The ‘Muslim’ angle ensures that the otherwise silent Modi ministers turn into overnight activists, and the social media ‘warriors’ are never short of an issue to let their bigotry out.
By -Jyoti Yadav
New India has a new solution — a Ram baan, if you may. If you have a problem or are caught in a difficult situation, you only need to find a Muslim to put the blame on. Not only can you effectively manage the situation, but you can also activate Hindu ‘warriors’ on social media, and drive the police and government into action.
Were you hurt over the news of a pregnant elephant in Kerala’s Palakkad district dying after accidentally eating a pineapple stuffed with explosives and wanted everyone to outrage? The fact that no one celebrated the elephant’s death, unlike those who had relished the death of more than a hundred Pakistanis killed in a plane crash in Karachi recently, must have been a bummer.
Well, India was in for some luck. The media played its part by changing the elephant’s location from Palakkad to Malappuram — a Muslim-dominated district. All that was needed now was to cash in on the news and spread the rumor about how it was a ‘Muslim’ job. It helped that BJP MP Maneka Gandhi — a known animal rights activist and a former minister — came forward to endorse it, and also add a whole new layer of communal angle to the story by inserting an endless stream of misinformation about the Muslim-dominated Malappuram into it.
Soon, other BJP ministers such as Prakash Javadekar, party leaders, perpetual nationalist Akshay Kumar, and sportspersons such as Virat Kohli appeared on social media crying their heart out — after staying silent for over two months as hundreds of laborers and poor Indians died on the roads or in trains because the Narendra Modi government couldn’t do much for them after announcing a stringent lockdown to fight the coronavirus pandemic. To make the ‘Muslim is responsible’ story more credible, pro-government journalists such as Deepak Chaurasiya announced that two Muslims have been arrested. Does it really matter that the police have arrested only one person and he isn’t a Muslim?
An effective strategy
The ‘Muslim’ angle ensures that not only do the otherwise silent ministers turn into overnight activists, promising that the Modi government “will not leave any stone unturned” to investigate an animal’s death, but even the smarting majority community gets a fresh issue to let the usual dose of bigotry out.
But while this outrage is communal, it’s also extremely selective. Lakhs of labourers walked thousands of kilometres on foot to reach their homes in villages after the lockdown was declared but not a single officer or leader was held accountable for the misery they were put through.
When the coronavirus pandemic broke in January and as countries around the world began to take measures, India was busy welcoming US President Donald Trump in late February. The following month, on 11 March, the BJP headquarters waited for the arrival of Congress import Jyotiraditya Scindia to officially join the party with zero apprehensions about the pandemic. There was also a toppling of an elected government in Madhya Pradesh On 24 March, the Modi government announced the lockdown after organizing a taali-thaali show where people came out of their homes, shedding all concerns about getting the coronavirus.
And then came news about the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, which was held on 13-15 March, and reports that some of the attendees had been tested Covid-19 positive. Now, the whole country realized the danger of coronavirus, learned about social distancing and why people should wear masks or avoid religious gatherings, and how important it was to report everything to the police. Since then, the blame game against the Tablighis hasn’t stopped, with chief ministers of BJP-ruled states — from Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand — holding them responsible for the spread of the coronavirus. If that wasn’t enough, the Modi government has also blacklisted about 2,600 Tablighis who won’t be able to enter India for the next 10 years.
Get the police to act
India’s solution of ‘blaming the Muslim’ is also proving to be an effective tool in policing these days. In a case of a suspicious death, if the police is not taking any action for weeks or months, then simply blame it on a Muslim and all the administration will jump into action. A boy drowned in Bihar’s Gopalganj in March but there was little clarity about the death from the police’s investigation. Then a website called OpIndia, which is known for spreading fake news, ran a story claiming that the boy was “sacrificed” in a mosque and the police force sprung into action to solve the case. Within days, the DGP of Bihar had personally visited the village and confirmed that the boy had indeed drowned and there was no ‘Muslim’ angle to the death.
If there is trouble in a inter-religious couple’s relationship, blame the Muslim man and their affair a product of so-called ‘love jihad’. The Hindu society will run from pillar to post to ‘help’ the woman get ‘justice’. Do you want your local temple that has been lying unattended for years to be repaired? Just use your powers given to you by WhatsApp to spread the rumour that Muslims have been laying scorpions at the temple site and the collective Hindu society will rise together to ensure your life is safe and you are able to perform your prayers at the temple.
For a big country like ours, with the government leaving it upon the citizens to look after themselves — be ‘atmanirbhar’ — it really is a moment of reckoning and comfort that all its problems now have one easy solution: blame the Muslim.