Scapegoats and Holy Cows :

Ram Puniyani

Media, Police and Tablighi Jamaat in the Times of Covid 19

The spread of Corona Virus in India has been on the upswing despite the measures undertaken by the state. In most parts of India the suffering has been immense. The central Government took up the issue of Covid 19, with great amount of delay. From early February WHO started warning the Governments all around about the impending dangers of the pandemic. That time Indian Government was busy in organizing ‘Namaste Trump’ and the ruling party at Centre was busy with the operation Kamal to overthrow the Congress Government in MP. As The Janata Curfew was declared on 22nnd March and total lockdown on 24th March, the issue started being taken up seriously. To shirk the responsibility of the state, it found a very convenient target. The Tabligi Jamaat’s (TJ) seminar (13-15 March) in Markaz Nijamuddin was blamed for the spread of Corona by the Government and then by the media. Definitely some lapses must have occurred in organizing of the seminar at this time, and a large assembly taking place during a pandemic is inexcusable at one level.

At the same time thousands of people had come to India for the event ‘Namaste Trump’. Nearly two lakh people were exposed to this event. The Temples and Mutt congregations were going on. The TJ people had come to India with due permissions and screenings at airports. Despite all this the move to blame them for spreading Corona just exemplified the mind set and political manoeuvre of the Government. Demonising Tablighis  was to target the whole Muslim Community of country.

The Godi (Lap) Media (or Communal media) went hysteric in proclaiming that Tablighis were deliberately spreading the disease as per the plan. This is their ‘Corona Jihad’ and they are preparing ‘Corona Bomb’ in Markaz, which is at stone’s throw from the police station of the area! The reach of this section of media is astounding. It got picked up and ‘Muslims are deliberately spreading the disease’ became part of the ‘common social understanding’. The impact on the social life was instant. Muslim truck drivers at places had to run away to escape the mobs. The Muslim vegetable vendors were beaten up at places and not permitted in many housing colonies.

After some of these Tablighis were quarantined and admitted to hospitals, it was a heyday for the fake news makers. What started doing rounds was that these Tablighis are making obscene gestures to nurses, are spitting, and are moving in the wards without clothes. All this gave grist to the mill of Islamophobia, already peaking in India. Police promptly went into action and cases were launched against the Tablighis who had come from abroad. The cases filed were under various clauses related to violation of VISA rules, spreading the epidemic, and also preaching Islam.

In couple of judgments on the issue, the role of media and police has come from scathing criticism. The blatant falsehood of FIR’s and the propaganda of section of Media stand exposed. In its judgement the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High court, the observation of the court are remarkably reflecting of the state of affairs of the attitude of police and media towards Muslims. The High Court clearly stated that the action against Tablighis is an attempt to find the scapegoat for the Covid 19. It observes, “, “A political Government tries to find the scapegoat when there is pandemic or calamity and the circumstances show that there is probability that these foreigners were chosen to make them scapegoats. The aforesaid circumstances and the latest figures of infection in India show that such action against present petitioners should not have been taken.” And further critiquing the media, the Court observes, “There was big propaganda in print media and electronic media against the foreigners who had come to Markaz Delhi and an attempt was made to create a picture that these foreigners were responsible for spreading covid-19 virus in India. There was virtually persecution against these foreigners.”

The judgment should go down as a case study of the attitude of state (police) and media towards its religious minorities in the country as those Muslims who came from aboard for seminars or touring the country were harassed to no end. The Court states, “This action indirectly gave warning to Indian Muslims that action in any form and for any thing can be taken against Muslims. It was indicated that even for keeping contact with Muslims of other countries, action will be taken against them. Thus, there is smell of malice to the action taken against these foreigners and Muslim for their alleged activities. The circumstances like malice are important consideration when relief is claimed of quashing of F.I.R. and the case itself.”

Incidentally as Covid 19 shows us that those who matter and those who spread information are totally biased and look for scapegoats among Muslims, it also shows that there are some who are treated as Holy Cows. In the recent Delhi violence most of those who have been targeted are those who were active in protests against Government in anti CAA-NRC agitations. Those who gave provocative speeches, Desh Ke Gaddaron ko, (Anurag Thakur), There are rapist amongst those participating in the protests (Parvesh Varma) and ‘We will dislodge them physically (Kapil Mishra), are very much moving around while those who talked of peaceful protests are under the scanner.

Similar attitude was also observed in the series of bomb blasts, which shook the country between 2006-2008. Just one example will suffice, in the aftermath of Makkah Masjid blast (Hyderabad) scores of Muslim youth were arrested right away. They were released again by Court for the lack of any credible evidence. In Malegaon blast case ditto, one of the accused in the blast Pragya Thakur is on bail and has become the law maker. In practice what is ruling is the biased attitude, targeting some for their religion and exonerating others, again for their belonging to a particular religion!


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

This 5th August nation witnessed a spectacle of Prime Minister doing the bhumi Pujan of Ram Temple on the site where Babri Mosque was demolished 28 years ago. In full religious regalia the Prime Minster performed the elaborate puja in presence of the Chief of the RSS, the organization which spearheading the transformation of potentially secular, diverse, plural India into a Hindu Rashtra.

Mr. Narendra Modi in his speech claimed that this 5th August, day of Bhumi Pujan of Lord Ram is comparable to 15th August, the day India got freedom.  Said he, “Many generations sacrificed everything in India’s independence movement! Just as August 15 is testimony to the sacrifices made by lakhs of people, the Ram Mandir bears testimony to centuries of struggle…”  He went on to say that as people from all sections of the society had rallied behind Mahatma Gandhi to free India, the socially disadvantaged, Dalits, adivasis, every section had helped lay the foundation for Ram Mandir,”. And further "Many attempts were made to remove the very existence of Lord Ram… finally Ram Janmabhoomi has become free of the cycle of destruction and resurrection. For crores of people in India, centuries of wait are ending.”

Only few the major political parties, supposed to be secular, called out the lies contained in the outpouring of the PM. Comparing the two events is like comparing chalk with cheese. India’s freedom movement was a glaring example of democratic struggle based on truth, non-violence and inclusive spirit. It was not only the biggest ever mass movement in the History of the World; it also sounded the death knell of colonialism not only in India but triggered the same process in many other colonies.

It resorted to address the grievances of the colonial India writhing under the hegemonic and plundering nature of British rule. It underlined the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The stalwarts who participated in making of the modern India, in various ways underlined these lofty principles, with justice being the core aspect of the movement which made ‘India as a Nation in the making’. The religious minorities found their space to identify with it; the dalits, women and Adivasis participated in it with a longing for equality. The yeomen efforts of the father of the nation cemented a fraternity which united different parts of the diverse country. The fraternity of the country overcame the boundary lines of caste, creed, religion, ethnicity and gender.

While 15th August saw the culmination of these democratic processes based on secularism, it also paved the path for the Constitution of India which recognized the principles of modern nation state. India undertook the path of progress with Industrialization, deepening of modern education, irrigation, foundation of institution of science and promotion of scientific temper. Secularism was the credo and it yielded rich dividends in lifting the nation on the path where the country could undertake genuine industrialization, progress in educating among others.

The Ram Temple movement is a total contrast to all that freedom movement of India stood for. Contrary to the truth and non violence, the foundations of freedom movement, the whole Ram Temple movement was based on a construct that Lord Ram was born precisely on the spot where Babri mosque stood. The criminal and illegal acts of installing Ram Lalla idols (1949) and demolition of the mosque on 6th December 1992 are the foundation on which Lord Ram Temple will come up. The Courts despite first dividing the land among three litigants (one third to Muslim parry), despite recognizing the crime of demolition of the mosque, finally allotted the whole land to ‘Hindu side’. Courts did not uphold the myth that there was a Ram temple on the ruins of which Babri Mosque came up. It did not, in all its wisdom upheld that Lord Ram was born precisely at that spot.

The whole journey of Ram temple movement, in contrast to freedom movement has been founded on myth, crime and violence. Thousands lost their lives in the violence following Rath Yatra; thousands lost their lives in the aftermath of Babri demolition. While freedom movement was inclusive this movement targeted the religious minorities to the extent that today a large section of Muslim community has been ghettoized, a process totally in contrast to the building of fraternity during freedom movement.

Ram Temple movement is part of revival of the values, which are totally hierarchical and promote faith and blind faith. It is during this period that promotion of blind faith, contrary to the task of promotion of scientific temper, has unleashed a process where faith based knowledge is bandied as the greet achievement of the past. One does not deny that Indian past has the valuable contributions in the field of medical science, mathematics and astronomy, but to attribute all the present achievements of science and technology to ancient Indian sages is travesty of truth which will put brakes on the growth of science in India.

Irrespective of the claims of the Prime Minster, the Ram temple movement is not spanning from centuries, few incidents are recorded towards the end of nineteenth century but as such it is only few decades old, when Mr. Advani took up the Ram Temple issue as the political agenda of BJP.

Despite all these facts why the comparison of 5th August is being made to 15th August. Those behind the Ram Temple movement have played no role in the freedom of the country. They are in desperately need for some legitimacy in the eyes of the people. It is due to this that their propaganda machinery on one hand underplays the achievements of India post 1947, and now is trying to equate a divisive, Ram Temple movement with the inclusive movement of freedom struggle. Secularism inherent in freedom struggle led to the building of Modern India, the communalism inherent in the Ram temple movement is pushing the country away from the values of Indian Constitution, into the dark tunnel of revivalism and blind faith.


Cartoon courtesy : Satish Acharya

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED