The migratory worker crisis was a ticking time bomb that was waiting to explode since the sudden lockdown was announced on the 24th of March at a 4-hour notice by the PM. There was apparently no proper plan in place regarding what will be done for the lakhs of migrant labourers stranded in different parts of India.

In the absence of clear communication from the Government, the migrant labourers had defaulted on the lockdown rules in Delhi last month. Yesterday again it was repeated in Bandra Mumbai, where thousands of labourers reached Bandra railway station in a bid to leave for their homes even though the Prime Minister had announced an extension of lockdown till 3rd May, with an assessment and review to be undertaken on the 20th March 2020.

Most of these labourers are complaining about lack of food and inhumane living conditions that prompted them to try leaving for their respective states.

Even in the middle of a huge crisis like this, many mainstream channels are trying to communalize it by highlighting the fact, that the labourers gathered near a mosque (masjid), which happens to be just next to the Bandra Station, a fact conveniently ignored by these channels.

Another important factor ignored by them, was that ABP Majha had run a misleading piece of news the same morning, which said that a special train will be taking migrants back home. But for some of our TRP hungry channels, facts don’t matter and communal rumour mongering has become a way of life. Every tragedy is being given a spin and presented as a “Muslim Problem” in new India.

After the discriminatory Act CAA was introduced and approved in the parliament, the protests against the CAA-NRC that took place in the country, were portrayed as Muslim protests. The protests that started in the campus of a college called Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi were termed as Muslim students creating nuisance and the protests led by the women of Shaheen Bag were presented to the whole country as Muslim Women creating unrest.

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The propaganda fueled by members of the ruling party and Indian media was so strong that it finally culminated into the Anti-Muslim riots in North East Delhi which left at least 53 people dead, most of whom were Muslims and many Muslim houses and businesses destroyed. Even after the National capital witnessed one of its worst communal riots, the pliable media didn’t shy away from running its propaganda campaign, where it insisted on shifting the whole blame on a Muslim MLA, absolving BJP MLA s of their role in fueling the riots.

After the news of COVID-19 arrival in India, and the resultant lockdown of various states on the 24 March 2020, many thought that Indians will finally realize that we have a common enemy in the form of a Pandemic which does not discriminate on the basis of our faith or believes. For at least a week much of the Indian media was forced to shift focus from its usual communal gaslighting and talk about the impending health threat. Not to mention, that this sent our media into a tizzy as this was unchartered territory cause discussing issues is not really their forte.

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Nevertheless, as soon as the focus was shifted on the Pandemic and the resultant lockdown, the fault lines in our Government functioning started appearing. From lack of basic medical infrastructure in dealing with the Pandemic, to failure of the Government in managing the migrant labor crisis, many such issues had started cropping up which exposed the unpreparedness of the Government.

As soon as the news of Tablighi Jamaat that held a congregation in Nizamuddin Delhi from March 13-15, emerged as a source of COVID19 positive cases, most of the Indian media went into an overdrive to portray the incidence as a conspiracy of Muslims to spread the disease. Within a few days, hashtags like Corona jehad started trending on Twitter, with members of the ruling party contributing actively to the trend.

In the coming days, at least 1000 cases out of the total 4000 were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation. These attendees were aggressively traced and tested irrespective of whether they had symptoms or not, a procedure not followed for any other event, where similar gatherings had taken place.

Experts believe that the overwhelming numbers of positives that have been linked to the Tablighi Jamaat are a result of a sampling bias. Around the same time as the Muslim congregation took place, a Hindu man from Morena who had returned from Dubai, had organized a funeral feast, which was attended by at least 1000 people and after the man and his wife tested positive for COVID-19, around 26000 people have been put under quarantine. No channel ran a prime-time debate to discuss the careless attitude of this man, neither was his religion a highlight.

After the announcement of lockdown on the 24 of March, there have been at least two occasions on which the general public of India flouted lockdown rules, and descended on the streets in huge numbers increasing the chances of dissemination of the virus  manifolds, but these debacles were not worthy of a discussion with the same fervor as the Muslim congregation.

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A massive vilification campaign in the form of circulating fake videos and news which claim that the members of the Jamaat, misbehaved and spat on Doctors, roamed around naked in the wards and even molested hospital personnel, were doing rounds on media. By the time these rumors were  debunked it was too late, as they had already spread widely, achieving their propagators malafide goals.

A popular news agency in India, the Asian News Agency, well known by the acronym ANI also participated in spreading fake news, which was later called out by a vigilant UP police.

The manner in which communal profiling of the Pandemic cases have been done, and the resultant communal hysteria created by media, has had many grave repercussions.

A man from Himachal Pradesh, India who had attended the congregation and tested negative for COVID-19, had to face social boycott in his village, which forced him to commit suicide.

A 22 year old man from Delhi, who had attended a congregation in Bhopal, was lynched  on suspicion of wanting to spread Corona virus.

The paranoia created against Muslims resulted in the death of a Muslim man in Madhya Pradesh who was denied admission in several private hospitals. The man was merely suspected to be infected, even though he had not attended any congregation and was suffering from a heart ailment.

There have been numerous instances in various parts of India, where Muslim vendors have been beaten up and bullied and forced to close shops.

Workers at the Bandra Railway Station - Muslim Problem
Workers at the Bandra Railway Station on 14.04.2020, the day the 21 days lockdown was extended. (Photo: Twitter)

There has been news about migrant labourers descending on streets in other parts of India as well, including Surat, in Gujarat, but the attention of most media channels is focused on the Bandra incident for obvious reasons.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say, that nothing seems to unite many across classes than the Muslim hatred that seems to have taken the form of an endemic since 2014. As soon as glaring crevices start appearing in the functioning and policies of the ruling Government, it is promptly filled with a dose of Islamophobia, which works like a charm every single time.

Irrespective of the kind of problems India faces, it is given a communal spin, the majority is pacified and their whole attention diverted to the most important problem that India faces today, the “Muslim Problem”.

In a live interview with Author Yuval Noah Harari, when an India Today anchor asked the Author his views on the Corona Pandemic in India, the Author gave an interesting reply. He said that this was a time to react with solidarity and not hatred. He also pointed out the fact, how a section of people is blaming the Indian Muslims for deliberately spreading the virus, and also terming it an act of “terrorism”. He urged Indians to develop solidarity and benevolence in a time of crisis and overcome their inner demons of hatred and greed.

A profound advice by Harari, considering the current situation in India, but will it make any difference to the way, much of our media functions, or will it only remain a pipe dream?


Disclaimer: The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of N4M Media.

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