coronavirus gujarat

Is the segregation of wards for Hindu and Muslim coronavirus patients in a civil hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat a detached and aberrant act in Indian social and body politic? No. One could mention a long list of incidents like this in recent; pregnant woman being barred medical attention for being a Muslim in Rajasthan, the brutal beating of Mehboob Ali attired in Kurta and wearing a topi in national capital Delhi, assault on ration distributing Muslim volunteers of an NGO in Bangluru, and many more. We could not afford to isolate these incidents from regular dehumanization and criminalization of a community by multiple outfits. The misrepresentation of Muslims by media outfits and at large the complicity of Indian body politic has allowed the sprawl of hatred against this community.

India, a host to nine recognized religions, and a population of 1300 million people was attacked by this virus comparatively, but fortunately late. The response to this pathogen exposed the different layers of multiple outlets. To dub this infectious disease as “corona jihad”, “Talibani crime”, “Muslim conspiracy against Hindus” etc. on the ground the ‘Tablighi Jamat’ held a ceremony amid this threat, and some among them reported corona positive. One cannot defend the reckless behavior of Jamat for holding the gathering, and allowing international participation. But is that enough to blame and dehumanize the entire community of 200 million Indian Muslims?  Does not the government of Delhi, (a Union Territory, and also the capital of India) share some blame for being or behaving oblivion to this event?

The misrepresentation of Muslims as “rotten apples in the basket” by media outfits, and hate speeches by the right wing politicians has readily pushed, both Muslim body in a visible manner, and psychology invisibly into tribulations. Their economic fortunes are at stake, as the exchange and economic transaction with Muslims in many areas have been boycotted. But the most disturbing would how this ambiance of fear, and mistrust in Muslim community would affect the mind and health of community.

The stigmatization of Muslims as “careers of the virus” would discourage the early reporting by those who are at risk of infection. They would fear discrimination, reprisal, and violence at public places. They would prefer to allow the pathogen kill them at home, rather than to be beaten to death on a road or in a hospital. The trust deficit would lead to miscommunication between the administration and the community. Any move from the administration would be put into basket of doubt by the particular community, and would hesitate to cooperate with the administration and, even may lead to confrontation. This avoidance of reporting will give pathogen both space and time to strength its network and prepare ground for community transmission.

So the containment of this disease also necessitates the containment of hatred and fear. This can only be done by building community trust, and bridging the gaps. This is strongly associated how a disadvantaged community is treated at public places. The members of each community deserve equal treatment on all public places, including in a hospital. The pregnant woman refused space in a hospital for being Muslim in Rajasthan, put both the life of the mother and baby at stake. The mother would not had lost only her baby in that ambulance, but would had lost many beliefs over the system. The mental trauma of losing a child as a punishment for being a Muslim would not evade from her memory in ages to come. How could a Muslim dare to approach the same hospital for medical attention, unless an affirmative signal comes from administration, and the person/s involved punished. The open and brutal beating of Mahboob Ali in day light, reminds us of the treatment met by the “prostitutes” in epidemic times in colonial India. The “prostitutes” demeaned as source of infection, and facilitators of diseases were social boycotted, and driven out of the villages and cities by the upper classes. The Muslims have been demoted to the same position, which forced corona negative Dilshad in Una, Himachal Pradesh, to commit suicide. The separate wards for Hindus, and Muslims in another hospital at Ahmadabad only adds to the vulnerability of the community. The community, because of the discriminated treatment would regard the government measures of hospitalization of victims, segregation of contacts, inspections and detention of suspected cases as obnoxious. For them quarantine centers and isolation zones would be places of harassment and death to be avoided, rather than the treatment camps to be sought. The history sounds in the same tune. The mistrust between the Indian subjects and the British officials caused a consternation during the Bombay plague that Western rulers poison Indians in hospitals. The townsmen and villagers ‘concealed their cases’ and developed desperate methods of avoiding the plague inspector’s certification, hiding plague victims in lofts, cupboards and gardens’ writes Ira Klein. The relatives steadfastly stood by hospitalized patients to prevent them being given any medicine or hospital food.

. Corona pathogen is only a micro-organism, and has no meaning in itself. It acquires meaning and significance in human context, the manner it affects the people, and the ways it provokes the reactions and responses. As the pathogen is a foreign identity for a human body, so is religion to Corona. The virus is democratic in nature, infecting humankind irrespective of any affiliations. It is only prejudiced mind that has turned it to be communal, and this religious orientation would only worsen the situation. The media has a role to play to nullify the stereotypes against the community, by abstaining from falsification and misrepresentation of events and incidents. Unfortunate indeed it is that few among the fewer media outlets appreciated the initiatives of Muslim organizations Azim Premji foundation, Cipla Pharmacy, Jamat-Islami Hind, and Deoband (to name a few) nail this pandemic in India. The communal offensive against this minority community must be punished on fast-track basis. Only then we would see the end of both hatred, and pandemic. That is worthy to celebrate.

Basharat Hassan Ph. D Research Scholar, CAS, History, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India



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One Comment

  1. Bilal Ahmad dar says:

    Nice piece. Argument arumented nicely