Muslims in India have been following the lockdown guidelines “strictly and honestly” during the ongoing month of Ramzan, said Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in an interview to Sana Shakil. On Islamophobia, he said it was unfortunate that people are defaming India through ‘fake’ propaganda
The government has been in touch with religious leaders to ensure social distancing during festivals. How have the community leaders responded?
I have been in constant touch with all the stakeholders to ensure all the guidelines of lockdown and social distancing are strictly followed during the holy month of Ramzan. I personally talked to state wakf boards, religious leaders, representatives of social organisations and other stakeholders to create awareness among the Muslims so that they offer prayers and fulfill other religious obligations including Iftaar during the Ramzan while staying inside their homes.We are happy that by and large, every section of the Muslim community in India has been strictly and honestly following the guidelines of lockdown and social distancing during Ramzan. State wakf boards, religious leaders and social organisations, in cooperation and coordination with local administration, have ensured that lockdown and social distancing is being implemented in toto. The entire country is religiously following these guidelines on the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I have been advising the religious leaders that any carelessness can be harmful for us, our families, society and the entire country.
Why do you think hate messages on social media, including by some within your party, have increased since the Tablighi Jamaat incident despite the PM personally appealing for communal harmony?
Any type of nefarious activity to disturb and destroy social harmony and peace is unpardonable. Any type of anti-social activity on social media is not in the interest of society or the country. Our party has taken necessary action against any party leader who is involved in such activity. As far as the Tablighi Jamaat is concerned, their ‘criminal act’ has put a large number of people in trouble. Most Muslim religious leaders and organisations have condemned it and called for action against it. But an entire community cannot be held responsible for one person or one organisation’s crime. All the conspiracies to create misinformation and rumours are nefarious designs to weaken the fight against coronavirus.
Various dignitaries from Gulf countries have been alleging that India is seeing increasing ‘Islamophobia’. What are your views?
There is not a single incident of discrimination against any section of society including minorities under the Modi government. Socio-economic, religious, constitutional and educational rights of every section are absolutely safe and secure in India. All the sections including minorities are strongly moving forward on the path of ‘development with dignity’ under the Modi government.I have no complaint against any foreign organisation or individual. My objection is about those in our country who are trying to defame India through ‘fake, fabricated propaganda’ and ‘self-created misinformation campaign’ to mislead the people. When Centre provided 2 crore houses to the poor, 31 per cent beneficiaries were from the minority community. Our government provided electricity to 6 lakh villages which included more than 39% minority community villages. Minorities have also benefited from other welfare schemes related to water, electricity, road, education, employment and employment opportunities.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom recently designated India as a ‘country of particular concern’ and claimed that the government has allowed violence against minorities. Your response?
No government in the world can permit and afford violence or riots on its soil. There were some incidents in which some forces — ‘frustrated and depressed’ due to the atmosphere of peace, prosperity and harmony under the Modi government — tried to disturb this atmosphere. Action is being taken against such forces. Whoever is involved in this nefarious design to disturb the atmosphere of development will not go unpunished.
Some people have criticised the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis claiming that crucial time was lost before it initiated the measures to contain the outbreak.
Two weeks before the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic, India had started screening of people coming from abroad at the airports. Two-week quarantine was made compulsory for those arriving from foreign countries on or after March 1. PM Modi was engaged in necessary preparations for the days ahead, be it import of health equipment, testing centres and quarantine centres.
The navy arranged isolation facilities at their hospitals in Mumbai, Kochi, Vizag and others. Two-storey isolation was made at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. The Centre made quarantine facilities at more than 100 government and private hospitals across the country. The state governments were also told to ensure similar arrangements. Lockdown was implemented much before other corona-affected nations.Lockdown in a nation of 130 crore people was the result of farsightedness of PM. Experts in India and the entire world lauded the decision and said it is estimated to have reduced the number of people infected by about 150 times. The people, especially migrants, have faced problems due to some tough measures but this was necessary in the interest of health and well-being of people.