by Amit Singh
Coronavirus fear is just another opportunity for BJP to profit from miseries of its Muslim minorities…
Corona-Jihad is an aggressive response of nationalist Hindus against Muslims while battling against Coronavirus whereas Communist ruled Kerala in Indian state is responding in a different manner.
Nations, globally, to combat Coronavirus responding in their own ways, however, in India, this response has manifested in Islamophobia, also known as Corona-Jihad.
You may not find word ‘Corona-Jihad’ in English dictionary, however, on Twitter, word Corona-Jihad were trending across India soon after reports emerged that a countrywide search was underway for over 2,000 Muslims who had attended a Tablighi Jamaat (Muslim missionary) group congregation in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin West in mid-March.
The hunt was launched after it was revealed that five COVID-19 positive patients, who later died, had attended a Jamaat event between March 11 and 13. Later reports suggest nearly 100 participants – some within Delhi and others tracked down in different states – have tested positive for the virus and over a 1,000 people across 20 States and Union territories are now under quarantine.
The surge in hateful tweets demonstrates how anxieties over the coronavirus have merged with longstanding Islamophobia in India, videos falsely claiming to show members of the missionary group spitting on police and others quickly went viral on social media, exacerbating an already dangerous atmosphere for Muslims.
‘Let the virus kill 50 crore (500 million) Indians,’ Radical Islamists have launched such a ‘Corona Jihad’ on India’ writes a Hindu nationalist writer. Even as details about the congregation emerged on national news, #CoronaJihad, #NizamuddinIdiots, #Covid-786 (a number that carries religious meaning for Mulsims), began trending.
Indian television news, flashed headlines such as “Save the country from Corona Jihad”.
Waseem Rizvi, Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Central Shia Waqf Board said the Tablighi Jamaat had planned a ‘fidayeen’ attack on India by spreading the deadly coronavirus.
This is to note, since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, an aggressive hate campaign has started against Indian Muslim minority because they are seen as a brutal foreign invaders by Hindu nationalist.
Coronavirus fear is just another opportunity for BJP to profit from miseries of its Muslim minorities by blaming them for cause for infection and death.
Consequently, impact of Corona-Jihad is being deeply felt among India’s 200 millions strong Muslim population. In Delhi’s Bawana, a group of men has been arrested for beating up a youth. The youth had allegedly hidden his connection to Tablighi Jamaat. According to the police, the locals assumed that the youth had coronavirus and had come to spread the virus in their locality.
On 6th April, several families of the Muslim Gujjar (mink selling) community in Hajipur and Talwara blocks of Hoshiarpur district were allegedly beaten by unruly groups in many Hindu majority villages. “They [Hindus] blocked our way and did not allow us to graze the cattle, telling us that we are dirty and spread that sickness (novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19)”, Farman said.
A pregnant Muslim women were denied entry in the government Hospital in Varanasi due to fear of Coronavirus, later she gave birth outside of the hospital without any help of doctors. One eyewitness reported to this author that, free food supplies, meant for all poor people, distributed selectively to BJP Hindu voters, ignoring Muslim communities.
In district of Varanasi, which is also parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Muslim communities living in Lohata, Khojwa, Bajardeeha are being excluded from government food supplies. Also dalit communites of Nut and Mushar (mouse eaters) facing the same discriminatory treatment from the Indian authority.
However, in Southern State of Kerala we see a very different and human response to COVID-19 unlike in North India. State of Kerala is governed by a coalition of communist and leftist parties.
Kerala has become beacon to the world for taking on the coronavirus, with the leftist government setting the bar for testing, tracing and treatment standards. Even though Kerala was the first state to report a coronavirus case in late January, the number of new cases in the first week of April dropped 30 percent from the previous week.
The government has been conducting rigorous “contact tracing” aggressive testing, intense contact tracing, instituting a longer quarantine, building thousands of shelters for migrant workers stranded by the sudden nationwide shutdown and distributing millions of cooked meals to those in need.
Also, Kerala government has launched a WhatsApp number to report cases of domestic violence in the state, which have been on the rise during the coronavirus lockdown.
The success in Kerala could prove instructive for the Central (BJP) government, which has largely shut down the country to stop the spread of the contagion but continues to see the curve trend upward.
Its challenges are plenty — from high population density to poor health care facilities — but experts say Kerala’s proactive measures like early detection and broad social support measures could serve as a model for the rest of the country.
In more than 30 years of Communist rule, the state has invested heavily in public education and universal health care. Kerala has the highest literacy rate and benefits from the best-performing public health system in the country.
Kerala also announced an economic package worth $2.6 billion to fight the pandemic days before the central government instituted a harsh lockdown that left many states scrambling.
It delivered uncooked lunches to schoolchildren, liaised with service providers to increase network capacity for Internet at homes and promised two months of advance pension.
However, BJP controlled central government, has miserably failed to deliver on health and education. Ongoing national lockdown has already broken the backbone of millions of migrant workers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not feel necessity to consult States before national lockdown. There was hardly any debate on the necessity of national lockdown in India. This decision was undemocratic and callous.
Consequently, impending human and economic loss due to COVID-19, has made BJP to find scape goat to attribute their failures — CORONA-JIHAD is one of them. However, Central government (BJP) could still avert bigger national disaster if it learns lessons from Communist Kerala.
Amit Singh is a Human Rights Researcher. He is a PhD. candidate at Center for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal.