New Delhi: As many as 101 former civil servants from across India have written an open letter to the chief ministers of all the states of India and the Lieutenant Governors of all the Union Territories on the harassment of Muslims as India deals with the COVID-19 spread.
The former All-India and Central Services officers, uniting under the banner of the Constitutional Conduct Group have written against the attitude of hostility with which the Muslim community has been met with, ever since the news of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation spread across India.
The letter also identified the role of sections of media in worsening what was already a communally charged scenario. ” The action of the Jamaat in organising such an event, ignoring the Delhi Government’s advisories was, without question, misguided and condemnable. However, the action of the media in communalising it and extending it to the Muslim community as a whole is utterly irresponsible and reprehensible,” it read.
The letter aims to chart out a path of action for state governments that would assuage the anxieties of the minority community and also see to it that their daily needs are fulfilled during the lockdown.
It makes mention of incidents reported by The Wire, like the spread of fake videos vilifying Muslims, the attacks on Gujjar milk sellers in Hoshiarpur, and the case of the pregnant Muslim woman who was turned away from a hospital and who eventually lost her baby.
Finally, the letter calls on state governments’ leadership to ensure safety of Muslims. “We request you to instruct all public functionaries to be particularly vigilant to prevent social boycott of any community in the State…” it says.
Several groups representing sections of civil society have written similar statements condemning the same.
The full text of the letter, with minor edits for style, is produced below:
We are a group of former civil servants belonging to the All-India and Central Services, from all over India. As a group, we do not subscribe to any particular political ideology but rather focus on issues that have a bearing upon the Indian Constitution. We have been holding Conclaves and writing Open Letters on matters of concern since we came together as the Constitutional Conduct Group in June 2017.
It is with much anguish that we bring to your attention reports of harassment of Muslims in some parts of the country, particularly following the meeting of the Tablighi Jamaat in March in the Nizamuddin area of New Delhi.
The Jamaat was criticised for ignoring the principles of social distancing when cases of COVID-19 had started emerging in the country. Although this was hardly the only incident of such gatherings, both political and religious, sections of the media hastened to give a communal colour to COVID-19, including attributing motives to the Tablighi Jamaat in spreading the virus to different parts of the country. The action of the Jamaat in organising such an event, ignoring the Delhi Government’s advisories was, without question, misguided and condemnable. However, the action of the media in communalizing it and extending it to the Muslim community as a whole is utterly irresponsible and reprehensible.
Such coverage has fuelled hostility towards the Muslim community in parts of the country. Fake video clips have been doing the rounds showing Muslim vendors spitting on the fruits and vegetables that they have for sale – purportedly to spread the Covid-19 disease. Cases have been reported of vegetable vendors being asked their religion, even being assaulted when they mention Muslim names. Video recordings of such incidents are circulating through social media at this time. The fear and insecurity generated by the pandemic is sought to be channelled into the “othering” of the Muslim community in different places to keep them out of public spaces, purportedly to protect the rest of the population!
There are reports from Hoshiarpur that Muslim Gujjars who traditionally migrate from Punjab to Himachal Pradesh with their cattle were denied entry at the border by the police due to apprehension of tension created by mobs on the other side to prevent their entry. Photographs of men, women and children forced to take shelter on the banks of the Swan river, where hundreds of litres of milk had to be dumped following this blockade, have appeared. Photos from a market in Biharsharif, Nalanda district, Bihar, show pictures of flags being affixed to the carts of non-Muslim vendors with exhortations that buyers should only purchase produce from such carts. These seemingly isolated incidents appear to be building up to an ostracism of Muslims.
More disturbingly, reports of discrimination are also coming in from various places about Muslims being turned away from hospitals and health facilities. It is reported that on April 8, Fauzia Shaheen, a weaver from the Muslim-dominated area of Madanpura in Varanasi, who was experiencing labour pains, was repeatedly turned away from clinics and hospitals including from the Sir Sunderlal Hospital at the Banaras Hindu University, even after she delivered a baby outside the hospital. Following an outcry in the social media, police registered a case against the management of a cancer hospital in Meerut that had put out an advertisement saying that it would treat Muslims only when they produce a report showing that they have tested negative for coronavirus. In Ahmedabad, we learn that separate wards have been designated for Muslim patients of Coronavirus.
In addition, there are reports of the special entitlements of rations and cash that governments have sanctioned at this time being denied to Muslim families.
The entire country is going through unprecedented trauma. We can endure, survive and overcome the challenges that this pandemic has imposed on us only by remaining united and helping each other. We laud those Chief Ministers who have been resolutely secular in their approach both in general and, in particular, in relation to this pandemic.
We should remember that traditionally India has maintained good relations with Muslim nations and has been seen as their friend. Millions of our fellow citizens live and work in these countries. There has been serious concern expressed in these countries about the recent developments. We should ensure, through our non-discriminatory action and relief measures, that the minorities have nothing to fear in India. This will help assuage the misgivings of these countries and avoid any consequential detriment to the prospects of the sizeable Indian diaspora there.
We call upon you to reassure all the people in your State that by following the instructions for social distancing and the practices regarding using face covering and hand washing, they can keep safe from COVID-19. It needs to be emphasised that there is no truth whatsoever in the rumours that any particular group has more infections than others in our country. Incidents like the one in Karnataka, where three Hindu youth created panic at a police check post in Mandya district on April 8, by posing as Muslims with coronavirus infection, need to be dealt with firmly, as was done in this case by the Karnataka police.
We request you to instruct all public functionaries to be particularly vigilant to prevent social boycott of any community in the State and to ensure that all the entitlements including medical and hospital care, rations and financial assistance are available equally to all those in need.
At this time of grave national and international crisis, we count on your leadership in bringing the people of India together rather than allowing the deepening of fissures in our country.
Constitutional Conduct Group (101 signatories, as below)
|1.||Anita Agnihotri||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI|
|2.||Salahuddin Ahmad||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan|
|3.||Shafi Alam||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General, National Crime Records Bureau, GoI|
|4.||S.P. Ambrose||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI|
|5.||Anand Arni||R&AW (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|6.||Mohinderpal Aulakh||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police (Jails), Govt. of Punjab|
|7.||G. Balachandhran||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|8.||Vappala Balachandran||IPS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|9.||Gopalan Balagopal||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|10.||Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Coal, GoI|
|11.||Sharad Behar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|12.||Aurobindo Behera||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha|
|13.||Madhu Bhaduri||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Portugal|
|14.||Meeran C Borwankar||IPS (Retd.)||Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI|
|15.||Sundar Burra||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|16.||K.M. Chandrasekhar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Cabinet Secretary, GoI|
|17.||Rachel Chatterjee||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh|
|18.||Tishyarakshit Chatterjee||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Environment & Forests, GoI|
|19.||Kalyani Chaudhuri||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|20.||Anna Dani||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|21.||Surjit K. Das||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand|
|22.||Vibha Puri Das||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI|
|23.||P.R. Dasgupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI|
|24.||Nareshwar Dayal||IFS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs and former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom|
|25.||Pradeep K. Deb||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI|
|26.||Nitin Desai||IES (Retd.)||Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI|
|27.||Keshav Desiraju||IAS (Retd.)||Former Health Secretary, GoI|
|28.||M.G. Devasahayam||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana|
|29.||Sushil Dubey||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Sweden|
|30.||A.S. Dulat||IPS (Retd.)||Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI|
|31.||K.P. Fabian||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Italy|
|32.||Arif Ghauri||IRS (Retd.)||Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)|
|33.||Gourisankar Ghosh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI|
|34.||Suresh K. Goel||IFS (Retd.)||Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI|
|35.||S. Gopal||IPS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, GoI|
|36.||Meena Gupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI|
|37.||Ravi Vira Gupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India|
|38.||Wajahat Habibullah||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner|
|39.||Deepa Hari||IRS (Resigned)|
|40.||Sajjad Hassan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Commissioner (Planning), Govt. of Manipur|
|41.||Siraj Hussain||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI|
|42.||Kamal Jaswal||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI|
|43.||Najeeb Jung||IAS (Retd.)||Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi|
|44.||Rahul Khullar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India|
|45.||K. John Koshy||IAS (Retd.)||Former State Chief Information Commissioner, West Bengal|
|46.||Ajai Kumar||Indian Forest Service (Retd.)||Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI|
|47.||Brijesh Kumar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI|
|48.||P.K. Lahiri||IAS (Retd.)||Former Executive Director, Asian Development Bank|
|49.||Aloke B. Lal||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General (Prosecution), Govt. of Uttarakhand|
|50.||Subodh Lal||IPoS (Resigned)||Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI|
|51.||Harsh Mander||IAS (Retd.)||Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|52.||Amitabh Mathur||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|53.||Aditi Mehta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan|
|54.||Dalip Mehta||IFS (Retd.)||Former Secretary to GoI & Dean, Foreign Service Institute|
|55.||Shivshankar Menon||IFS (Retd.)||Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser|
|56.||Sonalini Mirchandani||IFS (Resigned)||GoI|
|57.||Sunil Mitra||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI|
|58.||Jugal Mohapatra||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Rural Development, GoI|
|59.||Deb Mukharji||IFS (Retd.)||Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal|
|60.||Shiv Shankar Mukherjee||IFS (Retd.)||Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom|
|61.||P.G.J. Nampoothiri||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Gujarat|
|62.||P.A. Nazareth||IFS (Retd.)||GoI|
|63.||Amitabha Pande||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI|
|64.||Niranjan Pant||IA&AS (Retd.)||Former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General, GoI|
|65.||Alok Perti||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI|
|66.||R.M. Premkumar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|67.||S.Y. Quraishi||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Election Commissioner|
|68.||N.K. Raghupathy||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI|
|69.||V.P. Raja||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission|
|70.||K. Sujatha Rao||IAS (Retd.)||Former Health Secretary, GoI|
|71.||M.Y. Rao||IAS (Retd.)|
|72.||Satwant Reddy||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI|
|73.||Vijaya Latha Reddy||IFS (Retd.)||Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI|
|74.||Julio Ribeiro||IPS (Retd.)||Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania|
|75.||Aruna Roy||IAS (Resigned)|
|76.||Manabendra N. Roy||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|77.||Deepak Sanan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh|
|78.||G. Sankaran||IC&CES (Retd.)||Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal|
|79.||Shyam Saran||IFS (Retd.)||Former Foreign Secretary and Former Chairman, National Security Advisory Board|
|80.||S. Satyabhama||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI|
|81.||N.C. Saxena||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI|
|82.||A. Selvaraj||IRS (Retd.)||Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI|
|83.||Ardhendu Sen||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|84.||Abhijit Sengupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI|
|85.||Aftab Seth||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Japan|
|86.||Ajay Shankar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Deptt. of Industrial Policy & Promotion|
|87.||Ashok Kumar Sharma||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia|
|88.||Navrekha Sharma||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Indonesia|
|89.||Raju Sharma||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh|
|90.||Har Mander Singh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Director General, ESI Corporation, GoI|
|91.||Tirlochan Singh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI|
|92.||Jawhar Sircar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati|
|93.||Narendra Sisodia||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI|
|94.||Sanjivi Sundar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Surface Transport, GoI|
|95.||Parveen Talha||IRS (Retd.)||Former Member, Union Public Service Commission|
|96.||Thanksy Thekkekera||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|97.||P.S.S. Thomas||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission|
|98.||Geetha Thoopal||IRAS (Retd.)||Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata|
|99.||Hindal Tyabji||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir|
|100.||Ashok Vajpeyi||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi|
|101.||Ramani Venkatesan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra|