cartoon communalism

 Amidst Covid-19 national lockdown, our country is passing through the most difficult times, perhaps since India’s partition. The current threat of lethal virus (the curve is still not getting completely flatten as expected earlier) has not only pose serious threats in the public health system but has also created huge challenges and crises in the socio-economic realm too. Till now, 46,338 cases have been reported and so far 1,494 deaths took place. Meanwhile, millions of migrant workers, daily wagers and India’s poor are currently facing a huge crisis in terms of getting essential food items to sustain their lives and livelihood in big megacities like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmadabad, and Surat etc.

Contrary to the claim made by the Delhi government (the so-called Aam Admi Party who claimed to be committed for poor and vulnerable), the recent survey (on migrant workers and daily wages on the question of whether they are getting foods and essential items through the PDS, Public Distribution System, or not timely) have been conducted by Communist Party of India (CPM) and other left organization among 8870 migrant workers which have shown the pathetic conditions of migrant workers. In this survey, it was found that the till now, the Delhi government has not taken any serious and concrete efforts to address questions of livelihoods of migrant workers; most of them have no ration and Adhar cards and  because of  they are not  having ‘legal entitlements’ to get said benefits. As a matter of fact, they (the poor and migrants) are facing huge problems to manage their daily foods and other essential items to sustain their lives. When I interacted with few migrant workers who are currently living near the bank of Yamuna’s river, located in Jamia Nagar in south Delhi (who had just a few weeks back came from Madhya Pradesh, said similar points). That is why most of the migrant workers are willing to move to their respective homes simply because, they have no cash in their hands to sustain their lives and livelihoods furthermore in costly cities like Delhi and others, as pointed by survey and shared by migrant workers with me. The survey brought out following crucial points with respect to what kind of help so far, provided by Delhi government. More than 90 percent people have no stock of rice and 51 percent have no grains. Moreover, 52 percent have no stock of Dals, 56 percent have no oil to cook foods and 65 percent have not got any help as far as food items are concerned, documented by survey. (The brief summary of the survey has appeared in Daily Shahafat, Delhi Urdu, 28 April 2020, p-8).

If the situation of Delhi’s migrant workers and daily wages are so pathetic (mainly during the tenure of the AAP which has claimed to represents the poor and vulnerable), so we can imagine the larger conditions of said vulnerable people at the pan-India level. That is the reason why large numbers of migrant and daily wages workers are now started coming on the streets in different places of our country (mainly places like Surat, located in Gujarat and elsewhere too) who are now demanding the assurance from the government to make arrangements so that they can return their respective homes safely. In this direction, efforts have been made by the respective states and the Central governments are not satisfactory enough because still millions of migrant workers are stranded in several places, as stated above; barring a tiny section of migrant populations who have reached at their respective homes through special sharmik trains and busses arranged by respective governments.

Till now, the ruling government at Centre has not announced further economic relief package, much needed to address the problems of migrant workers and daily wages. Since the government (this time by Amit Shah who is  Home Minister of India, not by our PM Modi,) has announced the national lockdown-3.0(however, with limited exemptions given to those districts which have been the least affected from Covid-19, to resume economic activities) which will be continued till 17th May. However, this time, the government has identified three zones (Read, Orange and Green) where some relaxations will be given to resume economic and other essential activities depending upon the cases of the COVID-19 patients. The problems concerning migrant workers as briefly mentioned above have been foregrounded by the liberal-left economists and several articles have been written and suggested some remedial measures by them to address the current plight of migrant workers and India’s poor.

However, a section of media and communal forces instead of expressing their concern to the genuine problems of India’s migrant workers, daily wages and underprivileged (mostly belong to Dalits, Tribals and religious minorities), are busy in communalizing the discourse around corona pandemic and targeting unnecessarily and harassing minority community, as if Indian Muslim as a whole is solely responsible for spreading of the Covid-19 (as happening in the case of Tablighi Jamaat).  In this respect, just a few days back PM Modi has also requested to the people of India to fight against Covid-19 unitedly and not indulge in casteism, communalism, and racism.

Meanwhile, despite the guidelines of  the Supreme Court to release the prisoners on the parole, amidst Covid-19, students, social activists, and innocent Muslims belonging to religious minority especially Indian Muslims are ‘doubly discriminated’ and being targeted and arrested by Delhi Police (for being allegedly involved in ‘Delhi Riots’, took place in February 2020) at this crucial phase when our the country is passing through extremely difficult times, simply because they had earlier registered their protest against the CAA-NRC-NPR. It is unfortunate to note that student of Jamia (especially a girl student who is now pregnant) has been arrested by Delhi Police under the pretext of allegedly involved and conspired ‘Delhi riots’ which occurred in February 2020.

In a similar way, under the pretext of the Tablighi Jamaat, Indian Muslim as an entire community is now being targeted by a section of media and communal forces on grounds of identity (as a result of media propaganda and communal forces, especially the poor Muslim vendors are facing a kind of socio-economic boycott and their vegetables are not purchased by non-Muslims simply because they look like as a bearded Muslim and may carry the virus) for spreading coronavirus. After Tablighi Jamaat and Jamia’s students, now a renounced Islamic scholar, journalist and currently Chairman of Minority community of Delhi, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan has been also targeted by communal forces on the social media. Dr. Khan is now facing sedition charge (for mainly ‘internationalizing’ the Indian Muslims current problems especially in the Arab world, as allegedly raised by a section of media and communal forces). In this case, the FIR (first information report) has been registered against him.  It is unfortunate that on the social media trolling against Dr. Khan is continue unabated by communal brigades (who are not bothered about the problems of migrant workers and extremely poor masses, as stated above especially to prove their nationalist and patriotic credentials). In short, the structure of ‘public discourse’ in Indian society and politics is communally framed in such a manner that when anything wrong has done by the Indian Muslims will be considered as an anti-national, anti-India and pro-Pakistan etc, However, if communal forces and a section of godi media houses who are spreading ‘hate politics’ and involved in all kinds of anti-social activities are nicely put under the category of true nationalist and patriotic, as seen in the case of the Delhi riots too. This communal narrative constructed by the Sangh Parivar and godi media must be challenged from the perspective of the ‘Constitutional Morality’(which is of course against the upper-caste and communal/brahminical morality prevailed in the civil society) and committed to achieving an egalitarian society based on values like liberty, equality, and fraternity, as Babasaheb reminded us lag ago.

When Dr. Ambedkar himself had been defeated several times in elections held at that time (even from ordinary unknown candidates of then the Congress Party), aftermath he realized that in India the majority is not a ‘secular majority’ but a ‘communal majority’ solely because of Indian voters (mainly upper-caste Hindu voters) did cast their own votes taking into account caste and religious orientations in mind rather than ‘secular criterion’ and vote to the secular-minded candidates. While explaining this the point in his book ‘State and minorities’, (1947) Ambedkar rightly observed,

Unfortunately, for the minorities in India, Indian nationalism has developed a new doctrine which may be called the divine right of the majority to rule the minorities to the wishes of the majority. Any claim for the sharing of power by the minority is called communalism while the monopolizing of the whole power by the majority is called nationalism.”

Having said that in what follows, I am not going to discuss the nitty-gritty of the details of legal matters related to sedition charges allegedly imposed on Dr. Khan, now it is under the process of inquiry and let us wait for its fair and unbiased outcomes.  Here my concern is to explore how a section of media and communal leaders have constructed the stereotypical and anti-India image of Dr. Khan who had studied in prestigious institutes like Al-Azhar and Cairo University. Dr. Khan obtained his P.h.D in the ‘Islamic studies’ from Manchester University in 1987. In my view, he is the most productive intellectuals (who used to work for more than 15 hours in a day on a regular basis) and academically produced noteworthy works and published more than 50 books in English, Arabic, and Urdu. Dr. Khan is the son of the worldwide known Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. To not that Wahiddudin Khan is one of the most respected Islamic scholars known across the world including in India whose works on peace, spirituality, and communal harmony is well recognized worldwide.

The point must be noted that it is not only India Muslims alone (however, Muslims are explicitly targeted by communal forces and a section of media, who try to communalize the problems and divert the attention of masses from real issues, as stated above) are facing discriminations and socio-economic boycott. Besides Muslims, Dalits and North-Eastern people (who are living in Delhi and elsewhere) are also facing similar kinds of discrimination and socio-economic exclusion based on caste and race. They are also ‘doubly discriminated ’ amidst the COVID-19 national lockdown. Like in the USA where racial discriminations have been increased during Covid-19. Similarly in India, the North-East people pejoratively called Chikis mostly by North Indian, are also facing racial discriminations in big megacities of north India. And of course, due to the entrenched caste system, (Dalits for a long period of times had been excluded community form the fold of the Varna system and treated as untouchables) who are also now facing exclusion and discriminations both materially on the one hand and having a distinct caste identity on the other. Barring few progressive intellectuals, why most of India’s liberal intelligentsia are maintaining ‘strategic silence’ and not too much bothered to raise the problems and discriminations on grounds of the caste, race, and religious identity.

It is to be noted that most of the left-liberals had raised and expressed their deep concern in the case of Kanahya Kumar (former JNU’s student Union President and firebrand leader of CPI, Communist Party of India has been facing charges of sedition along with Umar Khalid. However, Umar is now facing allegedly another charge under the UAPA,  for giving provocative speeches. In a similar vein, most of the progressive section of academics and activists stood with a noted social activist like Harsh Mander when he was attacked by communal forces and a section of media for allegedly inciting masses during protests against the CAA-NRC-NPR. But the question arises why India’s liberal intelligentsia are strategically kept silent to show the level of seriousness and raised the problems faced by social and religious minorities during the Covid-19 stringent national lockdown in the public domain.

Let me clarify that I have earlier elsewhere expressed my sympathy with Kanahya and Mander, because no doubt  both have been framed because of their political and intellectual commitments to India’s poor and having critical towards the ruling establishment. They (Mander and Khanhya) have always sided with the genuine concern of subaltern masses including Indian Muslims. My concern is that when Jamia’s students, innocent Muslims (framed under the draconian act like UAPA and put behind the bar for being allegedly involved in ‘Delhi Riots’) including Dr. Khan is facing sedition charge; why a section of liberal intelligentsias are silent and not taking any firm stand with respect to Dr. Khan, Jamia’s students, and innocent Muslims. On the strategic silence of liberals, one could ask, why India’s liberals including left forces have not opening their mouth so far, and  expressed their concern as they had shown in the earlier cases like Kanhaya, Mander and other several.

Historically speaking, the charges like sedition was often used by the British colonial masters against the Freedom fighters under the false pretext of involved in ‘conspiracy’ against the colonial regime.  However, secular-minded legal luminaries have had expressed that sedition like charges will be only imposed when any citizen have had deliberately ‘provoked violence’ which amounts to communal and social disharmony in society. Merely giving opinions which are disliked by the Sangh Parivar and godi media and critical of exiting government within the framework of our secular Constitution and rule of law will not be considered as an anti-national act and hence, charge like sedition should not be imposed on anybody.

Let me finally talk about the Hindu nationalist and their patriotic credentials (who are self-proclaimed patriotic and true nationalist) who are much interested to rise and put a label on the Indian Muslims as anti-national and pro-Muslim countries. Take for instance, as allegedly rose by communal forces in the case of Dr. Khan whose social and intellectual commitment is beyond doubt and of course more than any Bhakts in terms of serving and standing for the nationalist cause in general and poor masses in particular. To note that those who are raising the doubt of patriotic and nationalist credentials of Indian Muslims including Dr. Khan did not know the history of the Freedom struggle and role of Indian Muslims launched under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi in which Ulama (who were associated with Deoband school of thought) and Jamia’s founders like Hakim Azmal Khan, Jauhar Ali, Mohammad Mujeeb and Dr. Zakir Husain etc., who had played a vital role during anti-colonial struggle. In doing so, they had (especially Ulama) sacrificed their lives for the nationalist cause.

While highlighting the role of Hindu nationalist forces, secular-minded academic historians of modern India have underlined that the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS had not been played any significant role in the Freedom struggle led by the Indian National Congress (INC) under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. In short, those bhakts who are now raising and doubting the staunch nationalist credentials of Indian Muslims must introspect and read the history of freedom struggle and the role played by their own ideologues such as V.D Savarkar and Gulwalkar in the anti-colonial struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi under the banner of the INC.

During the peaceful and democratic protest launched by the Indian people of course also by Indian Muslims against the CAA-NPR-NRC, the same bkhats and the BJP leaders had raised communally charged slogans like Goli Maro Salo Ko’ (fired bullet on those who are protesting especially Indian Muslims against the said Act at that time). However, until now, they have not faced any legal actions. More importantly, several communal leaders who associated with the ruling party had also incited the masses during the Delhi riots; however, they are now roaming freely and still have not been punished and sent to jail.  However, the same godi media houses (raised numerous question against Indian Muslims) have never bothered about to pose question against the communal leaders who incited gullible masses and gave inflammatory speeches during the Delhi riots. However, if a tiny section of India Muslims did something knowingly unknowing wrong (as happened in the case of the Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin Markaz) Indian Muslim and Islam as a whole has been attacked and demonized by godi media along with communal forces in the public domain.

Here my point is that whosoever whether Left, Right and including Indian Muslims are going beyond norms of “Constitutional morality’’ and the rule of the law, as enshrined in our Constitution must be punished especially those who incite violence and spreading ‘communal antagonism, hate politics, disturbing social harmony and promote  racism and casteism in the public sphere.  The law should and must be used objectively in accordance with ‘Constitutional norms’ irrespective of caste, community, and racial considerations. Therefore, it should not be misused by communal forces to target the particular minority community for political motives at a time when our country is facing huge challenges and crises in both economic and health sectors, as indicated above and also reminded by PM Modi.

In this crucial circumstance, we (the people of secular India) have to forge the larger solidarity against the nefarious design of communal forces and the Sangh Parivar including a section of media houses who are working under the patronage of the ruling class. Given sad and critical situations amidst Covid-19 lockdown, it is now the responsibility of the Liberal-left, Ambedkarite forces and of course Indian Muslims must unitedly fight on all fronts such as socio-economic and health on the one hand along with communalism, casteism, and racism on the other in the post-COVID-19. If these kinds of discriminations ( such as Communalism, casteism, racism and livelihoods question of migrant workers as stated above) will not be addressed in times to come, more people will lose their lives from these social evils, in comparison to the Covid-19 pandemic. Let me cite a log quote of Ambedkar often cited by Indian intellectuals an umpteen number of times, which is in my view still relevant in the current situations. He had reminded us that without social and economic equality, the mere political democracy (take, for instance, electoral democracy) will not sustain for a long time. To demonstrate these points, Babasaheb had sadly expressed;

“On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics, we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.”

  The author is a Research Scholar at the University of Delhi



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