New Delhi accused of ‘hate-mongering’ over virus

A health worker wearing a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suit checks the body temperature of a resident (C) during a COVID-19 coronavirus screening in Mumbai on August 12, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 13 August 2020

New Delhi accused of ‘hate-mongering’ over virus

  • Despite a prominent temple in India becoming a disease hotspot, there has been no public uproar, as was the case when the Tablighi Jamaat was accused of spreading the disease earlier this year

NEW DELHI: Muslim groups and political analysts have accused the Indian government of double standards after a Hindu temple in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh said over 700 of its members had tested positive for coronavirus.

The accusation follows claims that the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), a Muslim missionary group, were “super spreaders” after a New Delhi gathering in March.

“Our political class has accepted the hegemony of Hindu majoritarianism uncritically, and that has been the guiding principle in dealing with this health crisis. Taking an anti-Muslim stance characterizes the new normal,” said Hilal Ahmad of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, a New Delhi-based think tank.

The Lord Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati said on Sunday that three people had died from the disease, including a head priest.

“Of the 743 infected, about 402 people have recovered, while
338 people are undergoing treatment in care facilities,” said Anil Kumar Singhal, the temple’s executive officer.

The temple reopened after months of lockdown on June 11 following “requests from devotees,” he added, while entry was monitored through “strict measures.”

However, despite the prominent temple becoming a disease hotspot, there has been no public uproar, as was the case when the TJ was accused of spreading the disease earlier this year.

At the time, the government had evacuated over 2,300 people and placed 1,800 in quarantine. Media reports said more than 25,000 people who had come in contact with the missionary group had been quarantined across India.

The government alleges that the TJ hosted gatherings of thousands of people from across India and abroad despite the coronavirus threat.

However, some believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is being “divisive” in its approach.

“Coronavirus in India is being used by hate-mongers to divide people in the name of religion,” said Shahid Ali, a TJ lawyer.

He added that when coronavirus cases were detected among the TJ group, both the media and a section of the ruling class “began propagating hate against Muslims.”

“As a result, common people started sidelining and threatening Muslims. Now, when there are so many coronavirus cases in Hindu places of worship, the media is silent. Coronavirus does not have a religion, but India gave coronavirus a religion,” he said.

However, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the comparison is misplaced and maintained its stance that the TJ was the “perpetrator” of the virus, while the Hindus in Tirupati are “victims.”

“When the TJ incident happened, there were very few coronavirus cases. The TJ demonstrated they were deviants violating lockdown. They intentionally kept everything under wraps,” said BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma.

“We should stop politicizing the health issue,” he added.

“Coronavirus cases in India have reached 2 million, and those in temples or other places of worship are victims, not perpetrators. We should stop politicizing issues of health. These decisions, like any other decisions of government, are not taken on communal lines.”

However, some have disagreed and accused the authorities of being “anti-science” and stigmatizing Muslims.

“The government is anti-science and should have learned a lesson from the TJ incident and stopped religious gatherings. But now we know that the government and media were working with a particular agenda – they just wanted to victimize Muslims,” said Harjit Singh Bhatti, president of the New Delhi-based Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum.

Bhatti raised the issue of a recent religious event in the city of Ayodhya, where the Indian prime minister launched the construction on a Hindu temple, in “a total disregard for anti-virus measures and protocols.”

He added: “If he does not follow norms, then how can he dare question others? Modi is a prisoner of his own politics.”


Navy chief who supervised bin Laden mission says he voted for Biden

Updated 36 min 2 sec ago

Navy chief who supervised bin Laden mission says he voted for Biden

  • He declared his support for many of the key issues Biden is running on
  • More than 500 retired US military leaders have endorsed Biden in recent months

NEW YORK: The former US Navy Seal who oversaw the 2011 operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden has revealed that he voted for Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the presidential election.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, retired Adm. William McRaven was scathing about the record of the Trump administration and its “transactional approach to global issues.”
Without referring to the president by name, he said America’s global influence is diminishing as other countries see the most powerful nation in the world “tear up our treaties, leave our allies on the battlefield and cozy up to despots and dictators. (They) have seen an ineptness and a disdain for civility that is beyond anything in their memory.”
He also rejected Trump’s assertion that the US is now held in high regard as a result of his leadership. McRaven, who was commander of US Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, said that the world no longer trusts America to “stand up to tyranny, lift up the downtrodden, free the oppressed, and fight for the righteous.”
He stressed his traditional conservative values, including opposition to abortion and a tough stance on defense matters. But he also declared his support for many of the key issues Biden is running on, including support for racial equality and the Black Lives Matter movement, a fair path to citizenship for immigrants, a return to America’s founding ideals of diversity and inclusion, and the need to take action on climate change.
More than 500 retired US military leaders have endorsed Biden in recent months, including four former chairmen of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. However, McRaven has been particularly forceful in his criticism since the president took office, describing Trump as unfit for the office of commander-in-chief. In numerous interviews and op-eds he has accused him of eroding American values and undermining US democratic institutions.
He described Trump’s attacks on the media as “the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.” And in an op-ed for the Washington Post in February, he said he fears for the future of his country if Trump remains in power.
“As Americans, we should be frightened,” he wrote. “(When) good men and women can’t speak the truth, (when) integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security — then there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil.”
In another scathing op-ed, published by the New York Times in October 2019, McRaven said the American republic is “under attack” from the man in the Oval Office.
Trump previously dismissed the criticism, claiming in 2018 that McRaven had been a supporter of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election, and questioning why bin Laden was not killed sooner.
In response, McRaven said: “I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else.”
On one occasion when asked to comment on the criticism from the retired admiral, Trump said he did not know who he was.
In his latest op-ed — titled “Biden will make America lead again” — McRaven restated the need for an American leadership driven by “conviction and a sense of honor and humility.”
He concludes with a warning that echoes one given by former President George H.W. Bush in the 1998 book “A World Transformed:” “If we remain indifferent to our role in the world, if we retreat from our obligation to our citizens and our allies and if we fail to choose the right leader, then we will pay the highest price for our neglect and shortsightedness.”