Brahmin media cannot resist communal bigotry even amidst COVID-19 pandemic

 

Dr. Manisha Bangar and Anwarul Hoda

"I was very worried about some stories I heard that some people are blaming the epidemic on minorities... on Muslim minorities... even saying that it's a deliberate act of terrorism... this is complete nonsense, is extremely dangerous... we don't need more hatred, we need solidarity, we need love between people." - Yuval Noah Harari

republic tv tablighi jamat

After the Citizenship Amendment Act and the Delhi pogrom Muslims are left with another tragedy to carry with them. In the wake of COVID-19 people showing solidarity and standing for each other's safety while in India in contrast Muslims are blamed for spreading the coronavirus in the country.

Without any shame, TV channels keep on blaming Tablighi Jamat for the Corona outbreak. Going a step further, some of the satellite channels didn't shy away from calling it 'Corona Jihad'. What could be worse for India Muslims to carry the blame of which they know nothing about?

The Muslim community in India is the target of heavy profiling, and time and again used by political parties to spread hate and strengthen their communal agenda. India is currently deeply divided and polarised. Against the NRC and CAA, people across India started joining hands with Muslims against the repressive Narendra Modi led BJP Government. The Shaheen Bagh protest grew into a movement over the chest of the Indian government. And in such time when the shutdown was announced without any preparation and the government mechanism started trembling, Tablighi Ijtema incident started surfacing all over the TV channels and social media. As if Indian media found another Baghdadi.

The false reports and bigotry of Indian media resulted in several attacks on Indian Muslims. Several video clips surfaced where Muslims were asked to show their Aadhaar cards and harassed because of their identity. The Indian media made the already impossible lives of Muslims too dangerous.

However, it's remarkably interesting that the first corona patient in India was identified on January 30th. And since then lakhs of people boarded flights in India without screening.

Prime Minister Modi, on 24th February 2020, himself accompanied US President Donald Trump to address more than a lakh people in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, when coronavirus was slowly spreading. How has this event never become a news topic for Indian media?

On 13th of March, the Health Ministry of India openly said that COVID 19 pandemic isn't a health emergency when the number of corona infected patients already rose to 81.

 The failure of European countries and the United States in controlling coronavirus was already all over the news and yet the Indian government chose to be ignorant despite all the alarming warnings coming from all over the world.

Tablighi Jamat Controversy is to cover up Government's Failure

The extremely biased media coverage against Tabligh has become a convenient cover to hide India's lack of capacity and preparedness for tackling the crisis. In India, it only became a serious problem on March 22, the day India tried to impose a curfew to determine how wider restrictions on people's movements might work.

The only step the Indian government took to control the global pandemic was to announce the complete lockdown of the country. That too without any plan or preparation for 1.3 billion people. And to hide the government's incapability Tabiligh coverage became a perfect scapegoat in a highly polarised country.

However, in the wake of Tablighi Jamat controversy Delhi government too sought to file a complaint against the Tablighi Jamat for allowing the gathering of more than five people in its premises.

NewsClick, in an article, mentions examining the documents presented by Jamat in its defence. "Documents accessed by NewsClick suggest serious lapses on the part of the city administration. Following the sudden lockdown announcement on March 24, the Markaz administration, in a press release, said it had sent out an execution report to the Nizamuddin Police Station, informing them that 1,500 people, who were present in the headquarters, were sent back. Over 1,000 people were still at the premises and unable to leave in absence of required vehicle passes and cancellation of trains, it said."

Tablighi Jamat claimed it had already vacated 1,500 people. And they could not move the rest over 1,000 people because a complete shutdown was announced on March 24 and that they were not assisted by the district administration in de-congestion.

It was quite obvious that the lockdown decision came from the state and the central government acted hastily without any preparation. And to hide its incompetence Delhi government found its way out by demonising Jamat.

The Mass Gatherings which weren't labelled as 'Jihad'

Despite the complete lockdown, several videos surfaced showing gatherings of people in large scale defying the 'Janta Curfew' and coming out on roads in large numbers to clap and clang utensils on the call of the Prime Minister.

The parliament session and Chief Minister swearing in ceremony in Madhya Pradesh did defy the very urgency of the shutdown and yet attracted no media attention.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath himself defied the countrywide 21-day lockdown on the very next day by landing in Ayodhya with a huge crowd. And yet the media didn't bother to ask him or the governor a single question. The newly chosen BJP CM in Madhya Pradesh and his cabinet too walked free despite organizing such a massive gathering.

Interestingly, none of the above events was branded as an act of terrorism or termed as Jihad. But comfortably, the whole media fraternity and the Indian government utilised the communal soil to incite more hatred and violence against the Muslims.

Delhi Government Profiling COVID 19 patients based on Religion

The Delhi Health Department, unfortunately, profiled 'Markaz Masjid' corona patients separately on its website ignoring the Union Health Ministry and WHO guidelines asking not to profile novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in terms of religion or any other criterion.

WHO Emergency Programme Director Mike Ryan, on 8th April 2020, also asked governments not to politicise the issue and stop profiling people on a religious basis.

However, taking cognizance, the Delhi Minority Commission stepped in with a letter and made an earnest request to the Delhi Department of Health to stop mention of any data which has religious undertones which can be exploited for political or communal purposes by vested interests.

The DMC Chairman Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan said in his letter "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, and others attacked.

After facing criticism, the Delhi Health Department replaced the column with "special operations."

The current status on COVID 19

As per the data mentioned on the website of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare dated 16th April, 2020 05:00 PM, there are 24,506 active cases in India. 780 people have so far lost their lives and 5,496 patients have recovered from the infectious virus.

However, the number of samples tested remains low. So far only approximately 4,00,000 samples have been tested. India has tested only 0.02 percent of the population so far. Many deaths which are being attributed to other causes could very well be because of Covid-19.

While the outbreak continues to take more lives, the number of sample tests remains low in terms of the population of India. Along with this, the migrant workers are going hungry, Bahujans continue to face discrimanation and Muslims are being terrorized. Yet the solution Indian Prime Minister can offer is to light candles and Thali Bajao.

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Dr Manisha Bangar is a leading organizer of Mulniwasi Bahujans of India (the Indigenous majority population). Currently serving as National Vice President of BAMCEF (Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation), she is former National Vice President of Mulniwasi Sangh and National President of Mulniwasi Mahila Sangh the mass based offshoot wings of BAMCEF.

A good orator, freelance writer and poetess she has continued to speak for more than a decade at Universities, Civil/Human Rights and Phule Ambedkarite Organizations, both Nationally and Internationally (USA, UK, Europe and Middle East) including the United Nations on issues of Caste, Gender Equality, Health and Education rights, Comparative Religious thought and Phuley Periyaar Ambedkar Ideology. She is also a super specialised, practising Hepatologist in Hyderabad, Telangana, India.

Anwarul Hoda is a freelance journalist currently working with Video Volunteers.

Picture courtesy: the internet.