How Hindutva hatred is jeopardizing India’s gulf ties (Part-IV)


DM Monitoring/
Talmiz Ahmad

“… his [Modi’s] words … were posted on a platform which is primarily a business and employment-oriented service used for ‘networking’ by professionals.
“The vital question is, was this message intended for his supporters who have been fanning hatred towards Muslims or was it just to put it on record that the prime minister was opposed to religious profiling of coronavirus patients? Modi’s messaging is odd on two counts. One, if this is indeed aimed at signalling to the proverbial bhakts or blind supporters, Linkedin was not the appropriate platform to convey. Secondly, the smear campaign does not contend that the virus ‘chooses’ victims on basis of their religious identity and instead depicts Muslims as the chief and wilful carriers of the pandemic in the country.”
Why this intervention can be seen as half-hearted is because the hate campaign against Muslims on social media has been rampant within the country for a few years, but it has only now seriously entered Gulf consciousness, with Twitter traffic today consumed by the Hindutva narrative and Gulf nationals expressing their sentiments vociferously. This has also provided a great opportunity for Pakistani agencies to join the anti-India discussion with fake messaging, though, of course, their task is facilitated by the relentless abuse concocted and proliferated by Hindutva zealots.
Demonising Muslims by blaming the Tablighi congregation as being primarily responsible for the spread of the virus in India became central to the Hindutva narrative from late March itself, with mainstream Indian media an enthusiastic accomplice.
Figures from official sources were quoted to show how the Tablighis, returning home after their congregation in Delhi, had spread the disease. To this were added stories of their misbehaviour and misconduct – walking without trousers in hospital wards, making vulgar advances at nurses, throwing vegetarian food, defecating in wards, and deliberating spitting into food to spread the virus. These reports pandered to the traditional caricature of the Muslim in Hindutva lore – dirty, lascivious, uncouth and very malevolent and dangerous. Senior political leaders publicly spoke of Muslims as “human bombs” and “enemies of humanity” – “Corona jihad” and “Muslim virus” have entered the national vocabulary and stayed in the mindset.
And, all of this was fake. Stories of Tablighi misconduct were later denied by officials, but without the vehemence and enthusiasm with which they had first emerged. The story of the figures of contamination by the Tablighis is even more interesting. Irena Akbar has explained how this was done; she has pointed out: “If many positive cases from March 29-30 onwards are linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, it’s because its members and their contacts are being rightly but selectively tested while the overall testing remains abysmally low.” She refers to this as “sampling bias”.
Recognising the need for more effective damage-control, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar personally intervened in the imbroglio: on April 23-24, he spoke to his counterparts in the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia. According to press reports, he assured his interlocutors that India would continue to provide food supplies during the holy month of Ramadan and would make available the medicines required to fight the pandemic. Reports on television said he affirmed India would remain committed to its “Look West” policy.