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As a Muslim, it is humbling for me to write today that all of the much-maligned Tablighi Jamaat members, who were accused of intentionally spreading the coronavirus and charged under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code, have been exonerated. The “clean chit” given to the 36 Tablighis, along with the eight others against whom the charges were quashed earlier in August, seems personal because India’s yellow journalism, often dubbed as ‘godi media’, had ensured that about 20 crore Muslim citizens of this country were thoroughly vilified and slandered because a section of Indians needed a reason to target the Muslim community, and the religious gathering at Nizamuddin Markaz in March became the perfect opportunity.

The fact that the Narendra Modi government was seemingly complicit in painting this sordid picture, as suggested by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, is worrying. Judge Arun Kumar Garg clearly stated that it was “reasonably probable” that the accused were “picked up from different places so as to maliciously prosecute them upon directions from (the) Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India”.


Also read: Coronavirus was a test of secular nationalism. Then Tablighi Jamaat became the scapegoat


Govt to media, all were in

The vilification was systematic and, in most likelihood, a distraction strategy by the Modi government to avoid accountability after failing to heed to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s warnings and preparing for the imminent pandemic. Instead, a narrative was built to pin the spread of Covid on a scapegoat. And who better than a Muslim missionary group. The fact that ‘Namaste Trump’, a crowded event held to welcome the US President in Ahmedabad late February, was easily forgiven and forgotten as a likely hotspot for spreading the coronavirus, shows the anti-Muslim bias. The event saw a congregation of over one lakh people at the Motera cricket stadium. But no one spoke about it. All were fixated on the 2,500 worshippers stuck in Markaz in Delhi’s Nizamuddin. And the slurs flew like confetti. Some called them ‘Talibanis’, others ‘jihadis’ and some went as far as to call them ‘bombs’.

Yellow journalism in India was at its zenith. With TV channels running back-to-back shows on Madrasa hotspots, ‘Corona Jihad’ and ‘Tablighi super spreaders’, random stories on Covid-19, which had nothing to do with the Tablighis, featured cover photos of skullcap donning Muslim men or burka-clad Muslim women. The subliminal message was constantly being fed to the public. “They” spread the virus in India while the Chinese spread it to the world. The fake, vicious narratives were run at prime time with convenient question marks added to disparaging statements, branding Tablighis as ‘traitors’. The propagation of Islamophobia was barefaced and unmerciful.

But that’s how the Modi government and pro-BJP media function in these sorry times. All ills must be blamed on someone. And the description of that ‘someone’ is always uncannily similar. Someone with a distinct identity, someone with a strong opinion not in compliance with the government and someone who belongs to a minority group are most likely the top picks for scapegoating. And the farmer protests drive this point home.


Also read: Farmers’ protest shows Modi’s politics is caught between India’s two middle classes


Sikh farmers, the latest enemy

It’s unreal that we have seen two prominent farmer protests since the Modi government first came to power in 2014 — in March 2017 and then in November 2018. But only now, during the ongoing protest against the government’s new agriculture laws, have farmers been called ‘terrorists’ or Khalistanis. Why? Because this time, the protest is led by Sikh farmers of Punjab. The protests have been termed as ‘anti-national’ by the media as well as the ruling party that runs the government. Haryana chief minister and BJP leader M.L. Khattar has on record said that he has “reports on Khalistani presence in farmers’ protest”. The BJP’s Information Technology Cell head Amit Malviya too has alleged that these protests have “Khalistani and Maoist” links. Then there are BJP-leaning influencers and celebrities like Kangana Ranaut who keep feeding this narrative.

The media is not far behind either. And the accusations are audaciously identical. This time again, the convenient question mark follows the denigrating statements like “Farmers’ agitation hijacked; Khalistani terrorists behind violence during protests?” Just like the vivid conspiracy theories that were cooked up against the Tablighis getting “foreign funding” and violating provisions of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), the same accusations are now being hurled at farmers protesting at Delhi’s borders and how the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is mulling a crackdown on the “foreign funding” received by ‘Khalistani outfits’ and a probe into their “anti-India activities” and role in the ongoing farmer protests.

The predictability of those who get accused and the reasons for it are almost always the same. Be it Muslims or Sikh farmers. And the accusers are also often the same — the MHA and the pro-BJP media. But just like the vilification against Muslims over the Tablighi Jamaat congregation was thrown out in the court and the hateful targeting was exposed, the slandering of Sikh farmers will meet the same fate.

The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal. Views are personal.

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VIEW COMMENTS

25 COMMENTS

  1. When India was having gaumutra party in March against Covid, lockdown pushing millions migrant workers on the street together, who then walked 1000 miles to their homes. Then came the blame on Tableeghis (atangwadi) for Corona, Jamia Riots (anti nationals), clamp down on Media coverage and total silence from ‘influencers’
    Then came the farmers .. the RSS Modi Godi Media Bakhts applied same propaganda calling them anti nationals & khalistanis & terrorists.. NOW ITS NOT WORKING OUT!!! COW 🐄 🐮 PISS won’t save them now.

  2. Kudos to the author on coming with novel excuse and false equivalence yet again.

    This is form of kalum jihad author is waging on. What was visible with corona jihad cannot be unseen and discredited.

    Corona jihadis were spitting excreting virus mobbing health care workers stoning them and killing them in some instance.

    This would have been satirical had it been coming from a jahil but this author is called educated and learned one.

    She had weaponized her bias and peddles make believe stories passing of as journalism and calling real journalism yellow journalism.

    This makes her more dangerous than regular mawali maskin.

  3. Let me put the difference between Tablighi incident and Farmers protest. The Govt had prepared for lock-down and coronavirus fears were all around the globe with flashing warning. This was mid Mar and hence to say Tablighi were put in bad light because of govt intention is simply incorrect. Farmers protest is a right for farmers, but even as Supreme court judges noted – it is being carried out in a manner that causes incovinience to other citizens. Besides we have clearly seen other group stoking the fire who do not have any association with farm activity and still participating in protest for their personal agenda. So at the end of day each of these protest events and participants have to prove their credibity. I firmly feel that The Print has provided a voice this time to a non secular person.

  4. Hmmm Yes, love of muslims for sikhs has been exemplary throughout history, and is still continuing. In 1947 it was witnessed, then all through last 70 years in pakistan it has been witnessed. In fact Young Sikh girls are overwhelmed in pakistan because of that affection showed by their muslim brothers. In afghanistan recently also in a gurudwara such great lover and affection between muslim & sikh brothers and sisters was witnessed. In fact these communal bjp rss hindutvawadi people have recently given asylum to sikhs coming from afghanistan, but the sikh brothers and their daughters refused to come to communal hindu india due to love of their islamic brothers. Thank you secular madam for teaching the world today about sikh muslim love and communal hindup rss bjp people.

  5. Ek farq hai. The brave, sturdy, burly Sikhs are not turning the other cheek. An irresistible force on an immobile object. Small perhaps but they also have an influential diaspora. 2. Shri Anil Swarup did a straw poll on Twitter about the credibility of the English news channels. NDTV got 65% of the votes. The rest were shared between Times Now, about 10%, Republic 12%, India Today the rest. Cringeworthy.

    • 1) Your comment implies that muslims meekly surrendered? Does the OIC/Ummah not constitute an influential diaspora/community?

      2) I’m pretty sure a similar poll conducted by a right winger in their echo chamber would’ve yielded the exact opposite results. Judging the credibility of news channels from Twitter polls is foolhardy.

      Both your premises are invalid.

      Everyone should avoid Twitter to maintain their objective, nay sanity.

    • The brave sturdy Sikhs were no less adept at surrendering to the British after the Anglo Sikh war. They stood by and ensured the continuity of British rule by not supporting their own countrymen in 1857. A saropa was presented by the ‘brave’ Sikhs to General Dyer after the Jalianwala Bagh massacre. They have made no small contribution to the decline of the Punjab where the only hope in hell is for Punjabis to migrate to Canada and the West even by illegal means. Some of the worst gender ratios in India are their contribution. So let’s not place them on a pedestal. They are no better or worse then the rest of their Indian compatriots. Let’s not get fooled. For all the bravery, what’s on display is a fear of change and a fight to preserve the status quo at the expense of the tax payer and their own state’s future.

    • zainab is a very competent and brave journalist. 100% similarity. one government two incidents — exactly same treatment… all are enemies if they don’t agree with the arrogant PM and his illiterates…

  6. The thing is, it is your view of seeing things with your perspective,which i respect due to free speech. But comparing shaheenbagh or jamat with farmers protest is extremely fetched, subjectively it is irrelevant in this scenario..

  7. I predicted it last year that sikh community will be labeled terrorist like muslims if they fight for their rights . now when 90%sikhs are supporting farmer protest bjp and hinutva terroro called them anti national and khalsitanis. the time will come when wvery silh will be called khalistani or anti national if he wouldn’t join their hindutva terrorist organisation rss or other radical outfits. Already i see many tweets of bjp it cell saying Sikhs who don’t support bjp or hinutva are khalsitanis or who say i am sikh not hindu also khalsitani. Means you can’t live here as Sikh.this terroism should be stopped .

  8. The only positive thing about this article is that Begum Zainab Sikandar has finally dropped all pretensions of being a secular and liberal journalist. She has clearly identified herself with her religion. The question that remains is The Print the right forum her her to express her views or is it Muslim Mirror or any such religion based publication?

  9. Zainab is on the other side of Godi media and it is fine for her to shout at BJP !!
    The fact remains that the next time around, the visas must be strictly vetted before issuing them and the visits should not be used for other than intended religious purposes. The travel itinerary must be adhered to strictly.

    Once this is done, Zainab can write whatever she wants and the show will continue.

  10. SIKHS and HINDUS will never forget the barbaric acts of Islamic extremist rulers.

    SIKHS have lost gurus to resist conversion by mughals.

    HINDUS and SIKHS valiantly fought mughals to save their faith.

    We don’t need jihadist posing as journalists to divide us. Pakistan is already trying this and perhaps activating their anti INDIA forces within INDIA .

    • please go back further in history and then stoke your anger. No guts to live for the future and elect some educated people. Just live in the distant very distant past. Don’t forget there were also Spanish, Portuguese and the British… and then there were the brave rajas and maharajas and and and….

Comments are closed.