Amidst the growing communal narrative around the spread of COVID-19 in the country, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Saturday asserted that the coronavirus doesn't discriminate based on caste, class and religion.
In a video message to the people of his state, Jagan said that it's time to fight COVID-19 by standing together as Indians.
Jagan asked people to desist from portraying the Tablighi Jamaat in a negative light over the developments that unfolded at its congregation in Delhi. He described Tablighi Jamaat's role as 'inadvertent and unintentional' in spreading the virus in the state.
"That congregation saw attendance of spiritual representatives from several regions and countries. It's unfortunate that people of our state were infected through a few attendees, especially foreign representatives," Jagan said.
"Such a large gathering could have taken place at Sri Sri Ravishankar's Art of Living, Jaggu Vasudev's Isha Foundation, Brother Dinakaran's congregations or elsewhere. This situation could have occurred anywhere, so while this is an unfortunate development, no religion should be blamed. Portraying it as a deliberate attempt is wrong and should not be done. Nobody should try to put the blame against any particular community," he added.
Out of the 220 cases of COVID-19 reported in Andhra Pradesh, a large majority of the patients are attendees of the congregation in New Delhi and their family members who came in contact with them.
According to the government's assessment, Andhra Pradesh had 1085 attendees and as of Friday, samples of 946 attendees and their contacts were collected for tests.
Along with Andhra, neighbouring Telangana and Tamil Nadu also saw a huge spike in cases after the incident in Delhi came to light.
Telangana too, has identified over 1,000 people who attended the event from the state, and already, over 70 of them have tested positive.
In Kerala, three out of the 157 people who attended the meeting have tested positive, while Tamil Nadu reported that 437 cases were linked to the meeting, the highest number in the south. Meanwhile, Karnataka has reported 16 cases linked to the congregation.
Tamil Nadu CM Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K. Palaniswami also responded to the communal twist to the incident and said, "Coronavirus can affect anyone irrespective of their religion and caste. People should avoid giving it a religious colour. We should also avoid seeing those infected with this virus and their families with hate and instead treat them with love and compassion."
Karnataka CM Yediyurappa also met Muslim legislators to discuss the Tablighi Jamaat issue. In a statement following the meeting, he said â€śPrevention is the only way to contain the spread of coronavirus. Every individual without discrimination of caste, religion or community has to maintain social distance during the lockdown.â€ť
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan had also responded on the matter earlier and said that the coronavirus is not going to look at a personâ€™s religion before infecting them, while stating that this was not the time to embark on a communal mission.
He said, â€śPeople have attended weddings and other functions before all this had become so worse. This is another such gathering. It is afterwards that we had the lockdown. But now, some people with vested interests have begun campaigns to spread intolerant messages attacking a religion. This is a time of an epidemic. This is a time we need to stick together.â€ť
Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) had also stated that one should communalise the matter. When a reporter posed a question around the Delhi congregation earlier this week, he said, "There is no danger to social harmony. No action is needed against them as they didnâ€™t make any mistake. They arrived by officially taking a visa. They are not infiltrators.â€ť