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Tablighis or Namaste Trump? Rupani must 'clarify' on origin of Covid-19 in Gujarat

By Mujahid Nafees* In his video communication on April 24, 2020, chief minister Vijay Rupani informed us that in the month of March the Gujarat government had quarantined 6,000 people returning from abroad in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. He further asserted that the spread of Covid-19 was caused by the tablighis returning from Nizamuddin in Delhi. His statements were widely publicized and given front page coverage by some local dailies.
His statements are without any basis, are divisive in nature and tend to create enmity between Gujarat’s two biggest religious groups. The undisputed facts are that the earliest Covid-19 case was reported on November 17, 2019 in China and January 20, 2020 in USA. In our country, the first Covid-19 was reported in Kerala on January 30, 2020.
The first two Covid-19 cases in Gujarat were reported on March 19, 2020 and they came from Surat and Rupani’s home district – Rajkot. His own video communication dated March 20, 2020 (available here) highlighted the existence of five Covid-19 positive cases in Gujarat at that time, all relating to foreign-returned residents of the state.
On January 30, 2020, Covid-19 was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization (WHO). There is a formal declaration of an extraordinary event by WHO for the prior determination of what constitutes public health risk to other states through the international spread of the disease.
It is apparent that the state government, in utter disregard of the health emergency declared by WHO, lost a crucial month in not preparing for the imminent pandemic, even as it splurged all available state resources in organizing the Namaste Trump event on February 24, 2020 in Ahmedabad.
Shockingly, the state government endangered everyone’s life by organizing the Namaste Trump event and congregating over 1 lakh people despite knowing that USA had already reported existence of Covid-19 cases as far back as January 20, 2020. The most important question that needs to be answered is whether the state government has tested the participants of this event for Covid-19.
It is well known ahead of and during the Namaste Trump event a contingent of American officials, security personnel, vehicles and dogs travelled all over the city of Ahmedabad.
The government should have informed people about its preparedness to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic instead of spreading lies in the name of tablighis. Those sitting in power should be seen behaving responsibly and look beyond narrow politics.
In the end it is the people of Ahmedabad and Gujarat who are being made to suffer due to the negligence of the government 
People are waiting to be explained by the chief minister as to why one of the largest numbers of Covid-19 cases is coming from the city where Namaste Trump event was organized. The government must not play religious card to cover up its abject failure in the face of the pandemic. In the end it is the people of Ahmedabad and Gujarat who are being made to suffer due to the negligence of the government.
Meanwhile, the entire state is caught up in utter chaos caused by the lockdown announced without any preparation that left people stranded, wanting essential items, with many undertaking long arduous journey on foot to their homes in order to escape sheer hunger, aggravated by total confusion caused by daily changing rules and notifications.
Under these circumstances, it is sad to learn that the government ordered creation of separate hospital wards for patients on the basis of their religious identity, Hindu and Muslim.
It is most unfortunate that despite holding a Constitutional position as the chief minister of the state, Rupani has maliciously attempted to target a particular religious group in clear violation of Article 51 of the Constitution.
People of the state expect the chief minister to strengthen the Constitution and the social fabric of this country and not to behave as the leader of a right-wing separatist organization that disintegrates our society and weakens the nation.
He must make public the names of all people, including those holding diplomatic exemptions, who entered Gujarat from abroad starting January 30 2020 till the day the last of the international flights flew down to the state’s airports.
The chief minister must issue a white paper on steps taken by the state government in preparation of the pandemic. This will make it clear to the people of the state who actually brought the deadly coronavirus in the city of Ahmedabad.
He must pledge to protect the Constitution and take such steps that would strengthen the social fabric of the state and encourage us to fight and defeat the pandemic together.
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*Convenor, Minority Coordination Committee, Ahmedabad. Recently, Nafees wrote an open letter to Gujarat chief minister demanding white paper

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