needy are taken care of. “We must call out violations of social distancing protocols regardless of who the violators are,” she added.


Also read: How Tablighi Jamaat emerged as the ‘largest known’ Covid-19 source in South Asia


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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