Corona pandemic’s fright has now reached almost every corner of the country and the globe.        While we are awaiting a prompt solution to the grave crisis, a legal as well as moral obligation falls on everyone to dwell inside homes; stay safe and let others stay safe. While necessary measures are being taken everywhere to control the health catastrophe, media’s responsibility too increases manifold to educate people and serve as an intermediary between the state machineries and the public to put an end to the calamity. But a section of Indian media, since the Tablighi-Jamaat issue came to light, have bend over backwards to give the issue and the calamity, both a communal colour. The sequence of the event is not the concern here, because observation of the sequence makes it apparent that a problem has occurred owing to the negligence of Markaz-Nizamuddin. But the problem is akin to the problems that eventuated due to the negligence of either a celebrity’s presence in the parties, Noida’s company or other gatherings across the country after the   declaration of the lockdown. Here, the concern is the fallacious media trials of Jamaat’s members, depiction of the Markaz as a colossal source or incubator of the deadly pandemic, flashing pure malevolence onscreen and targeting of the Muslim community aggressively by the media.

Right from the day Tablighi-Jamaat’s story showed up, they (media agencies) abandoned antakshari and all other activities which they would choose to keep themselves occupied while in quarantine. Also, they thrown aside challenges and chaos, that subsequently emerged due to hasty and unplanned lockdown- Corona case count going up at a rate of knots, dearth of testing equipment, centres and protective kits continues, relentless deprivation prevails, labourers starving, dying or getting sprayed up with bleaching agent/disinfectant, politicians serving gaumutra as a cure and attending grand weddings and religious programs, food costs rising high, but only Tablighi-Jamaat catches their eyes. Throughout the day, they carry on with the task of shouting out loud, criticising, inculpating and vilifying Muslim community, particularly Jamaat. A keen observation of their engagements suggests two reasons. First, they want to keep the audience away from the real issues, thus, are duping them with a scapegoat. They are not reporting the inadequacy of the state’s plan to fight COVID-19, nor the good work common men and NGOs are doing to support the poor and needy. Second, they want to humiliate the Muslim community and promote anti-Muslim hysteria that has been the prime actuator of Indian politics, at-least for last six years. Headlines like ‘jamaat ne phoda cororna bomb (Jamaat exploded corona bomb)’, ‘Corona Jihad se desh bachao (Save the country from corona jihad)’, ‘Nizamuddin ka villain kaun (Who is the villain of Nizamuddin)’or ‘talibani Jamaat (Terrorist group)’ reflect media’s prejudice against Muslims and a deliberate attempt to foster communal feelings amongst the audience. This projection of Muslims by this section of media, however sounds similar to the slanders they uttered during anti-CAA protest, anti-Muslim Delhi pogrom in Delhi and lynching episodes. While journalists like Ravish Kumar, Sandeep Chaudhary and others are doing their best to inform and educate the audience, these media agencies have forgotten the principles of journalism and turned into a disinformation apparatus, as Noam Chomsky says:

‘There are growing social and economic problems, in fact, maybe catastrophes. Nobody in power has any intention of doing anything about them. If you look at the domestic programs of the administration of the past ten years- I include here the Democratic opposition- there’s really no serious proposal about what to do about the severe problems of health education, homelessness, joblessness, crime, soaring criminal population, jails, deterioration in the inner cities- the whole raft of problems…. In such circumstances you have got to divert the bewildered herd, because if they start noticing it they may not like it, since they are the ones suffering from it. Just having them watch the Superbowl and the sitcoms may not be enough. You have to whip them up into fear of enemies. In the 1930s Hitler whipped them into fear of the Jews and gypsies. You had to crush them to defend yourselves. We have our ways, too. Over the last ten years, every year or two, some major monster is constructed that we have to defend ourselves against.’

Since delinquency on the part of the Tablighi-Jamaat is palpable, its members should and must acknowledge the sensitivity of the situation; as a responsible citizen, go for check-ups and treatments if required, and cooperate with health professionals and doctors. Also, it is highly condemnable, if at all the news of them misbehaving with the doctors and medical staff is true, and they should immediately apologise. But their negligence, carelessness and even misbehaviour don’t make them or the Muslim community. worthy of humiliation which media is triggering. In times when there is a hue and cry all around, these media agencies should understand their role and restrain the spreading of propaganda and hatred.

Shafey Anwarul Haque is a Research Scholar at Aligarh Muslim University)


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