Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday declined to give an update on the status of the people from the state who had attended Delhi’s Tablighi Jamaat congregation, telling the media to not ask “communal questions”.
So far, Banerjee has only once shared the details of the number of people from Bengal who had attended the event.
On 1 April, while addressing the media, she said 54 attendees were traced — 44 of them are foreign nationals.
“We got a list of 71 people, we have already traced 54, and 44 of them are foreigners. All of them were quarantined. They are cooperating with us. We will appeal to them to come forward and share the details with the government. There is nothing to be scared of,” Banerjee had said.
But six days later, when she was asked for an update on the matter, Banerjee said, “Do not ask communal questions.”
Govt officials tight-lipped
While all state governments across the country are regularly sharing figures linked to the Tablighi event, Bengal government officials have chosen to remain tight-lipped.
The only official statement, except for the chief minister’s, that came on the issue was from West Bengal Home Secretary Alapan Banerjee.
On 31 March, he had tweeted, “All those from WB, who have participated in this event (Tablighi Jamaat) are being identified and will be immediately tested for Covid and put under mandatory 14 days quarantine.”
Information of attendees not fool-proof
According to a report by central security agencies, 232 people had attended the Tablighi event from West Bengal. Of this, 123 are Indian nationals and 109 are foreigners.
Meanwhile, Bengal police officials said they are trying hard to trace all the attendees, but information, including phone numbers or addresses of the attendees, provided by the central government appeared to be either non-functional or were being used by others or their family members.
A senior police official said many of the attendees from the state are still in Delhi and under quarantine.
‘CM is bringing her appeasement politics’
The Bengal BJP, meanwhile, accused Mamata of playing “appeasement politics” amid the Covid-19 crisis.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said he has written to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan about the way the Bengal government is treating the Tablighi matter.
“I am shocked to see that our chief minister is bringing her appeasement politics here too. Nobody is blaming a community in particular. It is about tracing the people and containing the infection during the time of an outbreak,” he added.
“She is bringing communal agenda and politics here too. We got a number from Delhi that around 270 people are here. At least seven of them were identified in my constituency Kharagpur. Locals have informed the administration too.”
Another senior BJP leader, who doesn’t want to be named, echoed Ghosh.
“She (Mamata) is again scared of that 30 per cent (Muslim) vote bank. However, this is not a political situation. But she is still thinking of the upcoming assembly elections,” added the leader.
Trinamool Congress MP from Murshidabad Abu Taher Khan, meanwhile, said people, who attended the event, are cooperating with the government.
“Some people are trying to politicise this, that is unfortunate. We are with our chief minister. It should not be played communally,” Khan added.
‘Identification of attendees can’t have communal angle’
Talking to The Print, Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said, “The best purpose is served when real time figures are shared. This emanates from the Supreme Court order. The apex court has rightly indicated that such suppression can generate panic. Sharing of information must happen by the fastest mode, otherwise speculation will occupy space.
“As regards to the Nizamuddin event, it has shaken everyone and it has also increased the challenge enormously. Identifying the people who participated and taking appropriate action can never have a communal angle to it. In this battle against the virus, as it was rightly indicated by PM Modi. We need to rise above politics, ideologies and communities,” he added.