Updated: April 23, 2020 11:26:39 pm
A group of 101 retired civil servants have written an open letter to Chief Ministers of all states and Lieutenant Governors of all Union Territories against reports of harassment of Muslims in some parts of the country after coronavirus cases were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin area.
“The Jamaat was criticised for ignoring the principles of social distancing when cases of Covid-19 had started emerging in the country. Although this was hardly the only incident of such gatherings, both political and religious, sections of the media hastened to give a communal colour to Covid-19, including attributing motives to the Tablighi Jamaat in spreading the virus to different parts of the country,” the group, under the banner of the Constitutional Conduct Group, said in the letter written Thursday.
The former civil servants also criticised the media coverage of the issue. The letter said that the action of Jamaat in organising such an event after ignoring Delhi government’s advisories was “without question, misguided and condemnable,” however, the media coverage which “communalised and extended it to the Muslim community as a whole” was also “utterly responsible and “reprehensible.”
“Fake video clips have been doing the rounds showing Muslim vendors spitting on the fruits and vegetables that they have for sale – purportedly to spread the Covid-19 disease,” the groups say in the letter, adding that the fear and insecurity generated by the ongoing pandemic is sought to be channelled into the “othering” of the Muslim community.
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The letter was signed by several former civil servants, including Julio Rebeiro, Wajahat Habibullah, Shivshankar Menon, K Sujatha Rao, S Y Quraishi amongst others.
In its letter, the group requested all state CMs and Lieutenant Governors of UTs to instruct public functionaries to be particularly vigilant to prevent a social boycott of any community and to ensure that all the entitlements, including medical and hospital care, are available equally to those in need.
“At this time of grave national and international crisis, we count on your leadership in bringing the people of India together rather than allowing the deepening of fissures in our country,” it said.
India witnessed a rise in coronavirus cases after members of a congregation held at Delhi’s Nizamuddin West Markaz tested positive. The members had travelled to various parts of the country. On March 31, the Delhi Police registered an FIR against Tablighi Jamaat preacher Maulana Saad and others of members of the outfit under Section 3 of The Epidemic Diseases Act (1897).
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