Skip to main content

Modi brake on anti-minority tirade? Covid-19 suggests 'deep' Islamophobia roots

BJP MP Tejaswi Surya with Modi
By Ram Puniyani*
Islamophobia as a word came more into vogue after the 9/11 twin tower attack in 2001. In the aftermath the American media popularised the word “Islamic terrorism”, and for the first time in global history a religion began being associated with the political act of terrorism.
In India, hate against minorities was already prevalent, but with different arguments. It was a by-product of communal politics. It emerged during freedom movement as a reaction to Indian nationalism.
Hindu communal politics propagated Islam as a religion associated with violence. It was propagated that Islam had the tendency to proliferate through force, it indulges in terrorism, Muslim kings destroyed Hindu temples, Muslims indulge in polygamy, produce more children, are more aggressive, eat beef etc. All this was already the part of ‘social common sense’.
Events in India during the last few months, beginning with abolition of Article 370, coming up with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and spectacular democratic protests of Shaheen Bagh against CAA – all this created a situation where hate-spreading machinery became more aggressive.
To cap it all came the Covid-19 pandemic and the Tablighi Jamaat incident. The blame of spreading coronavirus was (falsely) put on Muslims as a whole. It began being alleged that Muslims are out to launch corona jihad, are producing corona bomb etc. It became part of popular thinking. This made life of the Muslim community unbearable. Even the lynching of Sadhus near Palghar by local villagers was sought to be initially projected as an act of the ‘hated’ community.
Normally, the international community refuses to take immediate note of occasional violation of human rights of minorities. This time the level of demonisation of Muslims was so high that many international platforms and voices that matter expressed their unhappiness over what was happening in India. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, its independent permanent Human Rights Commission, called for steps to protect India’s Muslims.
In addition, a drama unfolded in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Here, there live and work lakhs of Indians, and a large number of them are Hindus. Some of them are influenced by the core communal ideology. They proudly display their photographs with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Few of them tweeted that Muslims, through Tablighi Jamaat, were involved in ‘Islamic Jihad’, ‘Islamic virus’ and ‘Muslim virus’. One of the most prominent tweets was by a rising star of BJP, Tejaswi Surya. In this tweet, Surya endorsed Tarek Fateh’s derogatory remarks on Arab women. Some followed suit, claiming that it is Indians primarily who have triggered growth in Gulf countries. Muslims were sought to be projected in negative light. 
Many commentators suggest statements by Modi and Bhagwat would put a brake on the ongoing atmosphere of hate against minorities
Some prominent members of UAE’s Royal family took up the cudgels to counter these hate warriors. The UAE Princess, one who upholds Gandhiji, Hend Al Qassimi, tweeted that the ruling family is friends with India, but “… your rudeness is not welcome… You make your bread and butter from this land which you scorn and your ridicule will not go unnoticed.” She then quoted UAE laws prohibiting hate speech by citizens and non-citizens. The Royal intervention opened floodgates of comments from other sources.
She made an important point, “Don’t these successful so-called powerful millionaires know that hate speech is the prelude to genocide? Nazism wasn’t born in a day. It was allowed to grow like a weed that went wild because people chose to look the other side and it thrived on that specific weakness called silence. Hate is being preached openly in India against Muslims, in a nation of 182 million Muslims.”
Narendra Modi, who generally responds late to such incidents, woke up on these goings on. One knows that not only large number of Indians employed gainfully in these countries, they are also sending millions of dollars back home. India is the third major country having trade with these countries. A Modi tweet began being taken in a positive light by several commentators, who saw a ray of hope in this.
He said in the tweet, “Covid-19 does not see race, religion, color, caste, creed, language or border before striking. Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood. We are in this together.” He knows who all in media, social media and on TV channels are spreading hate, but he refused to reprimand them.
On a similar line, the sarsanghchalak (supreme Leader) of RSS, Mohan Bhagwat, also said that the whole community should not be targeted for actions by a few. Both these top leaders of Hindu nationalist politics, fortunately, woke up after international reprimand, particularly the reaction from UAE and other Gulf countries, which have already started terminating jobs of some Indians for spreading hate. Ironically, around the same time, Modi’s cabinet minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi described India as jannat (heaven) for Muslims.
Many commentators suggest that the statements of Modi and Bhagwat would put a brake on the ongoing atmosphere of hate against the hapless minority. Things are not so simple. The atmosphere today has been built up close to a century long work by communal forces. 
The molecular permeation of these hateful interpretations of history, and the presentation of Islam-Muslims by the America-dominated media following the 9/11 event, have dug fairly deep in social thinking in India.
Covid-19 events have demonstrated how deep are the roots of this type of thinking that such concoctions could be made part of the social thinking. It is possible only because of the decades-long divisive propaganda against the concept of fraternity, which is the foundation of Indian nationalism.
Protests from UAE, which incidentally gave the highest civilian honour to Modi in 2019, may put a small brake on the unabashed process in India. But the real struggle is inside the country, where we need to see that the social perceptions of Indian nationalism, articulated by Gandhi and Nehru in particular, are made to reach all the Indians through innovative and rational mechanisms.
---
*Political analyst, anti-communal campaigner based in Mumbai

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

UK leader cites Indian farmers' struggle one of top global fights against neoliberal order

Counterview Desk  Jeremy Corbyn, member of the UK Parliament, former leader of the UK Labour Party and founder of the  Peace and Justice Project , in his  inaugural speech to the  Progressive International’s  Summit at the End of the World on May 12, 2022, has said, what is happening across globe suggests that "image of apocalypse -- bombs and raids, oil spills and wildfires, disease and contagion -- is a reality for people across the planet." In an adaptation of his speech, distributed by  Globetrotter , Corbyn, however, said, there are fresh examples action, too -- by Indian farmers forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw three neo-liberal laws;  by workers, communities and activists against the top giant multinational Amazon's "greed and exploitation"; and by Latin American people's struggle to say "no more to the domination by imperialism, the destruction of their communities and the abuse of their environments." Stating that this is n

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Welfare? Govt of India spends just 19% of manual scavengers' rehabilitation budget

By Bharat Dogra*  While the Dalit community has been always known for higher levels of poverty as well as social discrimination, even within the Dalits there is a sub-section known for even worse levels of poverty as well as social discrimination. This is the section which was traditionally involved in manual scavenging. The shocking injustice they have suffered from over the years has been widely recognized leading to a ban on manual scavenging. At the same time there is urgent need for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging. Hence a self-employment scheme for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging was drawn up. The allocations and the expenditure for this scheme for the last eight years are shown in the Table below: Union Budget for Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of  Manual Scavengers (in Rs crore) By Budget Estimate we mean the original allocation made when the budget is presented. It is clear from this table that the actual expenditure

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They