Covid-19: Was Tablighi Jamaat event the only mass gathering leading up to the lockdown?

Are Indian Muslims being selectively targeted despite the fact that gatherings and events were organised by people of different faiths?


The coronavirus pandemic in India has infected over 12,000 people in the country and the death toll has crossed 450. In light of this, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba has asked state governments to at once strengthen the surveillance of international air travellers who entered India between January 18 to March 23 as there appeared to be a “gap” between those being monitored for Covid-19 and 15 lakh arrivals during that time, the Economic Times had reported on March 27.

In a letter to all the chief secretaries of States and UTs, Gauba had said that the gap in monitoring of international passengers “may seriously jeopardize the efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19”, given the fact that many of those who have tested positive for the virus have a history of international travel.

“As you are aware, we initiated screening of international incoming passengers at the airports with effect from January 18, 2020. I have been informed that up to March 23, 2020, cumulatively, Bureau Of Immigration has shared details of more than 15 lakh incoming international passengers with the States/UTs for monitoring for COVID-19.

“However, there appears to be a gap between the number of international passengers who need to be monitored by the States/UTs and the actual number of passengers being monitored,” Gauba’s letter read.

If there are so many who can potentially be responsible for the spread of the coronavirus, why is the only the minority community, especially Muslims, who are being targeted for the spread of the virus? It has turned into a vicious cycle of Islamophobia feeding hate, and often targeted and malicious reportage against the community, that in turn further isolates and demonises the community.  

Apart from the Tablighi Jamaat event, which is solely being held responsible for the spike in cases, there were a multitude of gatherings in the country, which went unreported or completely ignored by the mainstream media. And if not unnoticed or unpunished, the people involved were not treated with as much vile discrimination as those who attended the Tablighi Jamaat.

1.       Namaste Trump event – Nearly 100,000 people attended the visit of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Gujarat which took place on February 24. One must remember that the first coronavirus case in the country was detected on January 30. Though the first case in Gujarat was detected almost toward the end of March, the presence of NRIs at the event could be potentially deadly for the population.

2.       Ob Feb 25, thousands of people attended the Maha Shivratri event held by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Founder, Isha Foundation at Coimbatore. All those people must be tested too.

3.       Out of the 800 people who attended a shraddh ceremony in Madhya Pradesh’s Morena district on March 20. Later, at least 12 people who attended the gathering were tested positive for coronavirus, reported IB Times. Out of these 33 people were put under quarantine, but the number of infected people could have been much higher an administrative officer told the publication.

4.       Singer Kanika Kapoor who returned from her stay in the United Kingdom and was tested positive for the coronavirus, faced massive criticism for allegedly hiding her travel history. After returning from London, she hosted a lavish party which saw the attendance of many people, including political leaders. The singer triggered a massive coronavirus scare among parliamentarians and other prominent figures who had interacted with the singer during these parties before she tested positive. All of them have tested negative for the coronavirus now, NDTV reported. According to a report by Aaj Tak, she met scores of people, putting all of their lives in danger, after her arrival on March 9 till March 20, when she was tested positive.

5.       While the coronavirus pandemic was rising in India, Business Insider reported that a total of 61,652 pilgrims visited the Tirumala temple. Though coronavirus prevention camps were put up at all checkpoints, the number of people tested by the government is unknown.

6.       Despite Covid-19, nearly 1.5 lakh from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu attended the temple festival ‘rathavotsam’ in Kadiri town of Andhra Pradesh in March, reported The News Minute. It is not clear how many have been tested for the coronavirus.

7.       The Indian Express on April 1 reported that around 400 pilgrims who had gone to visit the Mata Vaishno Devi temple, were stranded in Jammu due to the cancellation of train services amid the coronavirus scare. However, the shrine board and Press Information Bureau denied the information saying it had closed the temple to visitors on March 18.

8.       The Uttar Pradesh CM, Yogi Adityanath himself violated the lockdown and social distancing rules after he was seen participating in a pre-dawn religious ceremony in Ayodhya. State officials, however, said proper precautions were taken before the ceremony, which was held to shift the idol of Ram Lalla to a temporary structure inside the Ram Janmabhoomi premises. They said thorough sanitisation of both the premises and the people involved had been ensured before the ceremony, Economic Times reported.

9.       In Telangana, which is one of the worst hit states, Allola Indrakaran Reddy (Minister of Endowments, Law and Environment, Forest) and Puvvada Ajay Kumar (Transport Minister), attended a Ram Navami event, reported ANI.

10.   BJP MLA Masala Jayaram violted lockdown norms and celebrated his birthday with children and over 200 members of the village at Turuvekera in Karnataka’s Tumakuru district.

11.   Not far behind was BJP MLA Dadarao Keche from Wardha who celebrated his birthday amid the lockdown. He claims to be innocent saying he invited only 21 labourers to the party, but alleges his political adversaries took advantage of the situation and spread information about the party resulting in 200 people attending it, reported The Indian Express.

12.   Telangana BJP MLA T Raja Singh was found flouting lockdown rules as he gathered with over 70 people in April on the PM’s 9 PM 9 minutes call to light candles, etc, reported The Hindu.

13.   IAS officer Pallavi Jain Govil was accused of dodging the Covid-19 test and conducting meetings despite testing positive. However, the government denied the same saying she and her family had followed all quarantine norms, reported She The People TV.

14.   Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Sunday attended a marriage ceremony in Belagavi where hundreds had gathered, showing scant regard for the government’s own directive which had banned public events, including marriages, with more than hundred people, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

15.   A village in Chittapur of Kalburgi ,deemed hotspot for #COVID19, violated lockdown restrictions to host Siddhalingeswara chariot festival where hundreds of people gathered. Kalburgi reported the first #COVID19 death in the country. Death toll in district now at 3 with 18 active cases. No media outrage over this was reported.

16. On Monday, April 13, the Uttar Pradesh government arranged over 20 buses to allegedly ferry 900 pilgrims from South India – Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, back who were stuck in Varanasi, back to their hometowns, reported Dainik Jagran. Varanasi District Magistrate Raj Sharma said that there were 700-800 pilgrims who approached their respective member of parliaments who then approached the Centre which arranged for transport to get them home. According to Free Press Journal, they were tested before they were allowed to board the buses. The departure was reportedly supervised by police officers. 

This list doesn’t include the people who held processions beating thalis or burst fire crackers in public despite the fact that the Prime Minister had clearly requested that all morale building events be held at home. Yet, after all this and more, it is only the Muslims who are being ostracized, beaten and even killed amid the pandemic. They’re being accused of spreading ‘Corona Jihad’ and being called ‘Super Spreaders’. Why are the scales tilted in the favour of the majority when they are equally at fault for flouting norms laid down by the government? Why was a medical issue turned into a religious one? And why did the media not show the other side of the story?


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