Centre not responsible for religious polarisation during lockdown, performed creditably in fight against pandemic
It seems polarisation between two communities has only heightened during this critical fight against COVID-19 and the national lockdown.
And the bad news is that tensions could get worse.
Why is this happening?
Is it because of the actions of the Narendra Modi government, as a section of domestic and international media are attempting to portray?
Or is it because of the Hindutava vanguards RSS and the BJP?
The first assumption holds very little water. It is part of a manufactured narrative by the same set of people and media houses (including famed western publications) who could never reconcile with Modi's victories in 2014 and 2019.
India’s fight against COVID-19 has been without distinction with regard to caste, creed, status and religion. The special Air India flights from West Asian countries point to that.
The official machinery didn't discriminate when it came to the Tablighi Jamaat. In fact, the amount of time, energy and resources spent by the Centre in locating them and ensuring the safety of their members should have been applauded.
The answer to the second question also is part of the same narrative. There are certainly elements on the Right who give events a communal colour and the same attempts have been made this time.
We need to address the elephant in the room. Is it happening at societal-level because of how things have lately panned out on the ground?
One has to admit that lately more and more Muslims are guided by Wahabi philosophy. An endless debate on radicalisation of Islam is going on. But at the same time it is also true that Hindus of today’s India are temperamentally not the same, as it was perceived to be till few decades ago, leaving everything on God, fate and destiny. It is no longer inclined to display Himalayan patience, if challenged. Hindus have become more conscious of religion and cultural traditions.
Things have changed since 2014, with Modi coming to power with full majority and with enhanced majority in 2019. But it had more to do with national pride, confidence in India as a nation than reinforcement of Hindu identity. Muslim community, secularists and liberals, which virulently opposed his advent on national scene in 2013, 2014 and 2019 continued to raise their pitch on one pretext or the other.
The polarisation that took place during national lockdown had nothing to do with Modi government, or the RSS or the BJP. It had to do with two things: first, the irresponsible way the Tablighi Jamat acted, till lately over one-third of all India corona positive cases coming from Jamat and in states like Delhi, Telangana, Tamil Nadu the sect contributing to 70 to 90 percent cases.
Then there were those who came out in defence of Jamat, giving personal certificates that its members were such pious souls that can’t be doing anything wrong. Then there attack on corona warriors medical, municipal and police personnel in several parts of the country. The news and related pictures and videos had polarising effect.
Second, before first case of coronavirus was reported in India on 30 January, the CAA protests polarised the country on religious lines. The Shaheen Bagh protesters and their backers tried to turn it into an us versus them situation. A propaganda was made out that Modi government wants to throw (18 crore) Muslims out.
The three-month sit down at Shaheen Bagh and other places in the country resulted in consolidating Hindu sentiments. Muslim consolidation on CAA-NPR resulted in reverse polarisation of Hindu community.
Coronavirus outbreak coincided with fading of Shaheen Bagh protests but before tempers could die down, Tablighi Jamaat case erupted. The RSS may be smiling at the turn of events of past six months. But in present context the Sangh has less with things than the way the two communities acted and reacted.