The present Indian government is already critical about the 200 million Indian Muslims and the Corona Virus has turned the situation even much bitter. The news media, police and politicians all over India have been vilifying Muslims in connection to spreading Corona Virus in India. The ramification of the present rhetoric has put Indian Muslims in a jeopardy. The politically motivated anti-Muslim narrative is taking place depending on an annual Islamic conference in Delhi that took place in early March, even before the lockdown was announced.
At the beginning of March, the Islamic conference organized by Tablighi Jamaat took place in Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz. An estimated 1500 Muslims gathered from various states as per the annual routine on 13 March. On the other hand, the prohibition on gathering more than 50 people was imposed on 16 March. The second step into containing the spread of the Corona Virus was taken on 21 March, and The Janta Curfew started from March 22. For the complete social distancing, the government took a decision and locked down the entire country on 25 March.
The religious tension was already in its pick, which started in late February with the Delhi riot. The Hindu Nationalists group killed 36 Muslims in the riot over the conflict of newly billed citizenship law. If we go a little back earlier, Muslims remain as the worst victim of communal violence in India since the RSS backed BJP government took the Indian Congress. Besides, beef-related violence in India continues as the present government supports the brutality of extremist Hindu Nationalist groups. As a willful continuation of the previous activities, BJP and Hindu Nationalist groups have started blaming Muslims for the spread of the Corona Virus depending on a small group of people gathered for the congregation, which even happened a week before the official lockdown was announced.
Indian authority is currently critically vilifying the Islamic organization, in response to the linked cases tracked by the health organization. Whatever is going on currently, is just a politically cited behavior. Among the 1500 attendees, a significant number have been tracked down and some have been tested Corona virus-positive. According to the government report mentioned by Aljazeera, around one-third of the total infected people in India have a history of visiting the Markaz. Though there is confusion regarding the number of attendees and the number doesn’t add up with government report. Billy Perrigo rightly written in Times saying,
“Indian authorities had linked dozens of cases of COVID-19 to a Muslim missionary group that held its annual conference in Delhi in early March, and health officials were racing to track down anyone who had contact with the participants.”
What Actually Spiked the Communal Hatred?
Several reports say that health officials were intentional about linking dozens of COVID-19 cases to this 1500 participants. Similarly, the authority was also running behind those who have any contact with the participants. Most interestingly, the anti-Muslim narrative spiked over a video tweet featuring a person coughing on another person. As the tweet claimed that the person intentionally coughing is a participant from the congregation of Nizamuddin Markaz. The tweet also includes hashtag #CoronaJihad. It was clear later that day, the video has nothing to do with the religious group and the so-called Jihad trailer was actually shoot in Thailand. Later on, a bunch of other racist hashtags was being used by Hindu Nationalists to demonize Indian Muslim communities including #TablighiJamatVirus. Following the video post, a girl called Anita Saxena posted another video on both Twitter and Facebook claiming that the person sneezing on another is an intended Muslim from Nizamuddin Markaz congregation. Soon appeared that the video was cut from a Sufi ritual from Turkey where they were bending back and forth taking the name of Allah.
Let’s agree that Tablighi Jamat was highly irresponsible and ignored social distancing. On top of everything, it is not the only group to attend the public gathering, yet they are being singled out and labeled for Corona Conspiracy. Assuming that this particular group was the only people being blamed for the spread, rather the politically sighted hard-core Hindu Nationalists are blaming the entire Indian Muslim community as they always do.
A Few of The Many Gatherings Happened After the Nizamuddin Markaz, Albeit Media, Government, Politicians, and Hindu Nationalists are Uncritical About Them and Only Blaming a Small Religious Group.
On 25 March, the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Yogi Adityanath attended a ritual along with hundreds of worshippers, even without any protective measures amid the lockdown. Although he requested people not to participate in the event, yet this event took place during the complete lockdown. Despite his ignorance, the majority percent of the media covered this without any concern.
Tirupati is a city in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh famous for its temples and pilgrimage. The Hindu reported back on 24 March regarding the ongoing public gathering of more than 40,000 Hindu pilgrims. The MLA of the city expressed his concern about the mass gathering in different places and noticed people in person.
The Foreign Policy reported on April 10 with the title “Modi’s India isn’t Prepared for the Corona Virus“. The local authority distributed food packets among the people in need. What actually drew my attention from this news is the image and the caption. People are standing compact in a queue, and most of them are without masks.
These are just a few events I picked as an example that took place after the locked down was implemented. In comparison to the 13 March congregation, these few events are not any different rather more dangerous and noticeable. Despite the fact, there is no remark on these from the Indian people, politicians or media whatsoever.
Is There a Conspiracy Theory?
Currently, the Indian Media and social media are flooding with communal hatred and Muslims are being blamed for the spread of the Corona Virus. The misinterpretation and concocted information are the strong reason behind the spike while the ideology of RSS designed Hindu nationalism is the support system.
There is enough buzz about the Muslim conspiracy that caused the spread of the Corona Virus. The game of the hashtags is continuously trending and Corona Virus has become ‘Tablighi Jamaat Virus’. Earlier US President Donald Trump used the term “Chinese Virus” but the Virus has converted and became an Islamic Virus in India. The RSS backed BJP has used some terms like ‘Islamic instruction’ and ‘Corona terrorism’ indicating the second largest religious population in the world. In response to this issue, the editor of AltNews Pratic Sinha rightly says, “The objective is to Vilify Muslims.”
This is not the first time India is vilifying Muslims rather the coronavirus is just another opportunity for demonizing the Muslim community. There is no confusion that the Indian Government was waiting for this opportunity to come and the Hindu Nationalist group has shamefully picked up this event as their conspiracy theory suggested. If it was not the case, the government would have noticed the other events taken place after the lockdown. The anti-Muslim narrative in the cover of Corona Virus is not the only story, rather it is more than that.
Being a Muslim in India is already dangerous and now this ‘Corona Conspiracy’ is forcing them in more hardship. Is it actually the Tablighi Jamaat who should be blamed for? Or it is the Indian Government, who has just cherry-picked a group of Muslims to cover their own callousness. On 13 March, the very day of the congregation, a senior official from the Indian Health Ministry said that Corona Virus is not a health emergency even though the World Health Organization declared Corona as a pandemic.
It is highly alarming for the Indian Muslims because nobody knows, where is this stigmatization leads the country for Muslim communities. On remark of this present situation, Appadurai says to Times Magazine regarding the Tablighi Jamaat congregation. “But of course, India is a very dangerous place for Muslims even apart from the coronavirus. It was asking for just the kind of thing that has now happened.” The Muslim community remains in hostile condition for years and this further accusation and demonization will cost a high price. Therefore, the conspiracy theory is not in favor of Muslims or planned by Muslims but the Indian hard-core Hindu nationalist group which remains extremely brutal and critical about Muslims in India.