Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh administration has named eight out of 18 coronavirus hotspots in Lucknow after mosques, an exercise that has raised concern among Muslims in those areas and drawn flak from opposition parties for allegedly adding communal colour to an illness.
“The government should be concerned about fighting the disease. It should focus on pinpointing those areas from where more cases are coming. But unable to tackle that it is busy fudging numbers, and to divert people’s attention it is linking it to religious issues so that people won’t focus on the ground situation. It is discriminatory to link the illness to one specific community,” Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu told ThePrint.
The administration has refuted claims that any particular community was being targeted. Officials said the mosques were only named due to the presence of positive cases.
“The positive cases came from those areas and which is why hotspots have been named after them. There is no other motive to it,” said a senior government official, who did not wish to be named.
Lucknow has so far reported 214 cases, with eight new infections reported Friday.
‘A divisive exercise’
One of the hotspots in Lucknow’s Sadar Bazar is called ‘Masjid Ali Jaan and nearby areas’. Similarly, some others mentioned in the list of Covid-19 hotspots are ‘Mohammadiya Masjid and nearby areas’ in Wazirganj, ‘Khajoor Wali Masjid and adjoining areas’ in Triveni Nagar and ‘Phool Bagh/Nazarbagh Masjid and adjoining areas’.
“We should keep religion away from all this. The situation is already bad, so why complicate it further?” said Juhi Singh, a senior Samajwadi Party leader.
“By identifying hotspots via mosques, the government is also defeating its own work that it has done so far. Rather than naming areas after mosques, specific areas should be identified. This exercise will otherwise be seen as divisive.”
A resident living in one of the hotspots told ThePrint over phone, “You are intelligent to know what is happening and why the hotspots have been named so. I don’t want to say much as our calls also get recorded.”
Earlier this month, the Sadar Bazaar area, which borders Lucknow Cantonment, was sealed after 12 people from Saharanpur holed up in a mosque in Qasaibada had tested positive for Covid-19.
Masjid Ali Jaan, located in the same Sadar Bazaar area, has reported 95 positive Covid-19 cases so far. Government records show that the area has 578 suspected cases of the novel coronavirus. A total of 67 people have been quarantined.
Sadar Bazaar has since been barricaded and essential services are provided by the state government.
The Uttar Pradesh government has also been identifying the number of people linked to the March congregation of Tablighi Jamaat in its daily Covid-19 updates.
“This is nothing but an attempt to create an impression that Muslims are behind the spread of Covid-19. Even today Tablighi Jamaat is shown as the major reason behind the surge in cases. The areas that have been labelled as hotspots include both Muslim and Hindu communities. When areas are not being named after temples or churches, why are they being named after mosques?” said another resident living in one of the hotspots.
Lucknow-based law professor Abdul Hafiz Gandhi told ThePrint that the practice of naming hotspots after mosques was being followed only in Uttar Pradesh.
“This is a wrong practice as you are blaming one particular community by naming hotspots after mosques. Are we naming hotspots after any other religious institution? Hotspots are named after areas and this is what is being followed across the country,” Gandhi said.
He had also tweeted about the issue on 12 April, saying: “When central govt has issued advisory not to publish figures having communal profiling, why Yogi government is issuing separate figures for Covid-19 positive patients (sic).”
Gandhi isn’t the only one to raise his voice against the issue.
Earlier this month, the Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) had asked the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to stop mention of the Nizamuddin Markaz in its daily bulletin on coronavirus cases. The section was subsequently dropped from the daily bulletins.