Coronavirus: Home Minister Amit Shah Fails to Show Leadership and Vision
In the 2019 election, Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP)led by Narendra Modi was voted to power with a bigger mandate than in 2014. The BJP had won 282 seats in 2014 while in the 219 elections they increased their tally to 303 in the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha) out of a total strength of 542
Amit Shah who had been the President of the BJP for four years earlier was now made the home Minister after the 2019 election. Shah as the BJP president had shown himself to be a good organizer who had led the BJP to victory at the hustings and much was expected from him when he was appointed home minister at a critical time. He sat in the same chair which had been occupied by the great Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel India's first home minister in 1947.
A brief paragraph on the role of Sardar Patel will not be out of place. The Sardar is known in Indian politics as the "iron man".When the British left India there were 500 odd princely states which had a degree of independence as they had direct treaties with the British. The British followed the "doctrine of lapse and paramountcy." By an act of the British parliament, these states, after the lapse of British paramountcy were given the option of either acceding to Pakistan or India. Independence was not an option. Sardar Patel employing deft and skillful maneuvering as well as political acumen integrated almost all the states with the Indian union and no state acceded to Pakistan.
There were two problematic states Hyderabad and Junagadh. The Nizam of Hyderabad wanted to remain independent while the Nawab of Junagadh wanted to accede to Pakistan. History records that Sardar Patel integrated both the states with the Indian union. The Nawab of Junagadh fled to Pakistan in such haste that he left two of his wives behind, while the Nizam was deposed and the entire state occupied with the help of the Indian Army in police action. When China invaded Tibet in 1950 Patel in a letter to Nehru advised him to immediately oppose China with the Indian Army as the Dalai Lama had requested help. Nehru who lived in a make-believe world did not do anything. At that critical juncture, Sardar Patel suffered a heart attack and passed away leaving the field free to Nehru who led India to doom.
Sardar Patel was also a towering figure of the Indian freedom movement and he was a man who believed in Hindu Rashtra and is a greatly respected figure in India. Amit Shah took over the same portfolio which had been handled by the Sardar and it was expected that at this critical moment in the Indian history he would be up to the task.
Amit Shah has proved unequal to the task with the result that in the one and a half years of his stewardship, the Indian nation has earned a bad name as well as bungled on the coronavirus front.
The Bungling of Shah
Amit Shah took over as the home minister in 2019. His first baptism came when Parliament passed the Citizen's Amendment Act(CAA) In both houses of Parliament with the 2/3 majority. The act was very simple. It concerned minority communities like Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians, and Jains who are persecuted in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan and had fled to India. The act envisaged giving citizenship to such refugees who had come to India before 2015. It had no effect on Muslims who were already in India and were Indian citizens.
The Congress party for long out of power along with the leftist parties who in any case have no base in India started a devious campaign among the uneducated Muslim masses that this act would deprive them of their citizenship. An agitation built up and many Muslim women publicly started an agitation on the arterial road to Noida at the instigation of these parties. At this critical juncture, Amit Shah should have acted very fast but the agitation continued for months and with the blocking of the road the general public was greatly inconvenienced in Delhi. This was not all as Pakistan along with the Congress party whose leader Sonia Gandhi, the Italian exhorted the minorities in India to come out on the streets. Mass scale rioting commenced and this continued even when President Donald Trump was in India. The aim of this rioting was to discredit the Narendra Modi government in the eyes of the world.
Amit Shah as the home minister should have reacted immediately. The Muslim woman had started the agitation by sitting on a public road. It is not known why he allowed the agitation to linger along for months. It could have been dispersed inside three days. He could have also controlled the rioting by use of military power which again lingered on for more than 10 days. All this shows that he lacks the skills to break an agitation and also the iron resolve like Sardar Patel to use force.
With over 50 dead in the rioting, India got a bad name and a bad press in the West. Even the US president on a visit to India while attending a banquet in Delhi was surprised that riots engineered by the minority community were going on in Delhi.
China Virus and Tablighi Jamaat
Next came the coronavirus. This engulfed the entire world. Prime Minister Modi immediately took action and the result is there for all to see. India with a population of 1.25 billion has got only a fraction of the casualties compared to the USA and Western Europe where almost 40,000 people have died to date. India during the same period has recorded just about 75 deaths.
The 75 deaths would also have been curtailed. A singular fact shows that Amit Shah perhaps did not have a grip on the pulse of the country. The Narendra Modi government had imposed section 144 in Delhi which bans the assembly of more than five people to combat the China virus.
It is not understood how the home Minister Amit Shah allowed a congregation of the Tablighi Jamaat to hold a conference that was attended by more than 3000 members from India and even foreign countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Central Asia. The congregation took place at the Nizamuddin mosque. This was a defiance of the government order and continued for three days. Many of those who attended this conference came from countries that were gripped by the Coronavirus. Adjacent to the venue of the conference is a police station and yet hundreds of these delegates were moving up and down and there was no interference from the police. The police in Delhi come directly under the home ministry which is controlled by Amit Shah. The failure of the police to act has raised eyebrows.
The conference also had a political agenda. The chief of the Tablighi Markaz Jamaat Markaz Maulana Mohammad Saad in an address to the delegates defended holding the conference saying it was the right of the Muslims to hold hands and the government was trying to break them. He also went on to add that Muslims should not fear death and those Muslims who die in a mosque will go to Jannat (heaven). The conference at Nizamuddin was attended by 824 foreign nationals and over 2500 from India.
The result of this conference has been detrimental to the people who attended this conference and India as well. There has been a spurt in the cases of coronavirus and more than 20 of those who attended the conference have already died. When there were a hue and cry in the Indian press as to why this conference was held and why the home minister did not stop it earlier, the Delhi Chief Minister ordered that an FIR be registered against the Jamaat Chief. Maulana Mohammad Sayed has however gone underground and is not traceable and police parties are searching all over Delhi and other places. The Maulana has changed colors and from his hideout has issued a statement asking his followers to follow government guidelines and further added that he was himself under isolation. The conference commenced on March 24 while the government had issued prohibitory orders on March 22. The failure of the home minister to act on this is a mystery.
It is not understood as to why the home minister Amit Shah failed to invoke the NSA national security act and arrest those defying the government order. The home Minister has maintained a studious silence on this matter but many in India in videos and news broadcast have been questioning the functioning of the home ministry and Amit Shah which allowed the agitation against the CAA to carry on and further allowed such a big congregation which was an open invitation to disaster to be held even after prohibitory orders had been promulgated.
Due to the bungling of the home minister the damage has been done. Agitation against the CAA is gathering steam and the number of people infected with the coronavirus is going up. The thousands who attended the congregation of the Jamaat at Nizamuddin have now spread all over the country and the government is desperately trying to locate them. Some have been located and hospitalized. Hundreds who attended the jamaat meet have tested +ve for the virus. Many have gone into hiding and people are wondering what is their actual purpose.
There is every possibility that these members who attended the Jamaat conference at Nizamuddin will infect hundreds more and I am afraid this lapse can squarely be attributed to the home minister who should have acted the way Patel had acted in such matters. To shut the stable after horses have bolted is not the best way forward. Amit Shah will have to be more decisive and at the same time reach out to the people. He must bear in mind that this is not a difficult task and if the great Sardar Patel could unite India there is no reason why Amit Shah cannot similarly tackle the problems which are emerging.