The BJP is many terrible things, but easily distracted is not one of them. Despite a burgeoning Covid-19 problem which the government is struggling to control, the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have not given up on harassing and terrorising Muslims. Instead, they have integrated them into their Covid-19 response. Instead of a coherent response, India has made blaming Muslims for the virus a top priority. From a Machiavellian perspective, this is brilliant. It allows Modi to beat the virus and beat down Muslims at the same time. But if Modi’s virus management strategies fail, he can forever blame Muslims for their failure, and send even more violence their way. And even though Modi has worn a surprisingly conciliatory mask after being called out by influential foreign parties for his scapegoating, people familiar with the butcher know that the man behind the mask is not about to change.
A casual look at the Indian media only makes it more evident why he knows he can get away with it. With a few notable exceptions, they are piling on to the Tableeghi Jamaat for being the source of the virus, even though the facts don’t back up this claim. Most recently, they accused Muslims of arranging riots to violate lockdowns. Never mind that those ‘Muslim’ rioters were actually multi-religious groups of migrant daily-wage workers clamouring towards bus and train stops after hearing rumours that they could still go back home. The only reason they were near mosques was their coincidental proximity to transport hubs. Such propaganda is also being churned out by official BJP social media and the party’s elected leaders. Violence against Muslims and expressions of hatred have increased, despite the lockdown.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokeswoman noted that “these instances have been extensively documented in the Indian and international media and people of conscience worldwide are raising their voices.” Even US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that Muslims are being scapegoated, although he did not directly call out India. Sonia Gandhi, head of India’s Congress party, put it best: “When we should be tackling the coronavirus, the BJP continues to spread the virus of communal prejudice and hatred.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2020.
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