Warning on hate ‘virus’
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, in an address to Maharashtra on Saturday, warned against the “virus of fake news and communal hatred” and said the law would catch up with anyone trying to spread panic or hate.
He also said the lifting of lockdown in the state after April 14 would depend upon compliance by people with government directives, stressing that social distancing was the only way to fight coronavirus.
“Like coronavirus there is another virus that is emerging, which is threatening social harmony, the virus of fake news & communal hatred,” he said.
“We will save Maharashtra from this crisis. But, if someone circulates fake news or videos like commodities or notes being smeared with saliva or with inflammatory content, my law will catch up with them. They will not be spared. Don’t do this even for fun.”
Hate messages against Muslims have been circulating on social media after a spike in Covid-19 cases because many participants from across the country at Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi’s Nizamuddin tested positive. Few have questioned the government for allowing such an event during a pandemic and for not screening participants who arrived from abroad at the airport.
The chief minister referred to the Tablighi Jamaat and said: “Permission for a similar event in Maharashtra was denied.”
The state home minister had earlier announced that permission for a Tablighi congregation outside Mumbai, granted in February, was cancelled on March 6 after coronavirus cases began to be reported. Had New Delhi been as alert, the Nizamuddin fiasco could have been averted, he had said.
Thackeray said that going by a list received from Delhi on the participants in the Tablighi Jamaat, all have been quarantined. “If anyone is left out, they should come forward on their own,” he said.
The chief minister said the only solution to tackling the pandemic was to stay indoors and maintain social distance. “Countries and religions may be different but the virus is one. The only solution is to stay at home,” he said.
No permission would be granted to religious or sporting events in the state till further notice, he said.
“We celebrated Gudhi Padwa and Ram Navami by staying indoors. I am confident that other communities would do the same,” he said.
Maulvis and other religious leaders were in touch with him and they had asked their communities not to venture out.
“Coronavirus is playing a game of patience with us. There is no dearth of courage, discipline and confidence among people of the state. Self-confidence is important. I have it and I know you have it too. If you have self-confidence, then nobody can stop us from emerging victorious,” he said.
The chief minister attributed the rising number of Covid-19 patients in Maharashtra to more testing, pointing out that reports are also coming from private labs. Fifty-one patients have recovered and have been discharged.
As on Friday, the total number of Covid-19 cases in the state stood at 490, with 26 deaths.
Thackeray, who heads a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government, said he was in regular touch with his allies. “Sharad Pawar is in touch. Even Sonia Gandhi spoke to me today,” he said.