Lucknow: Following the evacuation of members of the Tablighi Jamaat from the Nizamuddin Markaz by the Delhi Police, a trend has emerged within a certain section of the media of targeting the entire Muslim community for the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been further aggravated by the alleged proliferation of fake news. Several such reports have poured in, few claiming that the quarantined Jamaatis had asked for non-vegetarian food while others have accused them of misbehaving with hospital nurses. Some other media outlets even reported that members of the Tablighi Jamaat had spat on doctors in several districts.
Such reports of alleged misbehaviour with staff at quarantine facilities by Tablighi members have emerged from districts including Saharanpur, Bijnor, Agra, Kanpur, Kushinagar, Rampur, Allahabad and Ghaziabad.
However, in several of the cases, these fake reports were exposed by the district administration after which the media outlets were asked to withdraw their reports.
Meanwhile, in the backdrop of these fake reports, the Uttar Pradesh government has launched a crackdown on misinformation and fake news, and asked its social media cells of all zonal and district police units to keep an eye on social media platforms and news publications.
On April 5, 2020, the Hindi daily Amar Ujala carried a report on the front page alleging that members of Tablighi Jamaat had demanded for non-vegetarian food and defecated in the open inside a hospital where they have been quarantined.
“After Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor, a new case of Jamaatis has also come to light in Saharanpur. When they did not get non-vegetarian food, the Jamaatis here threw away the food and defecated in the open,” the report claimed.
Soon after, the Saharanpur Police used its official Twitter account to reply to the tweet with a statement that the claims of the media outlets were investigated and were found to be “wrong and untrue”.The police also advised the newspaper to check before posting any such thing on social media.
Jamaat’s link in Prayagraj Murder Case found fake
That is not the only case. This is the second case in the last 24 hours in the state in which fake charges were made against people from the minority community that were later exposed by the police.
In Prayagraj, an alleged conflict between two families had led to the killing of a person name Lotan Nishad. However, following the news of his alleged killing, a number of TV channels and media persons have reportedly posted on social media claiming this person was killed by a person who had links with Tablighi Jamaat. On Sunday, Prayagraj police came forward through social media to refute these allegations and clarified that neither the victim nor the accused had any links with the Jamaat.
In Firozabad, Zee Media was allegedly caught spreading fake news against the Tablighi Jamaat. The media group was forced to delete its tweet containing the fake news after a strict warning from Firozabad police.
In its tweet, now deleted, Zee Uttar Pradesh Uttarakhand had said, “Four Tablighi Jamaati test corona positive in Firozabad, stones pelted at the medical team that came to pick them up.”
However, Firozabad Police were swift in their response to expose the lies allegedly spread by Zee News. “False and misleading news is being spread by you while neither medical team nor ambulance vehicle has been pelted in any way in Firozabad district. Immediately delete the tweet that you have made,” Frirozabad police tweeted from its official Twitter handle.
Following which the media organisation took down the tweet.
In another incident, the Hindi daily Amar Ujala and another local publication had carried out a sensational article alleging that 14 suspected Tablighi Jamaatis who had come from Nizamuddin were arrested from Kushinagar.
Refuting the allegations, Kushinagar Superintendent of Police Vinod Kumar Mishra while interacting with media persons said, “Those who were arrested from Kushinagar were not associated with Tablighi Jamaat. They do not have any link with Nizamuddin Markaz rather they were from neighbouring country Nepal and are daily wagers. Due to lockdown, they were stranded here and are now quarantined.”
Another daily Hindusthan reported that 13 people, including eight Indonesian citizens, who were kept in the quarantine of the district hospital of Bijnor, on the suspicion of being infected with the novel coronavirus after participating in the Tablighi Jamaat program, created a ruckus at the hospital and demanded eggs and biryani.
A news channel Sudarshan TV wrote from its Twitter handle that people of Tablighi Jamaat quarantined in the district hospital misbehaved with sanitation workers and abused them.
However, the Bijnor Police have denied these allegations.
Meanwhile, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a prominent Muslim body, has filed a petition in the Supreme Court, accusing a section of the media of spreading hatred against Muslims in the name of last month’s Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi, seeking directions from the Centre to curb dissemination of ‘fake news’ and action against those spreading it.
The petition, however, has drawn flak from several groups. Responding to the move, senior Delhi High Court lawyer Farrukh Khan told NewsClick, “Hatred related media reports could have been dealt with as individual cases by filing defamation proceedings and by lodging FIRs. Don’t understand why Jamiat wants direction from SC? SC, as usual, would only caution media- if at all it intends to pass any order – however, given the settled judicial position, SC won’t pass any blanket ban order against media. Anyways, Jamiat Ulema Hind will gain some media attention by some more ‘prime time’ debates.”
“And remember- any adverse observation by SC would only jeopardise the fate of individual cases which could be filed later under relevant provisions of law. I don’t understand why there is so much haste to approach SC these days for any issue given that litigants have alternative remedies available at their disposal. Jamiat using its network could have filed multiple criminal defamation cases against media houses through its members… but wait … we want an immediate attention of media – against which we portray to fight in accordance with law,” Khan added.