A post-Covid agenda for India: repairing Hindu-Muslim ties – analysis
No one is sure when the Covid-19 pandemic will end or even when it will stop killing Indians. But there can be no doubt about one thing. Even before Covid became the central feature of our lives, the economy was already in crisis. With an expected global recession and predictions about our growth rate reduced to 1.5% or even less, this will worsen.
In post-Covid India, we will all be scared, damaged, poorer, and even less sure of what the future holds for us than we were in the already bleak pre-Covid era.
But there is another factor that we do not pay enough attention to. In the post-pandemic world, we will have to work hard to repair relations between Hindus and Muslims. Rarely, in the past few decades, have the two communities been so suspicious of each other.
It started with anger over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens. Without going into the successes and errors of that issue, there is no doubt that many Indian Muslims interpreted government movements as a way of treating them as second-class citizens.
I believed, perhaps naively, when the Covid crisis began that we could resolve our differences and fight the virus together.
The Tablighis then set the agenda. I’ve written about Jamaat’s criminal behavior before, so I’m not going to talk about it.
The Tablighi Jamaat means nothing to most Indian Muslims. It is a primitive and fundamentalist movement that would take Islam to the Middle Ages. Liberal Muslims around the world don’t waste time defending it. Just as liberal Hindus are horrified by the things Golwalkar wrote of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, liberal Muslims repudiate the fundamentalists and fools in their community. Even RSS itself is now removing the most embarrassing parts of Golwalkar’s new book editions.
Hindus do not believe that they have to find excuses for Golwalkar or for the misdeeds of other Hindus. When the Babri Masjid was demolished, the strongest condemnation came from the liberal Hindus. No one in the mainstream said, “Yes, but what about all the temples that the Muslims had also destroyed?” There was no room for any bureau or weak excuses.
Perhaps it is because majorities behave differently from minorities, but after the Tablighi incident, some liberals (Hindus and Muslims) only issued qualified criticism of Jamaat when direct condemnation was requested. And too often they resorted to any bootery.
Once that whataboutery started, the Liberals were playing the RSS game. Jamaat should have been seen as a marginal group of lunatic Muslims who jeopardized India’s fight against Covid. Instead, thanks to liberal naiveté and communalist venom on both sides, the incident has now turned into something Hindu-Muslim.
Sometimes we forget that the desire to create conflict is not only limited to our own communalists. Several foreign countries have an interest, if not in furthering the Hindu-Muslim conflict, and certainly in keeping India weakened and divided.
Thousands of false messages have been sent to Muslims on social media “documenting” totally non-existent cases of persecution and warning of the serious consequences of the authorities if they dare to admit having contracted the infection. That is one possible reason why some of those who attended the Jamaat meeting are now running away. And that is why we have not been able to locate all those who were inside that crown infection Petri dish.
The problem with community tension is that, like the coronavirus, it grows exponentially.
A primitive Muslim sect uses the name of God to prevent devotees from following the blocking rules. When they are caught and a violent reaction ensues, Muslims are told that the police will torture them. They hide. They infect more people. Public opinion grows against them. The chase begins. And so the cycle continues.
Now he has arrived on the stage in Delhi, where even secular Hindus ask if it is safe to ask for biryani (“do you think cooks may be infected?”) And verify the religion of the delivery men (“just for the crown, na!” It is heartbreaking to see the kind of abuse and discrimination innocent Muslims are subjected to. Videos broadcast on TV channels and social media show Muslim vendors being asked to leave markets, Muslims are denied entry to shops and much more. For how long will Muslims take these humiliations before beginning to wonder if their own country is rejecting them?
It is very difficult, if not impossible, to break the circle of mistrust and hatred when it reaches this level.
And I fear that the chasm between communities will widen. Part of it will come from extremists on both sides. Part comes from digital armies across our border. And some of that, unfortunately, is being promoted to win votes.
When the virus is under control and we face the recession, we will be encouraged to forget that even before Covid’s arrival, our economy was already in trouble.
Instead, we will be told that India was fine. Even the fight against Covid was going well until the Muslims decided to sabotage the government’s efforts and refused to practice physical distancing or the test. Yes, it will be said, there is a recession, but that’s only for Covid. And we could have handled Covid if it weren’t for the Muslims. The economy and the battle against the crown were destroyed by the Muslims.
Such words as “jihad” will be shown on television channels and it will be suggested that Muslims did this deliberately because many of them are “anti-nationals”.
We must fight and beat Covid. But once that is done, we must work to restore community harmony. And that will be an even more difficult fight.
The opinions expressed are personal.