India seems to be battling at two fronts, coronavirus outbreak and growing religion-based discrimination against Muslims by some. In one such instance, a privately-run cancer hospital in western UP’s Meerut district created a controversy.
The hospital said Muslim patients and their attendants would only be admitted to the hospital if they tested negative for the COVID-19 virus. There has been growing incidents of attributing spread to the people from the community.
This outrageous and rather audacious declaration was made in an ad posted in a local newspaper. The quarter-page advertisement in Dainik Jagran, dated April 17, further said that in case of an emergency, the hospital will send the samples of the patient and the attendant for testing and will be charged ₹4,500 each.
Interestingly, the same ad also slammed Hindu and Jain patients, attacking the wealthy sections of both communities by calling them “misers” and demanding they contribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s PM Cares Fund.
Outrage and legal action over the communal advertisement of the hospital
A police case has been filed against the hospital owner, who has been accused of “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings.”
Senior Superintendent of Police Ajay Sahni told reporters that an FIR has been registered against the management of the hospital for hurting the sentiments of a community.
“It has come to our notice that material published by the newspapers has hurt the sentiments of a community. We are investigating the case,” he said.
The hospital issued a clarification with another advertisement
Faced with legal action and backlash over the discriminatory advertisement, the hospital issued a clarification in a second advertisement.
A day later, the hospital issued the advertisement in the same paper where it regretted if the first advertisement hurt the feelings of any community.
Locals said the regret was primarily directed towards the Jain community, for calling the community as ‘miserly’ and appealed to them to contribute to the PM-CARES Fund.
Uttar Pradesh, one of the most populous states in the country and a Muslim population of around 20 percent, is also one of the worst-hit Indian states by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
There are currently over 1,099 cases that have been recorded and 17 deaths reported due to the virus.
Over 150 containment zones, or coronavirus hotspots, have been identified across the state. There are a total number of 70 cases and two deaths from Meerut, where the hospital is located.
A hostile reaction to Tablighi Jamaat incident?
The Valentis Cancer Hospital’s specific reference to Muslim patients and the spread of the infectious COVID-19 virus comes amid nationwide hostile reaction to the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic sect that defied health warnings to hold a religious event in Delhi last month.
The Jamaat issue also found a mention in the hospital’s advertisement.
The Health Ministry has said that around 30 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the country (or over 4,200) have been linked to the event at the Markaz Nizamuddin, a 1,000-year-old complex.
At least 9,000 people participated in the event with thousands later traveling to various parts of the country.
In its daily press briefing, the ministry also said that around 60 percent of coronavirus cases in UP (or around 590) were connected to the Tablighi Jamaat.
Across India, the number of coronavirus cases has crossed 17,000, with 556 deaths included in that figure. The country remains under a lockdown imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month (and extended to May 3 last week) to break the chain of transmission of the virus.