New Delhi: ‘Callous’, ‘criminal’ ‘mazaak’ (joke) — the anger against the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, which was held in Delhi and is now being termed as the largest ‘viral vector’ of coronavirus in South Asia, was evident across news channels Tuesday night.
ABP News’ Rubika Liyaquat and Aaj Tak’s Anjana Om Kashyap angrily discussed how the Jamaat had made a joke of social-distancing that was being carried out by the rest of the country. Arnab Goswami, on Republic TV, was even more unforgiving and called it a “deliberate” and “callous” conspiracy to spread coronavirus, while India Today’s Rajdeep Sardesai dwelt on the herculean task before the government to track attendees of the gathering.
On ‘Halla Bol’, Kashyap weighed in on the issue on Aaj Tak. “Markaz ne mamla bigaad diya hain,” (Markaz has spoilt the situation) she said, pointing out at how people from 16 countries had assembled at the congregation. To drive her point home, she showed a map visualising the 16 countries that included Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore , Sri lanka etc. This was done by other channels, like India TV, as well.
“Aadesho ki dhajiyan udayin, social distancing ka mazaak,” (Orders have been shred to smithereens, and social distancing has been made into a joke), she declared with dramatic flair.
Goswami was at his dramatic best Tuesday. He alleged that Tablighi Jamaat was part of a conspiracy to spread coronavirus in “his” country with “acute deliberate callousness”. Speaking of the foreign followers of the Jamaat apparently violating Visa rules and hiding in mosques he asked — “What do they want to do in my country? Why are they spreading in my country?”
“A conspiracy against India will have to be bought down with effectiveness,” he declared.
Surprisingly, NDTV’s 24×7’s Sanket Upadhyay sounded almost like Goswami, albeit a much-softer version.
Commenting on how ‘The Nizamuddin Superspreader’ story was “spiralling out of control”, he said that it was a clear case of criminal negligence.
“Who was the person responsible? Who are these people who have jeopardised India’s fight against coronavirus?,” he asked.
To explain the severity of the incident, he explained how out of the 57 people from Tamil Nadu who attended the gathering, 50 had tested positive for coronavirus.
On ABP News ‘Seedha Sawal’, Rubika Liyaquat gave a monologue about how all the country’s citizens have been engaged in a war against Covid-19. She added that “Iss jung mein laparwahi ki koi gunjaish nahi hain” (In this war, there is no room for any kind of carelessness) “Iota bhar bhi nahi, ratti bhar bhi nahi (not even an iota),” she emphasised.
But in New Delhi, she added, this fight has become a joke. Instead of social distancing, over a thousand people had congregated in Nizamuddin.
Only when news of coronavirus deaths from Kashmir to Telangana started pouring in did the police and the authorities wake up, she argued.
“The whole country is in danger because of this slip up,” she warned.
Jamaat associate Mujib-ur-Rehman explained that the Jamaat usually has 12,000-14,000 people inside it, but after 22 March only 2,000 people were left. He claimed that before the government had taken any steps for a lockdown, the Jamaat had itself taken steps for social distancing which were announced on 22 March.
Liyaquat, however, wasn’t convinced — apparent by how vigorously she shook her head. She pointed out that the Delhi government had already enforced the Epidemic Act from 12 March, which included an order that said no more than 200 people could gather.
On Zee News’ ‘Taal Thok Ke’, host Mimansa Malik asked BJP leader G.V.L. Narasimha Rao why were people allowed to assemble in Nizammudin in the first place? Rao said that the Prime Minister had been warning people against gatherings since the time of Holi. “How many people can the police watch?”, he asked, pointing out that it was the responsibility of people too.
“Dilli ho ya desh ho, sab kuch police se kaise sambhal sakta hain?” (Whether it’s Delhi or the country, how much can the police possibly handle?)
India Today host Rajdeep Sardesai asked who should be held responsible — Tabligh-e-Jamaat , its supporters, the police, or the Delhi government?
Kerala Governor Arif Mohamad Khan took a different angle— speeches made by the Jamaat chief from 18 March onwards were made available on Youtube. Khan explained how in the videos the chief told viewers that instead of avoiding mosques, one should go to mosques and only leave them once this was all over. “I find this more problematic,” he explained, as more than 70,000-80,000 people were watching the chief’s apparent theories of how coronavirus was a conspiracy to lock up mosques.
Khan denounced this as irresponsible, and said he was disappointed that “religious sentiments are being exploited to spread superstition, ignorance, [and] the romance of regression”.