India is safe for all Indians, in all religions – analysis
At the dawn of the era of enlightenment in Europe, traditionalists divided into two camps. One camp believed that universal laws are immutable and therefore should be considered supreme. The other group of traditionalists insisted that since God is omniscient and omnipotent, only he is supreme. This second camp had spearheaded the campaign against enlightenment and had become anti-western and anti-modern. The West and modernity are not the same. But traditionalists continued to reject both because they are considered contrary to their belief in the omnipotence of God. Such orthodoxy can also be found in eastern religions, but they largely believe in the omnipresence of the divine. Therefore, they consider that the universal laws are also divine.
In the current context of the coronavirus pandemic, I am invoking this to highlight the “God will save us” propaganda from some misinformed religious leaders. The challenge today is not to locate Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, the head of Nizamuddin Markaz of Tablighi Jamaat. The real challenge is encouraging an unknown number of participants at the Markaz event in March who are hiding in different places, including some mosques, to introduce themselves. Several of them are foreigners. Several participants in the Markaz tested positive and are undergoing treatment. But the rest, who refuse to sit for voluntary testing, are a threat not only to themselves, but to the community and beyond.
In addition to the misplaced orthodoxy of the omniscience and omnipotence of God and the propaganda of a conspiracy against Islam, the other factor preventing these participants from leaving is the stigmatization of coronavirus disease (Covid-19). But this is out of place. It is just a virus for which the vaccine has not yet been found.
Stigmatization in the individual context will result in suffering for the individual. But if the stigma extends to a community or a religion, it has greater consequences. Let us remember what happened in Italy. The initial stigmatization of the Chinese as carriers of the virus led to a backlash among liberals from voluntary embraces and deliberate mixing with the Chinese. Florence Mayor Dario Nardella launched a “Hug a Chinese” campaign on February 1. Although there is no conclusive evidence to show that the campaign was responsible for the emergence of Covid-19 in Italy, it was a poorly conceived campaign at a time when social distancing should have been the norm.
There will be a conservative reaction to stigma as well. If a community is blamed for it, then the reaction would be further ghettoization. Radicals will take advantage. Those who attempt to communalize discourse must understand this. What Maulana Saad did was similar to what Dario did in Florence. At the time of the Markaz event, people had voluntarily refrained from celebrating the busiest of all festivals like Holi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken the initiative to cancel Holi celebrations at his residence. Many other festivals like Baishaki, Bihu, and Vishu became private events. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) canceled its annual conclave of more than 1,500 delegates in the second week of March for the first time in its history. But Maulana Saad decided to go ahead, and her decision had consequences.
His thoughtless actions are what most Indians are condemning. Efforts are underway to locate and encourage participants and those who subsequently contacted them to present themselves for voluntary testing. Just as Markaz and Maulana Saad do not represent the entire Muslim community, some reckless protests spewing poison against Muslims on social media do not represent Indian society. It is here that the campaign on Islamophobia becomes out of place and intriguing.
Teaching tolerance to India is like bringing coals to Newcastle. About 200 million Muslims live in India. They live in peace, enjoying equal, if not preferential, treatment. No Indian leader has endorsed community propaganda. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has confirmed the unity of 1.3 billion Indians. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said: “If some people, out of fear or anger, refuse to follow the guidelines, they should not blame their entire community.” He also denounced efforts to create a gap between communities by warning: “Some people will use this anger to divide the nation.
We must not allow that to happen. Every sensible member should show up to encourage their respective communities to follow the rules. ”
India is safe for all its 1.3 billion people, including Muslims. We are all together in this fight against the virus. Unfortunately, we also face a challenge from a growing race of “Modiphobes”. Many of them are Indians. For them, the elimination of Article 370, which was applicable to Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in Jammu and Kashmir, becomes an anti-Muslim act. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which does not affect a single Indian, becomes anti-Muslim. This is because they are blinded by their hatred of Modi, and therefore are trying to construct a false narrative. And many well-meaning people end up falling for this.
Ram Madhav is national secretary general of the Bharatiya Janata Party and director of the Indian Foundation.
The opinions expressed are personal.