Prime minister Narendra Modi concluded his recent post on 'LinkedIn' by laying stress on maintaing unity and brotherhood in this time of Covid. He makes a call saying that "Covid-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border before striking. Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood. We are in this together.”
By the time this post started appearing in national media, there came another note as a tweet; it was from the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission under the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC). What the OIC body demanded through the tweet was that Modi government should be prepared to take steps for protecting the rights of India's minority Muslim community, and to take necessary action to stem the tide of Islamophobia that has been growing in the country. The OIC statement came in the background of different 'onslaughts' against Muslims in the country even amidst the uncertainties created by Covid. The note laid bare the shortcomings in Modi's call for unity.
Unfortunately, even during these days of a pandemic there has not been any let up in the hate-mongering against Muslims – a phenomenon that has taken roots sometimes directly with the help of the state under the umbrella of the Hindutva government and at other times at the hands of freznzied mobs. Not only that it has not abated a bit, the saffron camp and its votaries in the media have even made Covid a new weapon in aid of their nefarious propaganda. News emanating from various parts of the country would vouch for this phenomenon. In Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, a cancer hospital made an advertisement stating that no Muslim patient, unless he tests negative for Covid, would be treated there. This means that if any Muslim patient reports there for cancer treatment, he should first prove that he is not a Covid patient. When the matter drew flak, the hospital withdrew that 'condition' and apologized. Still the incident suffices to expose their approach to Muslims. A similr report was heard a few days ago, from Bharatpur district in Rajasthan too. The case of a lady who was denied treatment due to her being Muslims and giving birth to a baby in ambulance and the newborn eventually dying, would only illustrate the extent of Islamophobia that has been injected into the country's psyche.
One of the hashtags that had done wide rounds in the first week of April was #Corona Jihad. It was all about the Tabligh Jamaat conference held in Nizamuddin Delhi and the subsequent incidents. True, there was a major shortcoming on the part of the Tablighi Jamaat: a large sectdion of the people there were not ready to comply with the precautionary guidelines issued by the central government against Covid. But the intention of such hashtags was clearly to create an impression that all the corona virus cases in India were the work of Tabligh Jamaat and by extension of Muslims of the country. According to figures from 'Time' magazine, in Twitter alonne that hashtag was used by 3 lakh people, or in other words 16.5 crore users saw that. And this propaganda was promptly embraced by the ruling establishment and the media. What the central minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi termed the Tablilgh conference was 'Talibani crime'. Even the high court of Gujarat made an observation that it was Muslim congregations including that of Tabligh which doubled the incidence of Covid. And some of the media promptly stuck a chord of solidarity with the central minister and Gujarat High Court by arraying the 'statistics' that of the total Covid-affected cases of the country, 60 per cent were linked to the Tabligh congregation. And it was about this time that a Tablighi worker, when boycotted by locals as the man responsible for 'corona jihad', committed suicide. But it needs particular note that even amidst all this furore, there was no murmur at all about the several other congregations and conferences held by other religious sections or political parties.
Also meriting mention is the fact that the Muslim-bashing propaganda started even before the wound had healed from the racial killing of Muslims in Delhi last February. It again needs to be noted that not a single attacker has been arrested in the name of Delhi violence. Then what of the Tablighi violators? For violating lockdown, many Tablighi workers have been booked under charges of national security. And Modi's unity call came without mentioning even one of such incidents. It is not only OIC, but the US Commission of International Religious Freedom also placed the same demand before Modi last week. The body observed that the central government was a total failure in considering minorities including Muslims. They also registered protest at the incident in which patients were segregated based on religion in a hospital in Ahmedabad. Any call for unity without taking such criticisms at face value can at best be termed hollow rhetoric.