Godi Media and govt should apologise for spreading false ideas about Tablighi Jamaat and COVID-19

Not a word of apology from the government of the day to the Tablighi Jamaat men who were not just humiliated and targeted but even detained and arrested on false charges

Photo Courtesy: PTI
Photo Courtesy: PTI
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Humra Quraishi

Not a word of apology from the government of the day and the media to the Tablighi Jamaat men who were not just humiliated and targeted but even detained and arrested on false and bogus charges. There seemed every possible effort by the godi media to spread as much mischievous propaganda as it could about the Tablighi Jamaat men, which in turn would leave dents on the entire minority community.

Mind you, it was successful in doing so! The already battered and shattered community was hounded like never before. Musalmaans were looked at as devils at work!

Not just morphed photographs and poisonous propaganda did the rounds but even Joint Secretary level bureaucrats in the Union Health Ministry also repeatedly mentioned in their official daily briefings, about the Tablghi Jamaat men in the context of the Coronavirus spread in the country. I know of several who’s who on the political and bureaucratic circles who unashamedly vomited sheer poisonous communal stuff about the minority community. Of course, it had a trickle -down effect.

This entire summer was a virtual hell for the minority community. Can we erase images of Muslim vendors and workers being targeted by the Right- Wing goons! Can we overlook the fact that young boys and men were beaten and publicly thrashed by cops, the assault on them accelerated if they were seen near a mosque!

In fact, this brings me to focus on a connected fact: Why all the propaganda about the Indian Musalmaans turning ‘fundamentalists’? The fact is that today many are turning to religion. Perhaps, in these turbulent times, religion provides the much needed cushioning and anchorage. But this does not mean they are turning ‘fundamentalists’!

Yes, they are following the fundamentals of Islam — praying, fasting, reciting the Quran, keeping away from social ills and worldly distractions and vices, helping the needy and disadvantaged, speaking the stark truth at any cost.

I had first noticed this change in the Kashmir Valley. The turbulence in the Valley has had a major impact on the daily lives of the Kashmiris. My Kashmiri friends who were not so religious, gradually started moving towards the prayer mat, praying five times a day. Prayer-mats were spotted in all possible places, right from the lounges at Srinagar’s airport to homes and hotels and hospitals. Perhaps, the only place I didn’t find a prayer mat, even on asking, was at Srinagar’s Lalit Palace hotel. Though let me hasten to add that maybe today, in 2020, the situation stands changed vis-a- vis prayer mats in that particular hotel.

My Kashmiri friends told me that they felt at peace, offering namaaz and reading the Quran .They’d also added, “ Amidst all this violence unleashed on us, our faith is providing that much needed sukoon…Today there is no other leader for us except the Prophet of Islam.”

Today, stress levels run high not just in the Kashmir Valley but even in other towns and cities. Needless for me to add that with violence spreading out, the very survival has become tough. One could say that many more are turning to religion for solace but to say that they are turning ‘fundamentalists’ would be not just incorrect but communal. Also, it would be highly irresponsible to say that a large numbers of Indian Muslims are keen to join the ISIS or Al Qaeda. This is not just factually incorrect but also downright mischievous; just one of those alibis for the police and security agencies to hound and arrest.

The communal propaganda unleashed by the Right-Wing brigades harp on a very prejudiced notion that the Indian Muslims are not patriotic. The fact is that the Muslims are patriotic and nationalist and truly and sincerely love their country. In fact , on this Independence Day, the Mumbai based scholar- academic, Dr Zeenat Shaukat Ali, sent the Independence Day greetings together with this beautiful one-liner: Hubbul watan minal imaan/ love for my country is part of my imaan.

The dark reality is that in these communal surcharged times, the Right-Wing is heaping all possible onslaughts; unsparing even the age-old definitions of nationalism and patriotism.

It gets relevant to ask who is a nationalist and what’s nationalism? Simply speaking, a nationalist is a citizen who loves his or her country and does everything possible to keep it intact and its people safe and secure. Today, with the Right-Wing government centre-stage , new definitions of nationalism have come up .This, in itself, is a dangerous trend. Whatever happened to our well -defined definitions of nationalism?

In fact, Professor Ram Puniyani focuses on this in his book, “Indian Nationalism Versus Hindu Nationalism’ (Pharos Media), “Hindu nationalism or for that matter any nationalism under the cloak of religion is an attempt to smuggle in the feudal hierarchical values in the modern language. To begin with it relegates the religious minorities to second class citizenship and simultaneously promotes the inequality of caste and gender. The core of freedom of expression; the freedom of basic choices in matters of food, life partners, pattern of life are constrained. The pluralism is undermined along with rational thinking and scientific temper is being attacked…We are living in difficult times where the very core of our national values is being attacked. The notions of pluralism, fraternity, equality are under constant attack. We have a Constitution based on these values, which in nutshell can be encapsulated in the term Indian Nationalism. From over last three decades Hindu Nationalism is being asserted in a very aggressive ways... During the colonial period RSS had never struggled against the British rulers. When US was seeing the McCarthy period RSS was offering to the Government to give its cooperation against the communists in India. RSS had appreciated US policies of attack on Vietnam on the ground that US leading the forces of Dharma in the attack on Vietnam. In the recent attack on Iraq on the pretext of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, RSS chief said that US has a right to protect herself so this attack. All this shows how pro -imperialist RSS is.”

To quote Khushwant Singh from his writings, “A nationalist is one who is concerned about his country and also about equal treatment to all citizens… The Hindutva government is not treating all its nationals as one, on the same footing. I know for a fact there is discrimination against the Muslims and Christians… Discrimination against the Muslims culminating in the demolition of the Babri Masjid , and then the massacres in Gujarat by Hindu terrorists destroyed the notion that Hinduism is more tolerant than Islam .The murder of Christian missionaries , attacks on them and the burning of Bibles have done similar damage …In fact, let me also mention here that much before Jinnah had come up with the two nation theory, it was people like Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, VD Savarkar, who had come up with the Hindu nation theory. In fact, Lala Lajpat Rai had even drawn a map of divided India, along religious lines.”

And I can say with utmost confidence that the Indian Muslims are nationalists. They love and respect their country and its people. After all, they and their parents and grandparents had opted to stay in this country — their country.

It’s about time there is a complete halt to the hounding of the minority community. And this can only take place if there’s a halt to the poisonous propaganda doing the rounds, resulting in the ongoing targeting of the minority community.

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