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Monday, April 19, 2021
Despite the Pandemic, Religious Bigotry is on the Rise
By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
19 April 2021
Members Of The Tablighi Jamaat Were Stigmatized And Criminalized, No Such Alacrity Was Seen With Regard To The Kumbh Whose Scale Was Much Larger Than The Tablighi Jamaat Event
1.Kumbh is different primarily because of its non-association with Muslims
2.In today’s India, only Muslims have to prove that they are respecting the law
3.Many Muslims have volunteered to help COVID patients by arranging for hospital beds, medicines, oxygen and food
4.Ordinary members of the Tablighi Jamaat were made into a scapegoat simply because they were Muslims
There is not even a pretence anymore. In today’s India, only Muslims have to prove that they are respecting the law; Hindus can simply do whatever they want to by proclaiming it a matter of their faith. No one is interested in highlighting this hypocrisy: neither the opposition nor the media. If this had happened some decades ago, a section of Indians would have called this as Hindu appeasement. But the situation has become so caustic that even well-meaning individuals think twice before stating the obvious.
It is a pervasive belief amongst Hindus that the waters of Ganga washes away their sins. But this time the river is doing something more: it is showing us the criminality and hypocrisy of a nationalist community, the political class, and the vulture media which feeds on such decadence. Amidst a raging pandemic, the Kumbh has been going on, largely un-monitored, simply because it is not possible to monitor such a huge crowd. Those who are arguing that pilgrims were allowed only after getting tests done are basically enacting a performance so as to appear sensitive to the wider world. Authorities themselves have come on record to state that it is simply impossible to screen everyone who is coming to the Kumbh. There are already hundreds of reported cases but there is no talk of accountability, no condemnation by anyone as to why so many lives were put in danger.
Comparisons will be made with how the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) was held responsible for ‘spreading’ the virus during the first wave of the pandemic. All this despite the well-known fact that when members of the Tablighi Jamaat became stranded in the Nizamuddin Markaz, there was no lockdown in effect. Despite the foolish exhortation of Maulana Saad (the chief of Tablighi Jamaat) to ‘fill the mosques’, ordinary members of the Tablighi Jamaat were made into a scapegoat simply because they were Muslims. This fitted well with the contemporary political narrative of othering Muslims. The Tablighi Jamaat members were no longer stranded rather, they were said to be in ‘hiding’. This association of criminality was amplified by dedicated anti-Muslim social media platforms which started circulating videos of corona-jihad and how it was being orchestrated by Muslims. Only in India, did corona acquire a religion.
We are told that the Kumbh is different. It is different primarily because of its non-association with Muslims. Anything to do with Muslims is suspicious, criminal and potentially jihadist. Anything to do with Hinduism is an expression of benign faith. The Uttarakhand CM made this amply clear when he said that the Tablighi Jamaat event and the Kumbh cannot be compared. He argued that the Tabligh event was held ‘inside’ a building while the Kumbh is happening in the ‘open’. The insinuation was very clear: the Tablighi Jamaat activity was suspicious and that’s why it was inside (in hiding) whereas the grand faith of Hindus is transparent. Not to be left behind, the VHP joint secretary, Surendra Jain gleefully told reporters that comparing the Kumbh with the Tablighi Jamaat event is like comparing Ganga water with the dirty water of a drain. Clearly then, for some powerful Hindus, only their version of religion in this country has the status of faith, other religious traditions just exist to scheme against Hindus.
Thankfully, saner minds have prevailed upon such ludicrous champions of Hindus. The prime minister’s appeal to suspend the Kumbh has put an end to such religiously polarizing comparisons but not before much damage had already been done. Whereas the pandemic has flattened all distinctions of religion, there are some who still want to identify corpses through their clothes. Clearly, the holy Ganga water did not come to their aid. Hundreds eventually did get COVID despite taking the dip in the sacred river. Hundreds of others must have gone undetected. Ultimately, it was political pressure from above which made them see sense and rationality. These politicians have essentially made Hinduism into a negative faith which can only be understood through the denigration of Islam, rather than on its own merit. For a civilization which claims to be Sanatan (perennial), this is very sad indeed.
Devotees gather to offer prayers during the third 'Shahi Snan' of the Kumbh Mela 2021, at Har Ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar on Wednesday. (Photo: PTI)
One can certainly have the highest of regard for the faith of millions of Hindus who consider it auspicious to attend the Kumbh. But this high regard for a faith should not blind anyone to call out the blatant double standards of this government and sections of the media. Whereas members of the Tablighi Jamaat were stigmatized and criminalized, no such alacrity was seen with regard to the Kumbh whose scale was much larger than the Tablighi Jamaat event. Moreover, the government was already aware that the new variant of the virus was far more dangerous as compared to what we had witnessed during the first phase of the pandemic. What we have seen is the complete failure of the government and the authorities to ensure that such events do not put the lives of thousands in danger.
Kumbh Mela. Photo courtesy Quartz India
Amidst such deep anti-Muslim rhetoric and hatred, something remarkably positive is happening at the ground. And much of that positivity is coming from the selfless activities of Muslims themselves. Many have volunteered to help COVID patients by arranging for hospital beds, medicines, oxygen and food. These Muslims are making India proud as they are not looking at anyone’s religion before serving them. In Vadodra, Muslims are even helping in cremating the dead. In any other country, these efforts would have been lauded. Let us only hope that in India, it leads to some shame in those who are make a living by creating hatred between Hindus and Muslims.