Corona, GOI-Delhi govt failures re: Tablighi Jamaat Meet, and Modi’s froth & foam

Markaz Nizamuddin Chief Maulana Saad Untraceable, Has FIR Against Him For Violating Covid-19 Guidelines

[The recent Markaz Nizamuddin Meet of the Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi]

Time to dispassionately lay the blame for the single, most dangerous, event responsible for the Coronavirus spread throughout the country — the annual meeting hosted by the Markaz Nizamuddin of the Tablighi Jamaat led by the numskull of a Maulana, Saad Kandhalvi. The blame is shared by the Central and Delhi governments and by the various police entities which means, of course, that no senior bureaucrat or police officer or any agency will ever be held responsible for the fiasco. Finger pointing at everybody else which’s, in fact, the norm in these situations, is already proceeding apace.

So, let’s start by looking at the Central government. That the COVID-19 was spreading radially outwards and very fast from the Chinese city of Wuhan had become definitively known by the first week of January. It was so taken note of and flagged within the Indian government. If most visas to the foreign attendees of the big Tablighi showcase Meet were issued after January first week, as seems likely, then both the Home Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs — the twin-issuing authorities should be hauled up. The MEA did not alert the Modi government about the demand for visas by foreign followers of the Tablighi Jamaat at a time of the corona pandemic. The Home Ministry, the ultimate authority in visa approvals, was likewise blissfully inattentive.

That so big a “religious”, possibly combustible, event was in the works would have been known, should have been known, to the Delhi Police a good 4-6 months before it actually happened. Why? Because the Nizamuddin area police station is bang next to the mosque where the meeting had been called. Even assuming the information about the virus and its spread was first available to the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi and the Nizamuddin police station in-charge only after the Prime Minister announced his 3-week countrywide lock down March 26, the local authorities, concerned about the potentially troublesome Tablighi Meet, ought to have taken normal precautionary measures. Such as, in consultation with, or in spite of, the Tablighi leader, either calling it off or postponing it.

Given the political sensitivity about the activity of organizations such as the Tablighi Jamaat, the Delhi Police controlled directly by Modi’s political intimate and the country’s Home Minister Amit Shah, ought to have instructed Delhi Police to be at the ready, deployed Intelligence officers, operating undercover, to report on the inflammatory address by Maulana Saad, and for arrangement to be made for his prompt arrest in case anything provocative was uttered by him, and otherwise posted rapid action police forces in the area to deter troublemakers and clamp down on violence if it erupted. The inaugural session where Kandhalvi mouthed all manner of socially irresponsible, even incendiary, stuff, occurred but none of these above actions were taken.

The Maulana’s virtual fatwa to the milling thousands at the Meet to ignore the official lock down because, in any case, this virus was punishment called down by Allah for the people’s sins which, if it did nothing else, enhanced the negative impressions of Islam in the society at-large and fired up the majoritarian animus against Indian Muslims. However, owing to a completely unprepared Delhi Police who acted as if they had no inkling of anything, no immediate arrest was made, and he was allowed to go “underground”.

Far, far worse from the COVID-19 crisis point of view, between the Health Ministry at the Centre under Dr Harsh Vardhan, a Member of Parliament from Delhi, who should have known and done better, and the AAP government’s Health Department, they made an awful hash of things. In the main, both abjectly failed to impose a complete quarantine of 2 weeks on the entire Markaz Nizammuddin congregation (to detect infection and isolate the infectors and infectees of whom there reportedly were many). It permitted the lot of the Tablighi followers to walk about freely in the larger Nizammudin area and leisurely to return to their home states and countries, thereby helping the pandemic to spread everywhere. The slate of decisions not taken and of missed actions are particularly horrific and appalling in light of the Prime Minister’s announcement around that time of a countrywide lock down.

The AAP government is taking refuge in the fact that while it may order Delhi Police to do this and that, under the split law & order system in Union Territories, the Delhi Police doesn’t heed its orders. This is correct in theory but begs the question: Did the Kejriwal regime actually issue any orders banning the Tablighi event, failing which to order the arrest of Kandhalvi after he spouted patent nonsense, and to forcefully, if necessary, quarantine the attendees — transporting them en masse to, say, camps set up by the army in Delhi’s vicinity? Apparently not. So both the Central and Delhi governments are in the dock for the law & order-cum-public health debacle that has ensued.

This has larger foreign policy implications. Which country, South Asian or other, will take Modi government’s programme involving a reach out on the corona pandemic, seriously?

And, finally, what to make of the Prime Minister’s televised address to the nation this morning urging the people to shine a light at 9 PM for nine minutes on Sunday, March 5, when everybody was expecting some guidance on whether the current lock down will be extended, and how his government means to cope and what the citizenry is supposed to do at the end of 3-weeks? The media talked of the likelihood of Modi broaching the subject of a staggered lock down to get at least some level of economic activity in the country off and running. Alas, of this there was not a mention but we are being asked to follow up the public beating of thalis, and generally making noise in appreciation of medical personnel, et al on the corona frontline, with now lighting up diyas and waving lit up mobile phones.

There’s a sneaking and well-merited fear that the Modi government quite simply has no good and substantive ideas, coming up with only hollow symbolic gestures of a kind the Prime Minister loves. Thank God, he at least warned the millions of educated illiterates populating our cities against milling around waving battery-run torches on Sunday, as they did when beating thalis!!

Hopefully, his next televised address will be less froth and foam and more beer!

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, Bangladesh, Bhutan, civil-military relations, Culture, Decision-making, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Indian para-military forces, Indian Politics, Intelligence, Internal Security, Islamic countries, Maldives, MEA/foreign policy, Nepal, Pakistan, SAARC, society, South Asia, Sri Lanka. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Corona, GOI-Delhi govt failures re: Tablighi Jamaat Meet, and Modi’s froth & foam

  1. PRATIK KUMAR says:

    Hi Bharat sir…do you think that at the tablighi jammat meet, the hands of several foreign players, including terrorist groups and ISI, were involved? Because after the meet, these muslims (from the jammat meet) were quarantined but were found intentionally spitting at the attendants in the isolation wards and others have traveled elsewhere in the country. It looks like some kind of brain washing. Further, the stone throwing at doctors has started in several locations. All these incidents seem to have some link.

    • Akhil Malhotra says:

      Unfortunately , the systematic mistreatment by Hindu Indians of Indian muslims have made them paranoid of the majority. Every few years there is a pogrom by Hindu majority of Indian muslims. Perhaps Indian muslims have finally realized that what happened to Kashmiris muslims will eventually happen to them.

  2. Prabal Rakshit says:

    Prof Karnad,
    Related to a common theme that you have expounded on, India not engaging Taiwan to the fullest, here is an example of how well run and efficient the Taiwanese healthcare system is

    The piece also says
    China doesn’t allow Taiwan into the WHO, and that’s really stupid, because Taiwan is one of the main countries in the world that has expertise on international health issues.
    India should surely engage Taiwan a lot closer than what it is doing today.


    Another well articulated and timely article by Mr. Karnad. I have got this observation to make with respect to the current COVID-19 situation in Bangladesh which is the benefactor of India’s greatest ever triumph since independence i.e. war of 1971.

    1. The image of India in Bangladesh in general is not very bright particularly when it comes to the middle class sections of post-1990 born Bangladeshis ever since the abrogation of article 370 and the commencement of CAA/NRC debate in India.

    2. The Sheikh Hasina government which has been the staunchest supporter of India and friendliest of the governments in the whole of South Asian region is increasingly unpopular at home. Hasina won a very dodgy and questionable election in 2018 with the help of India and there is tremendous antagonism towards Hasina’s strong ties with India among Bangladeshis. The level of mistrust can be gauged by the last minute cancellation of Modiji visit to Bangladesh celebrating the birth centenary of Mujibur Rehman, the pro-Indian leader of 1971.

    3. In addition to the above two points, there is the most significant issue of economy. Bangladesh earns most of her income from garment exports and that industry is already on the verge of collapse due to the cancellation of export orders from the West due to COVID-19 lock downs. A Dhaka-based Bangla daily recently reported that in the last 2/3 weeks, almost 45 Lakhs of transport workers have lost their livelihoods due to corona-imposed lock downs. Hasina has taken great credit for tremendous growth in Bangla economy in recent years however post COVID-19 world will significantly dent Bangla’s economic prospects.

    To summarize the current situation in Bangladesh, the strongest success story of post-independence India is on the verge of troubles of Quranic/Biblical proportions. On one hand you have a huge group of restless, half-educated and unemployed youth who are ready to come onto the streets and on the other hand you have an increasingly unpopular pro-Indian government which is perceived by the populace to be illegitimate and hated by the populace for its pro-Indian stance.

    The Bangladeshi diaspora in the West is virulently anti-Indian and anti-Hindu who perceive Hasina and Modiji as godless tyrants. and some of them even oppose the whole Indian and Awami league narrative of 1971. These people support a strategic reorientation towards Pakistan and China as it was before 1971. Some sections of Bangladeshi intelligentsia and even some factions of Hasina’s own Awami League also support this position. There are increasing calls by some of these sections in Bangladesh to either reduce Hasina’s powers during the COVID-19 emergency or may be replace her with a military-led broad national unity government.

    This was my analysis of the current situation in Bangladesh post CAA/370/COVID-19.

    I would love to know your expert opinion on my analysis and please let me know what should India do to tackle this challenge and preserve post 1971 Indian hegemony in Bangladesh.

    Thanks and regards with best wishes

    • Good analysis. Sheikh Hasina along with the section of society still wedded to the liberation ideology is India’s Great Wall. But like any wall, it can crumble. However, there are geopolitical limits to how much Bangladesh can turn back the dial.

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