Corona is secular

Amogh Rohmetra
In these times where courage is the greatest strength and hope is the greatest religion, there is a new normal for politics and religion going hand in hand at the national and regional levels.
This Covid-19 pandemic is no exception in India where Hindu Muslim has been connected with every election. It may be possible because in past some time, religion has been a hot topic in most of the issues like CAA, NRC, Delhi riots, Bengaluru riots, Triple Talaq, Ram Mandir etc.
But in today’s times, when a person says “iss se mat mangwao, iss dharam wale hee corona fela rahe hain” (don’t order from them, people from his religion are spreading corona.), a discussion in all types of houses irrespective of their literacy, it is unacceptable.
Remember, “We might be communal, but the virus remains secular”. Such thoughts not only violate the constitution but also show the wall created around us, which forces many to believe that ‘Religion Restricts!!’. The global map is itself a proof of it not being communal. Major names in terms of coronavirus include USA, Brazil, Russia, Iran, China, and India amongst others and these countries practice different faiths mostly.
Whether it was the Tablighi Jamaat event in March or the Sikh preacher which led to 40,000 people quarantined in late March or Christian sect in South korea or recent outbreak in the temple of Tirupati Balaji, all can be criticised for their role in spread of virus. It is beyond any doubt that in all the above such cases, the name of religion has been misused and the greater problem for the humanity was ignored.
But the question arises, whether the country treated all these events in the same way, keeping in mind the words ‘Justice, liberty, equality and fraternity’ as are enshrined in the premable of Indian Constitution
I thought that as time has passed, it was clear that no religion was the reason behind the outbreak but few discussions made me believe the other way that this thought hasn’t changed for many. The “troll armies” and “troll media” had successfully created an image to be used in politics at different levels.
Many unworthy, disheartening and flabbergasting incidents have been going on for a long time now. Starting from early March was the famous and the most notable incident where Tablighi Jamaat congregation took place in Delhi. While the virus had started to take a pace, this event was not a very helpful one. But what was worse was a perception and ill treatments that followed.
“Tablighi Jamaat event in which some 3,400 people had gathered on March 9-13 in Delhi’s Nizamuddin” reports the Economic Time even though some reports state that it ended on 15th March. This event became a talking point all around the media and common people, like a wildfire. On 13th March Health Ministry announced “Coronavirus | COVID-19 is not health emergency, no need to panic”. But the gathering stayed there for longer period. A question arises what was so unique about this gathering?
During this time period few other events also took place where social distancing had gone for a toss. “200 people attend Hindu Mahasabha’s gaumutra drinking party to ward off coronavirus” on 14th March reports the Tribune. Approximately 40,000 visitors visited Tirupati Balaji on March 17 and March 18. On March 24th Lockdown was announced and the next day Yogi Adityanath visited Ayodhya along with other high profile dignitaries for an event related to Ram temple.
Question remains the same, what was so unique about Tablighi Jamaat gathering that our media and Government officials did selective reporting? What led to them getting tags such as “Talibani Jamaat” and “Human Bomb”etc.
While health ministry was readily quoting number of cases in two segments i.e. ones caused due to Jamaat and others not caused due to Jamaat and here was the beginning of segregation. They stated separate numbers for the same at multiple levels.
Even our media, especially television media was not far behind and for them, virus as an issue was not important. Zee News conducted 275 debates (Taal Thok Ke) between 12th March and 31st July. 54 were based on religion, 24 were related to the Jamaat and only 10 related to Coronavirus. Republic Bharat conducted 103 prime time debates (Poochta hai Bharat) between 13th March and 29th May. Out of these 103 debates, 18 were related to Tabhlighi Jamaat, 13 related to Pakistan and only 1 related to Coronavirus discussion. News Nation debates ( Khoj Khabar ) between 16th March and 9th May were 40 in number out of which 23 were related to Jamaat and “0” related to Covid testing or healthcare.
These are just a couple of examples amongst many that preferred the virus to be a secondary issue. Another common thing about these widely viewed debates were that none spoke much about any other large gatherings previously mentioned like that in Tirupati or Yogi’s visit during lockdown etc.
On the contrary, a recent outbreak in Tirupati where 743 staff members tested positive between June 11 and August 10 is barely known to people. It is almost ignored by the mainstream media. The worrying part of the given numbers is “around 2.38 lakh devotees from across the country worshipped at the Tirumala temple in the month of July” as per Times Now News. But these numbers could hardly find their way to most of prime time debates or health ministry briefings.
Though I believe neither should it be discussed through this lens but question remains the same why two similar incidents were treated in such different ways?
The ripple effect of the selective reporting has been absolutely catastrophic. Many incidents of communal nature were seen over the time.
These incidents start in our very own Jammu & Kashmir. “The Gujjar community has said it is being subjected to a “hate campaign” related to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering last month in Delhi’s Nizamuddin” as per a report published in The Economic Times in the month of April. They further said that they were boycotted by certain sections of the society. Their livelihood lies on mainly milk supply and people boycotted them for being Muslim Gujjars, has made them suffer hugely. Even in Punjab there were reports that Gujjars were called spreaders and therefore people boycotted them and the milk they produced. We need to introspect as to what good education does, as educated ones are a part of it?
Another shocking incident reported by News18 network. Mahoba, a place in U.P., had seen vegetable vendors being boycotted for them being Muslims. It has greatly affected their daily earnings and thus resulted in their struggle to survive. One of vendors said, “Initially, villagers purchased vegetables but when they came to know that we are Muslims, they returned these, terming us members of the Tablighi Jamaat, he claimed.”
Not just common people, but even the lawmakers from Mahoba, have warned vendors from a particular community not to sell vegetables because they were the spreaders. It is not the people, but the constitution on which they take oath; they betray the very structure of it. Prime Minister in a tweet earlier rightly said “Covid-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed language or borders before striking” but many did not hear it properly.
“In the village of Harewali, near Delhi, a mob beat Mehboob Ali, a young Muslim man, for attending Tablighi Jamaat events, and filmed the beating” as per New York Times in the month of April. In another incident during that time in Gujarat as reported by Al Jazeera,”Government hospital in Gujarat state separates patients on religious lines, triggering accusations of ‘apartheid’.” Can We Actually attribute such a big thing like a virus just to any particular community?
A blatant NO is what can be answered. All major holy leaders and places have sacrificed age old traditions for restraining the virus and are leading by example. They are not just sending a message by cancelling major events for this year to avoid causalities; but it is the whole humanity speaking a greater language of hope and unity. Whether it was the restriction on Haj or online video streaming of Pope’s daily mass or cancellation of Amarnath Yatra or restricting visitors in Gurdwara, all are doing their best. It is the information from “WhatsApp University” and other such platforms where fake videos of spitting, violence etc. are spread in wrong name. Any irresponsible forward from such platform can cost someone his living or even life as well.
As the virus is gripping around the country, it is becoming clearer that it is not a result of any community. No religion teaches, preaches or beseeches hate. Humans learn it on their own and blame God for it. “God helps those who help themselves”
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