How Muslim-Majority Nuh Overcame the COVID-19 Challenge Post April's Spike in Cases

A lawyer’s congratulatory letter to the deputy commissioner highlights how confidence building measures and involving community leaders helped counter rumours and improve testing, containment and treatment.

New Delhi: Haryana’s only Muslim majority district, Nuh, has shown encouraging signs of containing the COVID-19 spread after emerging as one of the four leading districts with positive cases in early April. The district, where it was feared that spread of the virus could be more as a number of residents had attended the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Nizamuddin in mid-March, has effectively managed to contain the spread of the virus.

No deaths in Nuh

As per the May 11 COVID-19 bulletin of the health department of the Haryana government, Nuh district, which is part of the Mewat region that is spread over three states, has reported a total of 60 cases of which 57 have recovered or been discharged. Of the remaining three cases, two have been active for less than 14 days while one has been active for more than that.

With no new cases or deaths being reported, the spread of coronavirus in the district appears to have been controlled well for the time being. Overall the total number of positive cases in Haryana as of today stood at 719 (including 14 Italian nationals), while 10 people have so far died due to the novel coronavirus.

So, how did Nuh manage to control the spread of the virus despite serious social limitations?

District figures in 101 most backward list

A part of the answer can be found in a letter written by a Supreme Court advocate, Rajeev Yadav, to the Deputy Commissioner of the district. In this letter, Yadav noted that Nuh is considered one of the most backward districts of Haryana. He pointed out that it also comes “at the bottom of Niti Aayog’s 101 most backward district list of India”.

As such, Yadav said it was a “big achievement” that the district managed to control the COVID-19 spread so well and that too “when advanced nation and advanced districts in India with best of medical facilities are not able to contain community transmission and lakhs of cases are coming everyday with large number of casualties.”

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Containment zones were implemented successfully

Yadav’s letter to the district official lays down the various measures which were deployed to reach out to the masses and involve them in the fight against the dreaded virus.

He wrote that “community transmission” was prevented by implementing containment zones in letter and spirit. Also, this was “followed by large scale testing with active participation of citizens”.

The administration, he wrote, also took to “educating citizens to come forward and report symptoms without any fear”. This resulted in people coming forward and getting themselves quarantined despite various rumours being spread by vested interests. Yadav also lauded the district administration of also taking care of “basic facilities like ration”.

Nuh controlled spread when ‘richer’ Gurgaon struggled

As a result of all these measures, he said, Nuh was able to contain the spread. On the other hand, he pointed out, “even advanced districts like Gurgaon and advanced nations like USA have not been able to contain community transmission of COVID”.

Stating that a “majority of population (in Nuh) is not only economically poor but is also illiterate” and that the district has very limited medical facilities, the advocate said it was laudable that despite such limitations the district administration was able to save thousands of lives.

District has majority of Meo Muslims, historical links with Tablighi Jamaat

Overall, as per the district-wise data on COVID-19, of the 22 districts in Haryana, Nuh – whose population comprises around 80% of Meo Muslims – was in the fifth spot in overall COVID-19 cases.

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It has managed to slide down a point on this district-wise scale of cases too. In April, Nuh was among the top four districts in Haryana, along with Gurgaon, Faridabad and Palwal, to report the most COVID-19 cases. There was a sudden spurt as some of its residents had attended the Markaz in Delhi.

The Chief Medical Officer of Nuh had, in the initial stages of the virus spread, pointed out that of the six positive cases, one had “attended the Nizamuddin Jamaat”.

‘Approach was not to tarnish image, but to work in tandem’

A targeted approach was then adopted by the state government to curb the spread and these districts were put in the ‘red zone’ with strict restrictions on movement of people and commodities.

Incidentally, the Tablighi Jamaat, at whose Nizamuddin Markaz, a large number of people had contracted COVID-19 in mid-March, has its roots in Mewat region. A number of people from the region who had travelled to the Markaz had tested positive.

However, rather than taking the approach of naming and shaming a particular group, the administration involved all communities in the fight against COVID-19.

As Yadav said, “the district was under scanner as Delhi government blamed Tablighi Jamaat for spread of COVID-19 in Delhi and Haryana government followed the same tone by stating that Namazi’s from Nizamuddin Markaj came to Haryana and spread COVID-19 in Haryana.”

He wrote that “Nuh is the only district in Haryana where large Meo-Muslim population exists and it has original roots from Tablighi Jammat of decades back and Jamatis who attend Nizamuddin Markaz congregation come here on regular basis.”

Religious, political leaders assisted in fight against COVID

Yadav said the district administration handled the situation sensitively and educated the local communities and citizens to report symptoms and undergo testing as a means to prevent community transmission.

In this regard, he also appreciated the role of former legislator Chaudhary Zakir Hussain in regularly meetings members of the Jamaat and Imam for answering their queries and instilling a sense of confidence in the community.