The numbers rose slowly at first. So did the rumours. There were whispers that a few people have spread it in some private parties. And before we could realise, a huge wave came crashing down on us, much like the novel coronavirus.
The history of pandemics shows that human ingenuity ultimately won the battle against death. Perhaps the same ingenuity will help us survive the coronavirus too. But I can’t say the same about the virus of hate — against Muslims in India — that has spread far and wide, rampaging through crowded neighborhoods, blinding highrises as well as slums and pavements. From courts of justice to pages of school books. From temple to temple, state to state. From Parliament to panchayats.
I’m neither the first one nor the last to wonder ‘what is left for coronavirus to kill in a morally corrupt nation.‘ No matter what one does, this curve looks unlikely to flatten.
Throughout India’s independent history, nothing has claimed more human lives than the infectious hate — sometimes over a masjid, sometimes a markaz. Yet every time the hammer seems to fall harder. The repeated strokes over the years haven’t dulled the pain.
There are certain realities of life that take long for us to realise. Muslims in India and a handful of non-Muslims for the past six years have been telling themselves that this is just a phase brought by a ruthless regime. But what we haven’t accepted is that much like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — which some researchers believe might have been quietly spreading among humans for years — the majoritarian hate is ancient. It will be wrong to credit a bunch of political rulers for filling the hearts of an entire population with hate. Just like it’s impossible for a handful of non-Muslims to argue and talk sense into a bigoted majority.
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It won’t do anyone in India any good to believe that Hindus don’t hate Muslims.
The only difference, like any other virus, perhaps is the extent of its spread: stage 1 – casual Islamophobia; stage 2 – ‘transmission’ of euphemisms like “Hinduism is different from Hindutva”; stage 3 – whataboutery over lynching and rioting for the sake of balancing; stage 4 – practically uncontrollable, wiping out the entire minority population.
No matter how scared we are about the crisis brought in by the coronavirus, it is still milder than the anti-Muslim virus.
So far, the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases has risen to more than 3,000, and at least 70 deaths. But there is no way to count the exact number of Muslim lives and homes claimed by the ‘virat Hindu’ push for homogeneity.
Scientists across the world fear that a bigger COVID-19 outbreak in India will have devastating consequences because of a poor public-health system. But instead of questioning the government on such issues, Hindus in India are busy keeping the rumour mills running, spreading lies about Muslims and more hate.
Nobody wants to know how the coronavirus is going to affect the rural areas or for that matter urban slums. Or how does the government plan to contain the spread among the 1.32 billion people, most of whom live cheek by jowl? Or how did it trigger a mass exodus of migrant labourers on foot from cities to their hometowns? Or why did they fail to screen passengers at the airport or allow such a huge congregation with foreign nationals from virus-infected countries take place? Or allowed a CM-in-saffron-robes to break the lockdown to move an idol of lord Ram in Ayodhya? Or continued to walk in and out of Parliament till the time a new government was put in place after dismantling the old one in Madhya Pradesh?
These are just a few examples. If one really sets out to seek accountability from the government, there is no dearth of opportunities to unmask it. But not everyone can dare to question the government. Nor is there any hope of getting answers from its representatives.
When a few among the media question the government over inadequate testing or protective gear for health staff and other health facilities, almost the entire nation goes into witch-hunting, aided by TV channels with cult following.
Nevertheless, it looks too predictable, especially when most journalists and news anchors are singing the same song (okay, not exactly singing but screaming), making coronavirus synonymous with the skull cap. But then could we expect anything better from a country where people, including the likes of a former Indian Medical Association chief and government agencies, are wittingly spreading myths and superstitions to tide over the coronavirus crisis?
A few Muslim friends still believe it’s possible to talk sense into Hindus. It breaks my heart to say that no matter what you do, how much evidence of your innocence you produce, the ‘crime’ will always be yours.
Every good story needs a villain. In every Hindu story, we have decided to cast you Muslims as the one.
(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not reflect the views of The Federal.)