On Friday, the Bombay High Court criticised the media's portrayal of foreign nationals who attended the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi's Nizamuddin in March, calling it "persecution" and "propaganda".
The court made the observation while quashing the FIRs filed against 29 foreign nationals who are members of the Tablighi Jamaat, LiveLaw said. The nationals had been booked for violating the terms of their tourist visas by attending the congregation. The congregation was at the centre of a media storm after Covid cases across states were traced to the event.
According to LiveLaw, the court was hearing three separate petitions filed by petitioners from Indonesia, Ghana, Tanzania, the Ivory Coast, and others. The petitioners had been booked, LiveLaw noted, after the police "claimed to have received secret information about them...offering prayers in violation of lockdown orders".
The court said: "The aforesaid material produced on record shows...there is no restriction on foreigners for visiting religious places and attending normal religious activities like attending religious discourses."
Crucially, LiveLaw reported, the court continued: "There was big propaganda in print media and electronic media against the foreigners who had come to Markaz Delhi and an attempt was made to create a picture that these foreigners were responsible for spreading Covid-19 virus in India. There was virtually persecution against these foreigners."
It continued: "A political government tries to find the scapegoat when there is a pandemic or calamity and the circumstances show that there is probability that these foreigners were chosen to make them scapegoats..."
The court also referenced the citizenship law protests that took place across India in December and January, saying there was a "smell of malice to the action taken against these foreigners and Muslims for their alleged activities".
The media frenzy following the Jamaat congregation was nothing short of reprehensible. Maulana Muhammad Saad, head of the Tablighi Jamaat, was called a "terrorist” and “ the maulana of death”, the attendees were described as “human bombs” and linked to terror groups, and, of course, Pakistan. Read our audit of this bigotry here.
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