The district magistrate of South East Delhi on Tuesday was served a notice for pursuing a “conspiracy to defame the Muslim community” by arbitrarily keeping the Nizamuddin area in Delhi sealed for more than 65 days, even after no new cases of the coronavirus were reported, Bar and Bench reported. The area was declared a containment zone on March 30.
In March, Tablighi Jamaat, a multinational Muslim missionary movement, held a huge gathering of preachers in the Nizamuddin area. Thousands of Indians and hundreds of foreigners had attended the conference. The event later emerged as an infection hotspot. Soon after, police officers sealed the headquarters on all sides and the entire neighbourhood of the Nizamuddin Basti where the Markaz Masjid is located was declared a containment zone.
The notice by the president of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Village Residents Welfare Association, Yusuf Khan, said deployment of police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel in the area has “terrorized the Muslim youth of the area”. Khan accused the authorities of targeting the Muslim community in the area “in pursuance of a deep rooted conspiracy to defame the Muslim community without any justified reason”.
The notice claimed the containment restrictions have impaired the daily livelihood of people, which has left them on the verge of starvation and “[has led to the] destruction of their lives”. It further referred to the demonising of Muslims, adding that the the residents of the area have been termed as “Corona spreaders” and are being “socially boycotted”. “This is taking a toll on their livelihood and adding to their mental, emotional and financial trauma,” the notice added.
He urged the district magistrate to show evidence that warrants the sealing of the area, failing which the area should be de-sealed.
Over the months, the government raced to track down anyone associated to the seminary and quarantined the congregants. Many participants returned home across the country while others travelled to meetings, raising concerns about the scale of the potential spread of infection. In April, the Centre estimated that more than a third of the country’s cases at that time were connected to the group. Many members were placed in quarantine centres.
Muslims have been the target of hate crimes ever since the event took place.Fake videos on social media platforms have claimed to show Muslim men spitting on food, licking plates and sneezing in unison to spread the virus. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT Cell has blamed Muslims for spreading the pandemic.
In several places, this has resulted in violence. On April 7, rumours about Muslim men intentionally spitting to spread the virus reportedly led to group clashes in Jharkhand’s Gumla district. A youth was beaten to death and two others were injured in the incident.
India has faced severe backlash in international circles over the increasing number of crimes against Muslims amid the pandemic. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation had urged the Indian government to take steps to protect Muslims who are being “negatively profiled”. Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that “unity and brotherhood” must be the response to the coronavirus, which does not see “race, religion, caste before striking”.