Weaponising COVID 19 against Muslims

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Khalid Mahmood Rasool;

Indian media, more so the right-wing media, has been targeting Muslims, its largest minority, as the cause of spread of coronavirus in the country. Tablighi Jamaat of India held a routine congregation at Delhi in the middle of March. Many other religions congregations including few Hindu congregations took place in the country during the same period but none of them was blamed causing the spread of coronavirus. However, televison, press and social media was flooded only with stories related to the muslim preachers’ organisation. Muslim bashing in the garb of coronavirus was so brutal, obvious and widespread that almost all major global news outlets covered the horror with the utmost dismay and disbelief. Al Jazeera, Voice of America, BBC, The Guardian, The New York Times and Washington Post featured quite vivedly the madness of the Hindu majority to target the largest minority of the country in the wake of the deadly coronavirus. The world, as usual, had deaf ears for the horrifying stories rolling out of India with the exception of a few human rights organisations. This callous attitude was not strange and followed a past pattern of indifference. Not long ago, most of the world powers turned their eyes away from the atrocities committed in Jammu and Kashmir when the Modi government stripped off its special constitutional status.

It is ironic and indeed, a painful comparison that people from most of the countries are tired and worn out from the lockdown imposed to save them from the spread of coronavirus. US President Donald Trump and many of his party governors are daring to reopen the economy at the earliest. Demonstrations took place last week in many states, demanding the resumption of daily routine and work. Many even dubbed the lock down against the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution which talks about civil liberties. The patience of the people to stay home and employ the stay safe strategy against coronavirus is clearly wearing thin. Compare this to the blunt reminder of Jammu amd Kashmir being under lockdown too, except for the last eight months. And that too with eight hundred thousand plus armed forces with live ammunition patrolling the streets 24/7. As if turning Jammu and Kashmir valley into a living hell was not enoughy to satisfy the overzealous religious fervor of the Hindu far-right, the pandemic of coronavirus has been weaponized to target Muslims in the whole country. The head of Tableeghi Jamaat, Maulana Saad Kandhalvi has been charged with homicide in a police report. There have been numourous brutal attacks against Muslims across India, resulting in many lives lost and growing fear amongst Muslims. The businesses of Muslims are being boycotted in overzealous and overcharged settlements. New Delhi witnessed the worst anti-Muslim riots of recent history in February this year.

The violent and charged attackers did not even wait for Trump’s state visit to wrap up. BJP-sponsored Hindu fanatics lost their patience in the prolonged sit-in at Shaheed Bagh, New Delhi which drew huge crowds from across the community and media coverage. Many secular intellectuals raised voices against the violent and majoratarian madness under the garb of religion, but most of the media and the Modi government was not and is not in listening mode. Madness is dangerous, but it becomes lethal if there is a method to it. BJP never concealed its Islamophobic mindset. However, it started marginalizing Muslims more aggressively from the start of its 2nd term. It stripped away the special constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmi in August, passed infamous Citizenship Amendment Act, started ramping up the drive of the National Citizenship Register and now, even the spread of corona has been blamed on Muslims. BJP is systemically making Muslims untouchables in the country. International opinion about human right violations and the prolonged siege of Jammu and Kashmir was and still is compromised with its economic ties with India. Now that world powers are stuck at home against devastation and catastrophes, BJP’s Hindutva agenda has found another novel way to marginalise Muslims with fear and bullying; this time with COVID-19. May some sanity prevail in India soon. Sadly, another holocaust seems to be in the making.

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