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The Nizamuddin meet wasn’t the only instance of callousness in India amid the Covid-19 scare

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
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  • Niharika Sharma
By Niharika Sharma

Reporter based in New Delhi.

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A mass Muslim evangelical event held in Delhi last month is now sending shivers down the spine of a coronavirus-hit India.

The congregation, attended by more than 2,000 people, including foreign delegates, was organised by Tablighi Jamaat, a global Islamic missionary movement, and took place between March 13-15 in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area. By then, the Delhi government had already issued an advisory against large gatherings.

Not surprisingly, the Tablighi Jamaat and the event have now come under intense scrutiny.

However, such callousness isn’t restricted to any group or community in India. From none less than the president of the country to popular temples, authorities, organisations, and event organisers have been found to tiptoe around advisories and the new pandemic norms in places across the country, exposing hundreds.

Here are a few examples:

Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi: On the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8), the presidential palace in New Delhi organised an award ceremony, inviting a large number of people, including prominent public figures.

Notably, the event happened at a time when confirmed coronavirus positive cases had already been reported in the city and many were being tested. The Delhi government had by then decided to shut down primary schools and had appealed to the people to avoid large gatherings. Prime minister Narendra Modi had already called off his official Holi celebration in this wake.

Aatukal Pongala, Thiruvananthapuram: On the day of the award ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, a 10-day-long temple festival commenced in this southern Indian city, with hundreds of thousands in attendance. And this was done with the Kerala government’s permission.

Defending the move, the government said the Aattukal Pongala festival could not be avoided as preparations were going on for months. On that very day, March 8, five new cases of coronavirus were reported in the state’s Pathanamthitta district. By March 9, the state total had hit 43.

Ram Navami, Ayodhya: On March 24, Modi announced the nationwide 21-day lockdown. However, defying the lockdown on the first day itself, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Adityanath, attended a Ram Navami event in Ayodhya. He even tweeted photographs of the event, saying the first stage of the “grand Ram Temple” had been accomplished.

Belagavi wedding, Karnataka: Despite the state government’s ban on mass gatherings, on March 15, hundreds of people attended the wedding of state legislator Mahantesh Kavatgimath’s daughter. Egregiously, Karnataka chief minister, BS Yeddyurappa, himself attended the ceremony.

Birthday party in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh: The Indian parliament was gripped in panic and anxiety following news reports that singer Kanika Kapoor, who attended this gig, did not disclose her travel history on returning from London. The birthday party also saw participation by former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and her son, Dushyant Singh, a sitting member of parliament. Singh later attended parliament, fueling fears that a number of Indian parliamentarians, too, may have been exposed to coronavirus. Other political attendees of the party included Uttar Pradesh health minister Jai Pratap Singh and Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh.

Sikh fair in Punjab: A 70-year-old coronavirus-infected Sikh preacher attended a fair in Punjab on March 10-12, putting thousands at risk. The preacher himself died due to Covid-19 on March 26. Around 40,000 of his devotees are now under isolation.

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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