Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an extension of the nationwide lockdown for another 18 days, protest demonstrations by India’s working class, confined for more than three weeks in makeshift tents or hovels by lockdown enforcing agencies, broke out in several cities. Thousands of working class people across the country, both from the organised sector and many, many more from the informal, unorgansied sector forming the bulk of this class, rendered paupers by this lockdown, counting days and hours to their daily suffering, due to starvation and deprivation, with no money and no food, lying on roads far away from their distant homes, are restless. Sundry spontaneous agitations in several cities in recent days, even in Delhi, like the burning of three tents housing migrant labour near Kashmiri Gate on April 11, days before they expected the lockdown to end or at least relaxed, manifest their sheer helplessness and frustration.
However, the PM, even at the end of the first lockdown, while enforcing a fresh one for another three weeks, seemed to refuse to heed to their cries, he and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, together with their loyalist media channels, also realised the necessity of diverting attention of these people from their misery. So the best option is to revert to their patent anti-dote against any people’s movement, thereby polarising Hindus and Muslims.
There is no reason to defend the Markaz for holding this convention in these times of Coronavirus, but one must also remember that Indonesian, Malaysian and other foreigners belonging to 85 nationalities who attended this meet were given visas and clearance to come to India much after China had locked down Wuhan and health experts all over the world had started sending warning signals about its worldwide spread
All along we were wondering where the country’s home minister had suddenly disappeared in this hour of national crisis! But, no, he was not hiding in his home fearing the COVID-19 infection. He is a man of tremendous perseverance and resolve. Realising how the poor truck drivers lying on the roads with their trucks but no food and no money for close to a month, would be on the edge, the strategy was apparently shifted. The nation has seen how a poor man desperately collected milk spilled on the road in Agra by a passing milk van with his bare hands while four hungry dogs also lapped it up few steps ahead. So there had to be some tacit move to distract people’s attention from their immediate problem of penury and starvation.
Imagine a situation if the working class people, across all communities, were to find a common cause on account of their shared trauma and choose to stand up united against this insensitive regime, which has failed to move a little finger to ameliorate their suffering, what a serious problem it would be for the current dispensation in Delhi! That is why, it was essential to make our working class focus on an ‘object of hate’, so as to blame all our tribulations on one community. And what better and time-tested way than the easy target — the Musalman!
The Tablighi Jamaat, a set of conservative orthodox Muslims who comprise not even a microscopic minority of the Sunni Muslim population in India, or elsewhere in other parts of the Muslim world, held their convention on March 10-13 attended by some 4,000 members, including hundreds of foreigners from Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere at the Jamaat Markaz in Nizamuddin West in Delhi. There is no reason to defend the Markaz for holding this convention in these times of Coronavirus, but one must also remember that Indonesian, Malaysian and other foreigners who attended this meet were given visas and clearance to come to India much after China had locked down Wuhan and health experts all over the world had started sending warning signals about its worldwide spread. At the airport, there was evidently no attempt to screen them for COVID-19 symptoms and quarantine any among them found with positive symptoms. Instead, as late as March 13, the Union health ministry dismissed the threat of Corona stating that the “Coronavirus is not an emergency and people need not panic”.
Yet, the targeting of Tablighi Jamaat had its desired effect in so far as some Muslims vendors were obstructed from entering certain gated colonies in Delhi, shopkeepers refused to sell goods to Muslim women even if they alight from cars, Muslim men were reportedly assaulted here and there, and masjids were stoned in some parts of the country, what with BJP leaders adding fuel to fire. However, how long could this Jamaat gnome survive, especially when the world media had taken notice of the design behind the Tablighi Jamaat campaign on certain predictable TV channels as a cover to target Muslims and international bodies like the UNO and WHO took note of the vilification of a single community in India? Simultaneously, the crisis of deprivation of the working people of India is becoming graver by the day as the lockdown is extended all over the country till May 3.
IF THERE WERE any doubt who were the object of Amit Shah’s malice, it was made clear by a news report in a leading English daily which mentioned that more than 800 persons were arrested in the Northeast Delhi riots after the home ministry’s directions to the Delhi Police not to slow down the action, ignoring the police plea that with depleted force due to its preoccupation with handling the Corona cases and enforcing the lockdown, it had no option but to deploy its force differently. So far the crime branch alone has reportedly arrested 182 persons while the local police have allegedly detained another 620 people.
If there was any confusion about whom the police was pursuing on the home ministry’s directions, it mentioned that among the arrested were two persons who reportedly provided shelter to the murderers of Ankit Sharma, the young IB officer, who was killed during the violence. The report also mentioned that as for the killing of Faizan, 24, was concerned, who was seen in a video lying on the ground while cops stood and watched him being lynched and forced to sing the national anthem, the police maintained that it was still probing who perpetrated the crime and that the Delhi Police cannot be blamed for this because it said its men were not on duty on that particular spot.
At the airport, there was evidently no attempt to screen them for COVID-19 symptoms and quarantine any among them found with positive symptoms. Instead, as late as March 13, the Union health ministry dismissed the threat of Corona stating that the “Coronavirus is not an emergency and people need not panic”
Further, if any more proof of the bias in this investigation, renewed under obvious instructions from the MHA, was needed, a young woman research scholar from Jamia Millia Islamia, who was the media coordinator of the Jamia Coordination Committee agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA), Safoora Zargar, has been arrested for organising the anti-CAA demonstration which provoked the pro-CAA demonstration leading to riots and violence in Jaffrabad. Another male Jamia student was earlier picked up who was actively involved in relief, and Khalid Saifi, a prominent activist of the United Against Hate, who too was involved in relief, has been imprisoned, even while he was reportedly beaten up in police custody, with his legs in plaster. There has been no mention of any arrests of the so-called pro-CAA agitators, nor to date of any action against former Delhi MLA Kapil Mishra, who publicly instigated mobs against Muslims in that area. Surely, there is no fault of Mishra and even here the victims are to be blamed for inviting violence upon themselves!
Meanwhile, it is clear that any reportage of willful defiance of the lockdown by the Hindutva brigade and by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, has to be dealt with an iron hand. Adityanath has all along been busy scoring brownie points with the Sangh parivar on who could target Muslims, Leftists, liberals and any dissenters more — he, or Modi and Shah. So he summoned to Ayodhya through his police force, Siddharth Vardarajan, Editor, The Wire, for having written, how, while targeting Muslims for defying the lockdown, the UP chief minister himself was defying it along with others in Ayodhya, even though The Wire was not the only one who reported this.
In the final analysis, presumably, the current top brass of the central government is hoping that such polarising tactics would make the penury-stricken working class forget their suffering and continue to beat thalis and blow the anti-Muslim trumpet with the Sangh parivar.