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Blatantly irresponsible. Crime against the nation. These two phrases best describe not just the Tablighi Jamaat congregation that met between 13 to 15 March but also their despicable behaviour thereafter. Well before this time, it was widely known that the novel Coronavirus was wreaking havoc worldwide through human contact. The country had already started taking community preventive action including cancellation of public Holi celebrations on 10 and 11 March. What is more, even the WHO declared COVID 19 as a global pandemic on 11 March – and even God knows, that was 45 days too late. So why did the Tabhlighi Jamaat not call off its meeting? They did not care even a hoot. Nothing can explain this sheer callousness – a deliberate and contemplated action contrary to all wisdom and community responsibility.

As per its own website,, “the Tablighi Jamaat (Society for spreading faith) is a non-political global Sunni Islamic missionary movement that focuses on urging Muslims to return to primary Sunni Islam, and particularly in matters of ritual, dress, and personal behaviour.” There is no life and death situation in this organisational aim. This particular congregation could at best be described as a routine affair which should have been deferred to a later date. The attendees of this meet reportedly included about 250 foreigners and over a 1000 Indians from across the country. I can never believe that not one of these faithfuls ever felt that he posed a risk to his own family, community or to the society at large as they went about merrily spreading the virus across India and the globe. Can we then blame people for coining terms such as ‘Corona Jihad’ or giving a communal twist to the story?

As a 1.3 billion strong nation, we lack the healthcare infrastructure to cater for a pandemic with such destructive potential. Despite this major handicap, the country has pulled out all stops to create a surge in healthcare facilities to stay ahead of the spread. Be they test kits, quarantine facilities, ventilators, masks, protective clothing or equipment every possible organisation has put in its total commitment to the mammoth task of containing the virus. The Tabhlighi congregation has dealt the Indian state a body blow, not just by increasing concerns but also creating a huge load of work for an already burdened healthcare system and government machinery.

In the face of this most disappointing development, the response of the government has been mature and admirable. It has moved quickly to isolate, identify and minimise the threat of spread across states. The very people who have upset the national applecart are being cared for in government hospitals and national quarantine facilities.

This is a critical aspect of social behaviour that a post-COVID India must address. Profile individuals and organisations, make constitutional changes, tighten laws, restrict tourists and use force if need be, to ensure that peace and well-being of the larger section of society is not held to ransom by a handful of irresponsible outfits.

We will come out of this too – but we cannot meekly let it pass.

01 Apr 20

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