Reports indicate the victimisation of foreign Tablighi Jamaat delegates, under the pretext of Covid, has caused a backlash against the Modi government. This also should create an opportunity to realise the severe damage caused by the regime's unfair and anti-minority stances and acts to the country's image and diplomatic relations. 2550 foreign delegates who arrived in India during last March to attend a Tablighi event at the headquarters in Nizamuddin were caught and jailed in the name of preventive measures against Covid, but even after five months since then, they could not be freed and sent back. Going by various reports, this has caused a diplomatic headache for the Ministry of External Affairs.
The US, known for its high priority on the welfare of its citizens, has been in touch with the government of India regarding six US citizens, as the US Embassy in Delhi informed Suhasini Haider, senior correspondent of the Hindu. In the case of Bangladeshi nationals, the Bangladesh envoy Masud Bin Momen during his discussions in Dhaka with MEA secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, asked the latter for an early release of the 173 Bangladeshi Tablighi workers. Similar demand has been raised before India by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil too. One main reason for the inordinate delay in sending the Tablighi delegates back to their home countries is the fact that the cases against them are being handled by different high courts in different states. Add to it the role in the cases taking such a course, of the malicious motives of chief ministers like Yogi Adityanath of UP. And the root cause of all this pell-mell was the sudden declaration of coutnry-wide lockdown from the midnight of 24th of March by prime minister Narendra Modi, while the Tablilghi conference was being held, with the knowledge and consent of the authorities, in the third week of March. The responsible officials of the Tablighi centre explain that the unexpected declaration of curfew, those who had arrived for the conference by road and air, were stranded inside the centre due to the cancellation of all transport.
Even granted that there was a failure and lack of vigilance on the part of the Tabllighi group, at such an hour with the Covid pandemic spreading fast, the local authorities and police were bound to rise to the occasion to manage it with care and humane touch. But then even at that hour, they failed to to set aside their communal prejudices and racial hate – a curse the country is still facing. To worsen matters, what happened thereafter was a series of ruthless action and fake propaganda. The right wing national media even went to the extent of spreading the calumny that the Tablighi conference was part of an international agenda of damaging the security of India and weakening the country.
It was this ill-conceived propaganda which received a slap on its face with the recent judgement by the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High Court. The judgement, while quashing the FIR against the foreign delegates, also laid bare some unpleasant truths. The court pointed out that what prompted the authorities to swoop down on Tablighi Jamaat was the protests against the citizenship amendment act that broke out across the country. The court observed, "There were protests by taking processions, holding dharna at many places in India at least from prior to January 2020. Most of the persons participated in protest were Muslims. It is their contention that Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is discriminatory against the Muslims. There were protests on large scale not only in Delhi, but in most states in India. It can be said that due to the present action taken, fear was created in the minds of those Muslims. This action indirectly gave warning to Indian Muslims that action in any form and for anything can be taken against Muslims."The court also highlighted that foreign delegates on similar trips belonging to other religions did not face similar action, and commented that the rampant media onslaught against the Tablilghi activists was quite unwarranted. It is significant that these comments by the Bombay High Court came at the same time when a petition is pending in the Supreme Court by Jamiatul Ulama-e-Hind (Arshad Madani faction) pleading for action against those print, electronic and social media who published the notion that Muslims were responsible for the spread of corona, and who carried fake news about Markaz Nizamuddin and the Tabligh Jamaat.
To be read with these happenings is the fact that the Delhi police, which comes under central home ministry, has been singling out and rounding up peaceful anti-CAA protesters in the name of the racial riots that happened in Delhi weeks ago. Unfortunately, three are not many or strong protests against the government stance of making anything, be it communal riots or pandemic like Covid, a weapon to beat religious minorities.