- So while the Centre’s response appears ham-handed in contrast to some state governments which are prioritising communication and relief, the BJP has not lost sight of the end goal - demonising Muslims.
- Yes, even in the middle of a pandemic as India extends the most draconian shutdown anywhere in the world by a further two weeks.
The world, struggling with a pandemic, increasingly asks: Is India communalising the coronavirus crisis?
The answer would have to be a yes with qualifications.
The Narendra Modi government’s default mode is to seek a political win using India’s beleaguered Muslims.
Hence, the criminal irresponsibility of the Tablighi Jamaat, which continued a Delhi congregation despite clear indications that members were ill and which had foreigners from hot spots participating, is increasingly become the alibi for the Modi government’s initial lackadaisical response.
The government gave out separate numbers of the infection spread caused by the Tablighi Jamaat vectors and health officials seemed to blame them for the India spike. Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “The Tablighi Jamaat spread is a Talibani crime not negligence.”
Muslims across India are bearing the brunt of these communally charged statements as the Panna Pramukh television channels are now acting as force multipliers using incendiary headers like “corona jihad”. The channels and their logos with such “news” is used to seed billions of What’sApp forwards with hate by political parties, which is why these channels focus on such incitement with ferocity.
This news content is hugely debatable, but even non-government media struggles with the question. How can you not report what the most senior official of the health ministry is saying while India battles an infectious pandemic?
While the Modi government seems to believe it was elected to serve sundry billionaires and people who live in high-rise condominiums in Gurgaon, the reality is that most Indians don’t have a balcony. Social distancing in the slums, where most of India lives, is a dream, not a reality.
Yet, the Modi government seems to be curiously unaware of this reality with Prime Minister Narendra Modi giving instructions to bang utensils in balconies to the country.
The Modi government’s calculation seems to be to turn the pandemic panic into eventual electoral gold. The tanking Indian economy had predated the coronavirus pandemic and was a black spot on the Modi government. But the coronavirus firefighting has ensured that no questions will ever be asked.
Opera of chaos
Modi has always fancied himself as a “strong leader,” imposing his will on events. The coronavirus pandemic has given him a pulpit where he rises above every leader to instruct the country and leads India out of chaos. Modi is still not taking any open press conferences and has even instructed his health minister, the ear, nose, throat specialist, Dr Harshvardhan, not to do open pressers.
Modi’s operatic addresses to India seem to add to the chaos. So while the Centre’s response appears ham-handed in contrast to some state governments which are prioritising communication and relief, the BJP has not lost sight of the end goal - demonising Muslims. Yes, even in the middle of a pandemic as India extends the most draconian shutdown anywhere in the world by a further two weeks.
Read more from Swati Chaturvedi
- Even the coronavirus knows not to pester India’s rich and famous, the entitled bunch
- Coronavirus in India: Of Operation Diya and Narendra Modi’s Big Boss house
- Coronavirus in the time of Narendra Modi: Catastrophe awaits as poor workers walk miles home
- It’s all about me, myself and I: Modi plays the victim when his politics spills blood
I write this SWAT Analysis, shutdown, from my home for nearly three weeks worried about my country as it irretrievably goes down the path of hate for a particularly community of citizens.
Hate has real world consequences as we see in the numerous cases of hate speech filed against Indians in the UAE. The UAE has zero tolerance towards hate speech and religious discrimination.
The UAE passed a law in 2015 which prohibits all acts “that stoke religious hatred and/or which insult religion through any form of expression, be it speech or the written word, books, pamphlets or via online media.” The legislation mainly aims to fight “discrimination against individuals or groups based on religion, caste, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin.”
However, emboldened by the environment of zero consequences back home in India, some of these Indians indulge in hate speech publicly on social media. The communal virus seems as virulent as the coronavirus. We have to fight both the coronavirus and the communal virus. And hopefully find a cure for both. Our lives depend upon it.