Religion is a faith in human mind. It teaches us the purpose of life, discipline our body and groom our soul. A prayer from each heart is very deep and full of hope. The chief and sole motto of every religion is ‘God is one and adores mankind’. A religious brotherhood and spread of affection from one community to another community is a sign of a prosperous and healthy society in an entity. Unfortunately, we critters are our greatest foes. Why we need venom or virus to rot our lives; when “religious riot philters served in each one’s bottle” in the face to the contagious disease, Covid-19 epidemic surge into the lives of people globally and it also splash abhorred and wars among the lives of people triggering the immortal ferocious tattle ‘the world’s greatest religious riot of colour’. The question ponders whether the dearth of a person’s wisdom in religions, the country’s politic and mass media igniting the flame of wars or Covid-19 dig the wound and transmitted into the lives in a renowned trace? Till the answer to dilemma meets the horizon or divulge vaccine to epidemic stress; 10 times faster the ‘world’s religion virus’ will transmit in the masses compared to the spread of the coronavirus and there is no known antidote to this virus, alas!
The images of tens thousands of migrant workers jostling to get into the crowded buses to reach their natives and those who miserably unable to get transport started walking on highways and along railway tracks to get to places, in the process they might starve, but at least do it with dignity. One poor man remarked, “If we die here in this situation no one will even touch our body. In our village, our people will at least cremate us”; such a pathetic statement but stronger than the will of Covid-19. They were miserably beaten and sprayed chemicals over them, unlike the daily duties by officialdom that was destined but vehement. And the other half of critters denned in apartments, surely assuring Covid-19 doesn’t en-route their destiny.
The globally renown- Dharavi slum in Mumbai is the biggest ticking bomb now. As per Health Ministry data, Maharashtra has been one of India’s major hot zones with more than a tenth of the country’s total novel coronavirus cases. The state also currently accounts for almost half of the deaths. And the number of Covid-19 cases in the slum has risen and as of now, about 3,000 residents of the slum have been quarantined. Almost 15 lakhs people are at risk. The myth – ‘united we stand, divided we fall’, the rule is to play reverse now to defeat the novel coronavirus. Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums, is now the absolute specter is giving sleepless nights to the hinterlands. Covid-19 poured down appalling crimes against humanity. And the state and the mankind disembogued into the division of ‘Covid-19 Positive Human’ and ‘Covid-19 Negative Human’ groups.
When the clock struck 9 PM on 5 April, owing to the lockdown celebration, the nation’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a 9-minute lights out echoed and shook the whole country igniting the bias arouse between the Hindu class and the Muslim class people of this nation. The chanting slogan of Jai Shri Ram, the roars of conch and prayer bells from the temple where loudspeakers played devotional songs, all coloured firecrackers and the distinctive sounds of .315 calibre country-made pistols being fired. The Muslim folks residing in this country did not pay homage to the crackling lockdown festival of the nation in this way.
The Muslim neighborhoods were very quiet and dark unlike the other days and some nooks of this country were as cold as ice. Therefore the Prime Minister’s call to switch off lights and lighten an oil lamp or a candle or shine a torch “to pay honour to mark our battling against the Covid-19” was interpreted by many Hindus as a show of majoritarian strength in the nation.
The bizarre situation due to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act that occupied the last winter again sparks out of the Covid-19 affair; invokes the recent cop violence and cruelty against Muslim citizens. All the areas where the Muslim inhabitants are most populous, the Indian province has been put through religious sieve targeting the only Muslim pigeonholed masses- detaining thousands, raiding their abodes, and even open firing on the people protesting against new laws. The witnesses and the records defined enormous numbers of people being injured and confirmed deaths. Their protesters were seen bleeding from head wounds after clashes in the capital, hundreds were arrested in violence, and by using means like shutting down internet access in different places officials continuing to try and suppress the citizenship protests in their second week. And the National Register of Citizens (NRC) – published in the north-eastern state of Assam – saw 1.9 million people effectively made stateless was a tryst with destined.
A bold headline in Time magazine holds up a clear mirror to our recent selves: “It Was Already Dangerous to Be Muslim in India. Then came the Coronavirus.”
A Tablighi Jamaat meet — held in Delhi before the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a national lockdown and some attendees tested positive for Covid-19 – thanks to pouring fake news, Muslims intentionally spreading the coronavirus went viral.
As India trended – #CoronaJihad, our Islamophobia was on show for the world to see. It was like one has no grip in holding the grain of sand slipping away from one’s fist, just like that the hateful rumors spread so fast that even the cops were forced to turn fact-checkers. The official cop handle tweeted clarifying an incident from Shamli in Saharanpur where it refutes projected news in its entirety just after going through news reports, news channels and social media. The cop also issued a statement denying that Jamaatis quarantined in Rampur “created a ruckus” because they didn’t get non-vegetarian food and had excreted in the open. Thus such reports were highlighted in the sake of the virus, sincerely owing to the communal turmoil which was completely wrong and untrue.
On the other nook of the country, someone posted on Facebook that a Malayali Muslim owner of a supermarket was infected by the coronavirus. The acquaintances and the regular customers have been buying groceries from that supermarket for many years, received WhatsApp forwarding message asking them not to visit the shop. After this, there were many more instances of the cops correcting and warning or arresting people and media organizations for spreading fake news or attacks against Muslims.
Unquestionably, the tattle this year 2020 is occupied by the religious hatred erupted in the lives of the people and in the nation; and is viewed a global pandemic through a Hindu-Muslim goggle. The pages of history are yarning about India, which communalized rape and spent hours debating on prime time television and on social media on the religions of a rapist and his victim, in horrific cases of violence against young women and minor girls during the year 2018 and 2019.
The Tablighi Jamaat meeting was being used to demonize the entire Muslims community. Hence, ‘Jamiat Ulema-e Hind’ a socio-religious organisation moved to the Supreme Court to stop the dissemination of fake news and act against a section of the media for spreading communal abhorred and bigotry.
Where is the secularism of India slumbering or is it on muted mood in the android tome of the constitution of India? Who will safeguard the norms, beliefs and faiths of Indians? Is the secularism shaking hands with the Covid-19? Why the illness and abhor on bias of Hindu-Muslim masses not yet sanitized? Isn’t the Government not failing to read the headlines printed in the prestigious newspapers of the Nation and in abroad?
The citizens witness the slippage of the ideas of Indian syncretism and secularism. The little scared spaces that have always attracted and owned both Hindu and Muslim followers in India face a wobbly future. In the coming years it is doubtful to pursue calmness and a vehement of dreamlike prospect of secular India. The scent of abhorred and pigeonholed in everyone’s breathe, in the month of love – called February, sustained due to the ruining of 19 mosques which are damaged and burnt in the targeted violence, came on the heels of the Delhi riots in the city’s north-east. Though these mosques were not the country’s heirloom yet the scenario of the ruined mosques reminded of how the Taliban blew up two sixth-century statues of Gautam Buddha in Afghanistan and how the so called Islamic State destroyed archaeological sites as its soldiers barreled through northern Iraq and Syria.
Ajaz Ashraf, the journalist and the author, wrote for news website NewsClick after visiting these mosques- “These mosques do not have an ancient past, nor do they have architectural marvels. Yet the fury the mobs vented on them was Taliban-sequel in nature. They showed their extreme contempt for sacred spaces that were not theirs; made it clear, in fact that others’ places of worship belonged to the realm of the profane,” and added that he gave up after seeing the destruction in nine mosques.
A reporting fellow at Pulitzer Center, Nikhil Mandalaparthy, when began investigating the future of our Sufi dargahs, he found that prominent dargahs in Ajmer and Delhi were being increasingly targeted by Hindutva supporters and conservative Muslims; and he learnt that there prevails an incessant Islamophobic social media messaging (like the handle that tweeted that Hindu visitors to Sufi shrines “is akin to Jews worshipping the Nazis”), was making fewer Hindus visit these syncretic spaces in some parts of the country. Again a deplorable condition in the place called Bharatpur in Rajasthan, the communal stress literally murder an infant, (the baby died), because a doctor refused to treat a pregnant Muslim woman for her religion.
Though the mankind failed in balancing the human shoulders and profound doting for brotherhood, neither the wisdom nor the government are diminishing the agonies and the miseries beneath the shack. But the Islamic finance- Zakat takes on the ferocious virus, the Covid-19 humanly. Zakat provides for cash transfers, turned out to be an aid to this pandemic situation, contributing to the economy of the vulnerable penurious tramps and their families.
It is horrific to ponder the consequences of systematic dehumanization of Muslims in India. The basis is due to the Covid-19 or the old wound raised a toss. The Virus, the Muslims and the Migrants are the limelight of the nationwide lockdown. These ideas and the follow up deeds hellishly impacted the bonding among the people in the country and it will also impact the growth of India as a great Nation. When globally we are battling the Covid-19; the Muslim in India are battling both – the dehumanization and the Covid-19.
Let us be together and erase all religious abhorrent from our lives. Let us live and let others live peacefully without fear or favour.
Shanaz Islam, The author is an advocate of Gauhati High Court and writer on social and political issues. Views are personal.