Muslims in Assam fear they may have to bear the brunt of Tablighi Jamaat’s mistake

Names and other personal information of attendees becomes public, roads being blocked to “keep the Muslims and Coronavirus” away

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“Alert ~ one more #Covid_19 positive case from Dhubri District has been confirmed, taking the total number in Assam to 27, This patient is related to #NizamuddinMarkaz event in Delhi. Update at 9.25 am / April 7”, tweeted the state’s health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Commendable that he is keeping a keen eye, however the fact that he chooses to add hashtags identifying the patient as someone connected to Tablighi Jamaat’s Markaz, adds fuel to the embers that threaten to reignite communal passions in Assam.

His adding such hashtags makes it easier for online mobs to share information, on other social media specially whatsapp groups. Some use such information to spread misinformation and fuel online, and offline hate. That the figures come from the minister lends credibility to their claims that members of the Jamaat are the ones who carried Coronavirus into the state. The first Covid-19 positive case was someone who had returned from the Markaz, his name and other details had been shared online. A move that made not just him vulnerable, but also exposed his family, contacts to unwanted attention.

Then the names of others who returned from Delhi and whose tests came back Covid-19 positive also started circulating in some groups. This has fuelled anger against all Muslims across the state. The average citizen obviously did not spend time in understanding the difference between those who had attended the Jamaat event in Delhi, and other Muslims. To them this was “Corona Jihad” that all Muslims were accused of spreading in the state. 

On the streets of Assam, especially in the interior areas of Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Sontipur, some village roads were blocked as people wanted to “keep the Muslims and Coronavirus” away. Eventually the Sonitpur district administration had to intervene and order that all public roads should be opened.

On Tuesday, April 7 A sedition Case has been filed against the Opposition MLA Aminul Islam who had allegedly said that the state’s quarantine facilities are “worse than detention centres”. According to an NDTV report these remarks have been seen as communal comments. “In an audio clip, purportedly of the MLA and another person, Aminul Islam allegedly said that the coronavirus quarantine centres in Assam are “dangerous and worse than detention centres” meant for illegal migrants,” states the news report, adding, “Mr Islam had also accused the BJP government in Assam of conspiring against Muslims. He also alleged that the medical staff at the quarantine centres was harassing those who had returned.

According to sources, the Assam Police had sought, and received permission from the Assembly Speaker to go ahead with this arrest.

The Police had also issued a final warning to those who had returned to the state after attending the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz at Delhi, that they must come to the nearest hospital for medical examinations by April 7. If they continued to evade examinations for whatever reason, the police warned them that they will face strict legal action.

The Sentinel quotes the police notice: 

“This is the final appeal to those people who have come to Assam after being present at the Nizamuddin Markaz or have been to a State or country affected by COVID-19 recently. All such individuals are requested to present themselves at the nearest hospital or PHE by 6am, April.”

According to the report the police had already detained nine Nizamuddin attendees from Kharupetia, in Darang. “They hid in a home of one Yakub Ali. It has been alleged that Nizamuddin attendees have spread the novel coronavirus across the state,” it was reported.

The Assam Government has also said that those Jamaat members who have not yet gone to the state hospitals for COVID-19 testing will face criminal charges. Out of 27 COVID-19 positive cases in the state (at the time of publishing this report) 24 have been those who attended the Markaz, and two more of their contacts have also tested positive. All their names are out, said a local writer. 

Advocate Junaid, the Jamaat’s leader in Assam has been appealing to all those who came from Delhi to come ahead and get tested. He had apparently shared the details of the Markaz attendees, with the authorities, who already had the names given to them by the Delhi Police, say sources. 

According to sources, around 129 people are yet to report to the hospitals for testing. “We will file criminal cases against all the participants who do not follow our deadline,” Sarma was quoted in local news reports. He also said that even the family members or neighbours who were not helping the administration in tracing these missing Jamaatis will also face criminal charges for their “non-cooperation.”

While management committees of various mosques have been making public appeal that all Tablighi Jamaat members who came from Delhi come forth and get tested, the entire community is now bearing the brunt. 

According to a political observer from Guwahati, the Hindu and Muslim community had begun to feel a sense of solidarity durting the Anti-CAA movement. However, such a huge error made by Delhi’s Tablighi Jamaat leader Maulana Saad, is dividing the people once again. Innocent Muslims who have no connection with the Tablighi Jamaat are being subjected to hateful looks and comments. They are now afraid that their worst nightmares of a communal backlash may just become reality if the situation is not controlled urgently. The onus of this lies with the local Tablighi Jamaat members, as much as it does with the state government and police to ensure peace.


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