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, you can 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 rumour 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.
— Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (@Manekagandhibjp) June 3, 2020
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 labourers 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?
Central Government has taken a very serious note of the killing of an elephant in Mallapuram, #Kerala. We will not leave any stone unturned to investigate properly and nab the culprit(s). This is not an Indian culture to feed fire crackers and kill.@moefcc @PIB_India @PIBHindi
— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) June 4, 2020
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, even the smarting majority 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 homes during the lockdown but not a single officer or leader was held accountable for the misery they were put through.
After the coronavirus pandemic broke in January and as countries around the world began to take measures, India failed to see the urgency and until late February, was busy welcoming US President Donald Trump. The following month, on 11 March, the BJP headquarters waited for the arrival of Congress import Jyotiraditya Scindia to officially join the party, showing zero apprehension about the pandemic. On 24 March, the Modi government finally announced the lockdown after organising a taali-thaali show where people came out of their homes, shedding all concerns about getting the coronavirus.
And then came the Tablighi Jamaat, and reports that some of its members who had attended a congregation on 13-15 March, had been tested Covid-19 positive. Suddenly, the whole country realised the danger of coronavirus, learnt about social distancing overnight, and understood why people needed to wear masks or avoid religious gatherings, and how important it was to promptly report any violation (real or imagined) to the police.
Since then, the blame game against the Tablighi Jamaat hasn’t stopped, with chief ministers of at least four BJP-ruled states — Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttarakhand — holding the group responsible for the spread of the coronavirus. If that wasn’t enough, the Modi government 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. In a case of suspicious death, if the police is unresponsive, then simply blame it on a Muslim and 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. Soon, the police force sprung into action. Within days, the DGP of Bihar had 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 an inter-religious couple’s relationship, then just 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 has one easy solution: blame the Muslim.
Views are personal.