The fear and insecurity generated by the pandemic is being channeled into the 'othering' of the Muslim community in different places to keep them out of public spaces. Image Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: As many as 101 former bureaucrats have written to the Chief Ministers of Indian states expressing anguish over the “harassment” of Muslims in some parts of the country.

They termed as “misguided and condemnable” the action of Tablighi Jamaat in organising a meeting in Delhi, but mentioned the “utterly irresponsible and reprehensible” action of a section of media in fuelling hostility towards the Muslims.

“The fear and insecurity generated by the pandemic is sought to be channelled into the 'othering' of the Muslim community in different places to keep them out of public spaces, purportedly to protect the rest of the population,” the former civil servants said in an open letter, as per the Press Trust of India.

The entire country is going through unprecedented trauma, they said.

Helping each other

“We can endure, survive and overcome the challenges that this pandemic has imposed on us only by remaining united and helping each other,” they said, and lauded those chief ministers who have been resolutely secular in their approach both in general and, in particular, in relation to this pandemic.

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Julio Ribeiro, retired IPS officer Image Credit: PTI

These 101 former civil servants belong to the all-India and central services, from all over India and said they “do not subscribe to any particular political ideology but rather focus on issues that have a bearing upon the Indian Constitution”. They include former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, former IPS officers AS Dulat and Julio Ribeiro, former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, former cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar, former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Lt Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung and former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi.

Social distancing

“It is with much anguish that we bring to your attention reports of harassment of Muslims in some parts of the country, particularly following the meeting of the Tablighi Jamaat in March in the Nizamuddin area of New Delhi,” the letter said.

The Jamaat was criticised for ignoring the principle of social distancing when cases of COVID-19 had started emerging in the country, it said.

Although this was hardly the only incident of such gatherings, both political and religious, sections of the media hastened to give a communal colour to COVID-19, including attributing motives to the Tablighi Jamaat in spreading the virus to different parts of the country, the letter said.

“The action of the Jamaat in organising such an event, ignoring the Delhi government’s advisories was, without question, misguided and condemnable. However, the action of the media in communalising it and extending it to the Muslim community as a whole is utterly irresponsible and reprehensible,” it said.

Such coverage has fuelled hostility towards the Muslim community in parts of the country, the former bureaucrats said, citing different incidents of alleged bias towards Muslim.

Denied to Muslim families

“More disturbingly, reports of discrimination are also coming in from various places about Muslims being turned away from hospitals and health facilities,” the letter said. “In addition, there are reports of the special entitlements of rations and cash, that governments have sanctioned at this time, being denied to Muslim families,” they former civil servants claimed.

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Shyam Saran

“We call upon you to reassure all the people in your state that by following the instructions for social distancing and the practices regarding using face covering and hand washing, they can keep safe from COVID-19. It needs to be emphasised that there is no truth whatsoever in the rumours that any particular group has more infections than others in our country,” they said in the letter, accessed by news agency Press Trust of India.

The former bureaucrats said some Muslim nations with whom India has traditionally maintained good relations have expressed serious concerns about the recent development in the country.

Non-discriminatory action

“Millions of our fellow citizens live and work in these countries. There has been serious concern expressed in these countries about the recent developments. We should ensure, through our non-discriminatory action and relief measures, that the minorities have nothing to fear in India. This will help assuage the misgivings of these countries and avoid any consequential detriment to the prospects of the sizeable Indian diaspora there,” the letter said, reported news agency PTI.

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Wajahat Habibullah

The former civil servants requested the Chief Ministers to instruct all public functionaries to be particularly vigilant to prevent social boycott of any community in the state and to ensure that all the entitlements including medical and hospital care, rations and financial assistance are available equally to all those in need.

“At this time of grave national and international crisis, we count on your leadership in bringing the people of India together rather than allowing the deepening of fissures in our country,” they said.