We are living in a deeply political and critical time. Prior to the pandemic, COVID-19, that has now gripped the entire world, India was going through a massive shift in its political grounds. To say that we were in a position of crumbling as a nation because of the massive economic and social crisis would still be an understatement because we have actually been in this position for quite a long time. And the layer that covers the entire crisis looks a lot like communal hatred or Islamophobia which is something that has been used in a country like India, time and again, to cover up the failings of a government.
Today, when the nation is on a lockdown, when thousands of migrant workers find their lives uprooted, when the burden of the economy seems too heavy to bear and when everyone is struggling to understand what the post-pandemic world would look like, we have somehow, as a nation, managed to make a global pandemic communal in nature. It wasn’t enough that it had begun as a Xenophobic act, as a disguised form of racism against the North-Eastern community, another marginalised section of the country finds itself victim of political agendas and hate of the ruling party and the mainland viewpoint. This is India in 2020.
Overview of Nizamuddin gathering
A religious gathering was organised at the Nizamuddin building in Delhi between 1st to 15th March. This religious gathering had 1500-1700 people and several delegates from abroad. So far 24 people have tested positive for Corona from this gathering. It is important to note that this was at the time when even the central ministry did not think that Corona was a health crisis. They had tweeted that it was not a ‘health emergency’ and as a result of which we also had several other organisations organise events and gathering. Arvind Kejriwal cancelled religious gathering only after this, on 17th March.
And how is this hurting the entire Muslim population? Muslims in India find themselves, yet again, responsible for something a few people did. We are being asked to ‘explain’, we are being held responsible and we have to, yet again, prove our loyalty to the nation. In times of worldwide health crisis, Muslims are being repeatedly subjected to Islamophobia.
Marginalised people are getting affected by the economy, social system, political system and failing health care system as much as the next person. And if that wasn’t enough, Muslims are being used as a scapegoat to divert people’s attention from these issues.
The Mainstream Media’s Failure
The mainstream media leaves no space unturned to ensure that not only the entire nation believes that somehow COVID-19 is being spread due to Muslims but to completely shift the narrative of the central government that refused to take timely action and is still refusing to be answerable to questions around economy and health. There is media overdrive to make this a communal issue but not to actually call out the government. This is what hate and Islamophobia propagated by media looks like.
Divide and Rule
A political tactic of divide and rule that has been a part of our nation for so long, that finds its root in every riot, every violent activity, every national crisis is yet again being used to hide the failings of the structure of the country.
This is not to say that what happened was right. It was wrong. But the reason why it was wrong is not their religion. While calling out these organisers was correct, I hope we call out Hindu Mahsabha for conducting Gaumutra gatherings that would, according to them, end the pandemic. I hope we call out 4000 visitors at Tirupati on 18th March, several mini gatherings that took place post-Janata Curfew for the PM for ‘Thalis and Talee’, and most importantly, Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, for conducting Ram Lalla movement on 26th March, 2020 after the entire nation went on a lockdown.
In India there is no space for anyone to be ‘Indian’, we are our religion, our region, our caste, our gender but this also not the case for Upper caste, upper-class people who belong to the Hindi speaking mainland. It is only the ‘other’ that is subjected to such bigotry.
A Health Crisis, Not a Communal One
This is not the time to give into communal hate or Islamophobia. People can be criticized for their actions but their actions are connected to their reasoning, not their religion. And this should go without saying, that you cannot hold 201 million Muslims accountable for what is the first and foremost a failure of timely action on part of the government and authority figures. And if we fail to do that, if we fail to rise above communal hate at this critical time, India is awaiting a scarier time ahead.
While we remain divided on communal lines, tweet about Corona-Jihad, or blame Muslims, the ruling party will continue to misuse public funds while diverting our attention. I hope, above all, we remember to hold our governments accountable in this time of crisis.
Featured Image Source: Al Jazeera