Currently (April 2021) India is passing through its worst period as Covid19 Phase II is at its peak, with a high rate of infectivity and mortality. The shortage of beds, Oxygen, test facilities and medicines are the cause of concern all over. The victims and their families are feeling the massive tragedy as the nation watches the gross mismanagement and lack of foresight in planning. As the criticism of the rulers is coming up a new word ‘system’ has been thrown up. Now it is not Mr Modi who is to be blamed for the shortcomings and worsening plight but the system is to be blamed.
On one hand the lack of scientific temper of the rulers made them make statements like we will conquer the Pandemic in 21 days. Some leaders exhorted the devotees to come for mass congregations of Kumbh. The other set of them held massive election rallies without wearing masks and without following the norms of physical distancing. Two high Courts have held election Commission responsible for the massive spread of the disease. On the other side there are the stories of amity and dedication. Dedication of Corona warriors working under adverse circumstances are writ all over. Hindu-Muslims helping each other yet again affirm the core values of our country.
At places Muslims who were held responsible for the spread of the disease are now being seen as fellow citizens sharing the pain and coming forward to do their bit in alleviating the tragedy. While this massive tragedy is comparable only to the mass migrations during partition, the added element this time is also the plight of migrant workers, risking their lives along with livelihood. While the rulers are patting their backs, the inadequacies of their governance are writ large; and the World as a whole is taking the note of the painful happenings here.
The shortage of oxygen shook us from our slumber. While the tall statues, central vista and temple took the lion’s share of national budget, the tiny state of Kerala invested comparatively miniscule funds in the oxygen plants and is today supplying the same to even the neighboring states.
The parallel aspect of the tragic story has been the demonization of Muslims in the spread of Corona, as in March 2020 an International conference of Tablighi Jamaat was taking place in Markaz Nizamuddin. In India the communal politics is riding on the back of creating a phobia against Muslims, using the medieval history in particular, other aspects like love Jihad, polygamy, beef, personal laws, alleged large families and link with global terror has added in no mean way. This phobia against Muslims got a shot in the arms when Tablighi Jamaat’s Seminar came to light.
Starting from the leaders of communal organizations to the biased media different aspects of congregation of Muslims were highlighted while the naked truth of other congregations and sources of global spread were deliberately overlooked and hidden away from the public perception. While Markaz was supposed to have been a deliberate attempt to spread Corona, the preceding mass congregation of Namaste Trump, the visit of Kanika Kapoor and other worthies who were having Corona could not be seen by the dominant section of our media, which incidentally has become more as the broadcaster of the views of ruling party.
Not only words like Corona Jihad, Corona bomb were coined the ‘innovative’ section of media went on to discover various types of Jihad which the Muslim minority is out to implement. The very comprehensive report; ‘The Covid Pandemic: A Report on the Scape-goating of Minorities in India’ from Center for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai, meticulously lists various propaganda against Muslims.
The report points out that various Jihads were listed to target the community, “the Economic Jihad: use business and trade to spread polarization, History Jihad: manipulate history to speak in favor of Islam, Media Jihad: use paid media to speak in favor of Islam, Films and songs Jihad: use films to glorify Mughals and mafia and use films and songs to popularize Islamic culture, Secularism Jihad: take the support of leftists, communists and liberals, Population Jihad: Marry four wives and increase the population, Land Jihad: encroach on land and make mosques, graveyards and madrasas on them, Education Jihad: build madrasas and promote Arabic, Victim Jihad: demand reservation, personal law etc, Direct Jihad: direct armed action against non-Muslims.”
The report also gives the account of fake news like Muslims spitting recklessly, licking utensils etc. The very language used for Muslims on one side and Hindus/Sikhs on the other presented Muslims as culprits, The report points out, “113 people hiding in 8 mosques” (Zee News) or “Covid 19: 600 foreign Tablighi Jamaat workers found hiding across Delhi, and counting” (Hindustan Times); contrast this with news reports of some 200 Sikhs stuck at the ‘Majnu ka Tila Gurudwara’ in Delhi and around 400 Hindu pilgrims stuck at Vaishno Devi unable to go home when the lockdown was imposed.
Amit Malaviya of IT cell of BJP came out with the most scathing indictment, he tweeted “Delhi’s dark underbelly is exploding!… and now the illegal gathering of the radical Tablighi Jamaat at the Markaz. It needs a fix (From Twitter).” Even Gujarat Chief Minster Vijay Roopani blamed the Tablighi Jamaat for spread of Corona in Gujarat.
While other perceptions have stuck to the minorities through the consistent use of media, social media in particular, this one may be a concrete example of the falsehoods which are used to target the religious minorities for political purposes.
While we need to overcome the effects of Corona Pandemic, we also need to overcome the mistrust created against minorities through the abuse of media/social media guided by political goals. In case of Corona, the truth is there for all to see, will this example help us negating perceptions which are divisive? Will the concrete experience of Corona, its relationship to global spread, mass congregations like Kumbh and election rallies, open our eyes to the truth and lead us to the path of amicable perceptions and harmonious living?