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Indian mosque event becomes coronavirus hot spot

April 2, 2020

Indian authorities are trying to track down almost 8,000 people who attended the event. This has given rise to an anti-Muslim sentiment in public debate.

A man in a mask looks out of a bus in India
Image: Getty Images/AFP/S. Hussain

In March, a Sunni Muslim event called the Tablighi Jamat was held in New Delhi's Nizamuddin area. At least 7,600 Indians, and 1,300 foreigners from countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia attended a series of prayer meetings and lectures in a narrow winding lane in India's densely populated capital.

Now, authorities are trying to track down attendees and people with whom they may have come into contact, after the meeting emerged as an infection hot spot. At least 128 cases have been tracked from this event, with seven reported deaths.

Read more: Can India's lockdown contain the coronavirus?

The news gave rise to anti-Muslim sentiment. Earlier this week, 'Coronojihad' became a trending topic in India and a major source of debate on many major broadcast news channels.

The lead anchor of the 24/7 news broadcaster Republic TV opened his show with the lines: "They made fun of our national effort. They have compromised us all, we were just winning when they did everything to defeat us."

Lawmakers from the ruling BJP Party took to Twitter to condemn the gathering. Delhi's Chief Minister called for a police complaint to be lodged against the organizers of the event.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had imposed a lockdown on the entire nation from March 25, for a period of 21 days. Many criticized the organizers of the Tablighi Jamat for disobeying this curfew.

A complaint was lodged against an individual in Gujarat for spreading communal hatred. He had called upon all Hindus to boycott Muslim vendors, according to Indian media reports.

Read more: India's coronavirus fight complicated by people dodging quarantine

The leader of a Muslim body, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, said that raising community tensions would only hamper India's united efforts to contain COVID-19, calling it a negative propaganda. "If an FIR can be filed against Nizamuddin's office, then there should be an FIR against the central and state government officials who could not manage properly millions of workers gathered at Anand Vihar railway station and other places after the lockdown order," Maulana Arshad Madani told local media.

He was referring to the thousands of migrant daily wage laborers walking from the nation's capital to their hometowns, due to not having enough resources to feed themselves.

India, which is trying to contain the coronavirus outbreak, has seen around 2,000 cases, with 58 deaths. The country is under a 21-day lockdown, which is set to continue until mid-April. Experts say that in the event of a major outbreak, the country's healthcare system may not be able to bear the burden of high numbers of cases.

tg/rt (PTI, Reuters)

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