Centre asks Waqf board heads to help in countering fake news on COVID-19

NEW DELHI: A day after health workers were assaulted in Moradabad, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Thursday directed state Waqf board officials in all States to assist investigative agencies in stopping the spread of COVID-19 related fake news.

More than seven lakh registered mosques, eidgahs, imambadas, dargahs and other religious and social institutions come under State Waqf boards across the country. Naqvi spoke with 30 heads on Thursday over video conference.

“It has come to our notice that there is a misinformation campaign going on in some areas.. We saw what happened in Moradabad and also in Mumbai. This has to stop. We have asked the imams to spread a message of awareness in the community.. we want the community leaders to tell people to cooperate with health workers, security forces, administrative officers and sanitation workers. They are working for our safety and well-being.. even putting their own lives at risk in this coronavirus pandemic,” Naqvi said.

The minister added that there were messages being circulated on social media that were complete lies. Specifically, some videos of individuals warning viewers that quarantine centres are like prisons, and that COVID-19 is not a serious threat, or that sample collection is not authorised, and more importantly, that those tested COVID-19 positive will be taken elsewhere, instead of hospital quarantine centres, have come to the notice of the government.

“It is clear that there are vested interests behind such messages. While investigating agencies are doing their job, community leaders can also assist them by reaching out to the community to not believe these lies,” Naqvi said, adding, “We can assist them by giving them timely alerts. This will help all of us.”

The ministry has also asked the state waqf boards’ officials to create awareness among people to offer prayers and perform other religious rituals like “iftar (breaking of fast)” during Ramzan, which begins on April 24 or 25, by staying inside their homes.

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