Popular perceptions form the base of many an acts of violence and violation of human rights of deprived sections of society. In India from mid-eighties many an event has shaped the perceptions and intensified Hate towards the religious minorities. Already the rise of communal politics during freedom movement had created a uniform image of minorities, Muslims in particular. This has been taking downward spiral by and by. Not an event is missed where the negative perceptions are not deepened. Be it the issue of Ram Janmbhumi-Babri mosque or the Holy cow, stereotypes have been so constructed that the Muslims in particular are given negative image. Intensifying this problem further has been the tragedy of Corona Virus pandemic. While dealing with such a National emergency requires utmost unity, the communal forces, this time the section of Media in particular, which has come to be labeled as Lap media, has played the role which is reprehensible.
Through their biased programs they presented the Nijamuddin Markaz event as the nidus of Corona spread in India putting the blame of spread of this dreaded pandemic on Tabligi Jamaat (TJ). True TJ cannot be exonerated in the spread of the disease through its acts of commission and omission. But there have been parallel acts by other organizations including the steps not taken by the state due to which India is undergoing the pangs of this disease. While many may dismiss this as whataboutery, the fact is that among the ten defaulters, if you single out one for the act, it is targeting and deliberate singling out for sinister goals. One should blame TJ for sure but this blame has to be in conjunction with other similar slips which have contributed to the disease spreading in India.
The disease begins in China and grips the countries like US, Italy Spain, Malaysia and many others. Those coming from these countries brought along the disease. The first death in India is of a person coming from Saudi Arabia (Feb 12). Then there is a high-profile singer, Kanika Kapoor, who was Corona positive and she came in contact with innumerable people. A Sikh preacher, who was Corona positive also came in contact with thousands. The TJ event which was planned much earlier, with due permission from the Government of India, was not cancelled as the overall threat perception here in India has been low.
To be precise WHO declared it as global emergency on January 30. In India Rahul Gandhi (Feb 12) tweets urging the government of India to take the Corona threat seriously, but he is mocked at. The Markaz event from 13-15 March where international delegates are allowed to come with due permission without any airport screening. Indian Government on 13th March declares through the spokesperson of Ministry of Health and family Welfare that Corvid 19 is not and Emergency in India. While Delhi Government starts putting restrictions on assemblies from 13th March the Government of India wakes up by calling a Janata Curfew on 22nd March. This is followed by the National lockdown on 24th March, which was declared at a notice of four hours.
The TJ event comes to media notice when one of the persons attending it dies in Kashmir and other six die in Telangana. The lap media anchors, who till that time were playing Antakshari, got the tonic for their type of journalism. Distorted news is immediately made the part of social perception that it is TJ which is the source of spreading the disease. This is picked up by the usual channels, social media, word of mouth propaganda and the usual culprit, Muslim is presented as the cause of spread of the disease. The rumors abound (Tabligi demanding non-veg food in hospital, Tabligi’s spitting to spread corona, Tabligis behaving indecently) the result is that on the lines of lynching in the name of cow, few incidents take place (Muslim woman being denied admission for delivery, a youth beaten up, another youth forced to commit suicide). Many housing societies ban the entry of Muslims in their communities and other scattered incidents against minorities. And all this is just tip of the iceberg created by Hate.
The section of Media already created the scare of Corona bomb, Corona Jihad, India being encircled by Corona Jihadis. The result was that various state circulars started putting forward the numbers of Corona affected victims in two categories, these originating from TJ and others. It is in this background that the Chairman of Minorities Commission of Delhi, Dr. Zafrul Islam Khan) had to write “Your bulletins of Coronavirus victims are showing a separate column ‘Markaz Masjid’. Such thoughtless classification is feeding into the Islamophobia agenda of the lap media and Hindutva forces and has been easily turned into a handle to attack Muslims across the country. As a result, Muslims are being attacked in various areas, calls are being made for their social boycott, one boy was almost lynched in the North-West Delhi village of Harewali, others attacked.”
Today the situation has come to a pass where the fake news and Hate spreaders are being urged upon even by the Government to desist from such postings, which are not authentic and true. Many Chief Minsters, particularly of Andhra, Maharashtra, Kerala and WB have urged on people not to spread things which create divides in the society. Even United Nations has come forward to appeal that racial and religious profiling of Corona virus spread should be stopped.
The logical thinking and understanding proper chronology of spread of the disease clearly points to the fact that government has woken very late in registering the potential of the dangers of Covid 19. The section of media making merry by distorted presentation needs to realize that their home work should be truthful and balanced. Corona is an international pandemic, global problem, spread by various factors. By narrowing it down to TJ and by equating TJ to Muslims in general, they are doing a great disservice to the cause of National unity and humanity.
Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. He is involved with human rights activities from last two decades.He is associated with various secular and democratic initiatives like All India Secular Forum, Center for Study of Society and Secularism and ANHAD. Response only to email@example.com