Recent media reports stunned the country as to how a religious congregation in Nizamuddin during first fortnight of March 2020 has sown the seeds of a potential Stage 3 outbreak across the country in a callous and vicious manner. The public is taken aback as to how congregation of several thousands could take place in India’s capital even as Delhi was placed under high alert apprehending the virus outbreak. Included in them were hundreds from other countries, including those affected by the dreaded corona virus.
The build-up was going on few weeks preceding the event. And the gatherings reportedly occurred in various forms till March 29. Later, the lockdown has been cited by the organisers of Markaz as an excuse for thousands having got stuck in the Nizamuddin complex. There were also significant interstate movements of people centring the upcoming event. It is unlikely that the authorities did not have clue as to the scale of the crowd. The fact is it was still allowed to take place. It would have, in fact, gone unnoticed had there been no sudden spurt in corona victims during last 2- 3 days and their links to the Nizamuddin event not established!
Every sensible and right-thinking person is anguished today on two counts. First, the conduct of the religious leaders who held the event defying the requests by the authorities not to proceed with it in such dangerous times with COVID-19 afflicting lakhs of people worldwide. The most benign criticism that can be made is that they were patently irresponsible. Only a proper and detailed investigation may reveal if there were any other motivation! The second grievance which is even more disquieting is why did not the authorities concerned, take a deterrent action to stop the event?
It is but natural that nearly 130 crore people across the country have embraced a very tough life inside the four walls of their homes shedding every kind of engagements, whether health, educational, entertainment, or any other! Responding to the call of the Prime Minister the entire nation has stood as one and accepted life of virtual prisoners. How can the government allow such great sacrifice and austerity be undone by few thousand mindless and misguided people driven by defiance?
According to the public perception, and rightly so, the government at the centre is duty bound to save the nation and it has every necessary power for this purpose. The 130-crore people are its responsibility. The question has begun to arise as to why deterrent action was not taken at the right time? Why was the kid glove approach adopted vis-a-vis the organizers? To begin with, why was there a lenient approach with regard to granting of visas to hundreds of people, especially when there was information available about the nature and scale of the event.,
Some subsequent events reported in sections of media about some persons connected to the programme ‘spitting’ openly while they were being taken away by the police after their medical check-up, aggravates that question. In some parts of the world, deliberate act of spitting during Corona times has been seen as a strategy and considered as ‘spit attack’ with a view to spreading the virus. No less disturbing is the news that in campuses like JNU and Jamia, some posters have appeared over last couple of days supporting the Tablighi Jamaat which was responsible for the Nizamuddin Markaz. This should serve as a grim reminder of how in the recent past taking advantage of the soft, gentle, persuasive strategy by the government, its opposition riding piggyback on students and youth gradually, succeeded in engineering several protest programmes against Citizenship Amendment Act- a perfectly humanitarian initiative to render justice to a long-persecuted humanity. The present case portends far grave danger. Unless its aftermaths are hard tackled with urgency, the disaster is a certainty!
Though the government led by PM Modi has been putting up a very spirited fight like a statesman against the current pandemic, it is necessary to recognize few facts.
First, his government, despite exhibiting various kinds of qualities, has been the prisoner of the ‘pacifist’ image even towards the forces of destruction whether in the political opposition or the society at large. Incidentally, his government has been telecasting Ramayana and that shows that Rama, the most dignified and compassionate person that ever lived on earth, had to wield weapon to destroy the evil forces. Simply appealing to their conscience in a bid to earn the elusive ‘Sabka Viswas’ is unlikely to bring result.
Going to media and complaining that the opponents are not behaving morally and ethically or approaching the apex Court even for issues which are its own domain, just to convince people it was not acting in a vindictive manner, are not doing the government any good. Its recent action to get the Court’s order to prevent spread of fake news relating to Corona pandemic is the latest instance.
It must realize that its opposition will condemn it either way, no matter what it does or does not do? Knowing this truth, it should start doing what is ‘right’. It may not be surprising if the same opposition bitterly criticizes it for not declaring national emergency and put the army all across the country. They will encourage this government to fail in saving the people with the sole intention that it is alienated from the vast masses of nationalist Indians which happen to be its core constituency!
Time is running away. The government must shed every kind of hesitancy and procrastination and handle the situation of corona virus with a strong hand and extreme urgency!