This article has been written by Bhavya Verma, a student of JIMS Engineering Management Technical Campus, School of Law.
It was for only a few exhilarating days when social media cooled down its exposing religious fault lines in a sharply polarized country and clapped together but then the Tablighi Jamaat incident happened.
Over 2,000, including delegates from Indonesia and Malaysia, had attended the congregation organized by Tablighi Jamaat, a global Islamic missionary movement set up in 1926. While the event took place before India’s nationwide lockdown began on March 25, it violated a Delhi state government order restricting religious and public gatherings, according to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Consequently, Kejriwal has asked for a police case to be filed against the mosque administration for negligence. No social distancing would be possible at those places. It may cause grave danger to public health and the objective of containing COVID-19. At present, entry to the Markaz Masjid, the mosque where the congregation was organized, has been banned until further orders.
TV channels and media have a major role in turning the public congregation into a communal disharmony. Indian television news flashing headlines like “Save the country from corona Jihad” or “who is the villain of Nizamuddin?”. The news channels have telecasted it as a conspiracy by the Muslim community in spreading the virus and thereby have used the religious sensitive words like Muslims and Jihadis which could be easily replaced by the word “people”. The news channels can be shown telecasting debates amongst people of different religions triggering the religious sentiments of people.
The Twitterati has gone way beyond to target, degrade and turn Muslims into enemies of the nation. #Isslamiccoronavirus, #coronajihad, #tablighijamaat, #nizamuddinidiots, etc were some of the trends in Twitter that are against the guidelines issued by The World Health Organization dated 18.03.2020. Islamophobic memes have also been circulating – one meme, for instance, shows China as the “producer” of the virus, and Muslims as its “distributors”. This leads to blaming and asking questions by the Muslim community as well. “It was irresponsible and could have been avoided but there were so many other congregations of other religions which took place. This took place in the middle of Delhi. Why didn’t anyone stop it?” asks historian Rana Safvi in her twitter post.
The Twitterati and news channels have divided the “we” to “they” and “us” and gave communal color to the spread of coronavirus.
A lawyer from Hyderabad, Khaja Aijaz Uddin has issued notices to Cabinet Secretary, Union Home Secretary, and Police under “Public Interest” seeking direction against Twitter Social Networking Service to stop the publishing tweets. He said that the trending on twitter, also more particularly against the secular fabric of the country as mandated under the Indian Constitution and the trend which is spread on the Twitter social service may result in disturbing the communal harmony of this country.
Through Advocate Ejaz Maqbool, Jamaat Ulama I -hind, an organization of Islamic scholars, has moved to Supreme Court seeking strict action against the media for communalisation of the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi’s Nizamuddin. The plea states that media using communal headlines and bigoted statements to demonize and blame the entire Muslim community threatened their lives infringing their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The petition stresses that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has failed in its duty to give equal protection of law to all persons enshrined under Article 14 of the Constitution of India by allowing the media to present facts in a twisted manner, using phrases that are prejudicial to the Muslim community. The petition urged that the media be directed to tread with caution, be warned against giving any communal angle to the Nizamuddin Markaz incident, and strict action be taken against errant.