Hafta 270: Tablighi Jamaat, Covid-19 testing in India, media coverage of the outbreak, and more


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In this episode of NL Hafta, Newslaundry’s Abhinandan Sekhri, Raman Kirpal, Manisha Pande, and Mehraj D Lone are joined by Dhanya Rajendran, editor-in-chief of The News Minute.Starting off with the Tablighi Jamaat controversy, Dhanya explains how the event had hundreds of participants from the southern states, but governments took a long time to address the problem. Manisha asks why tourists from coronavirus-affected nations like Thailand and Malaysia were allowed to attend in the first place. Mehraj dispels Manisha’s theories of the Tablighi Jamaat being a radicalised group, explaining that it started as an Islamic revivalist movement that, like every other movement over time, became rigid in its thinking. “The Indian media only starts to care about Muslims when they have to demonise them,” he says.Abhinandan asks what we can really know about the Covid-19 spread in India if we’ve only conducted as few as 47,000 tests. Dhanya thinks this figure is not uniform across India; it’s just a handful of states where testing has been ramped up. Raman says that the problem is not with the test kits, but that tests aren’t being conducted due to the criteria set by the central government on who qualifies for the test. Manisha feels the government is “completely opaque” with the numbers, except for a few state governments. The panel discusses the Supreme Court order that the media should carry the government’s official version of the outbreak and not create panic. Raman says it’s risky, since the order can be interpreted however the government wants. Mehraj says, “The problem with giving out government data is the government seldom gives out any information.” Manisha agrees that the media has spread panic, singling out the “pro-Modi media” which uses phrases like “corona jihad” and “jihadi biowarfare”. The panel also discusses positive stories in these dark times, Kerala’s handling of the crisis, China reopening its wet markets, the Central Vista redevelopment plan, and much more. Tune in!

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