As the curtains fell over 2019, somewhere inside a fish market in Wuhan, a virus jumped from bats to humans. China immediately censored news of the transmission. The only source of information for the outer world—videos of deserted fish market barricaded by police—instantly became an object of abject suspicion.
China reported the SARS Coronavirus-2 to WHO on December the 31st, more than a month after the earliest reported case. On January the 13th Thailand saw its first case; Japan, South Korea, Italy and the United States soon followed. As I write, there are 11,87,798 confirmed cases across the world right now with 64,084 deaths. A trickle from China has turned into a devastating flood.
Corona Virus reached India on January the 30th, around 75 days after the first reported case in China. On March the 2nd India confirmed its sixth COVID 19 case, two months after China reported the Virus to WHO. The government had enough time to prepare for preventing this outbreak. If not for a possible indulgence in unconstrained violence and a PR event with Trump, it was always likely to stop this virus at the airport only. But now that the virus was spreading, the blame had to be dumped somewhere.
On March the 28th, after returning from a departmental store, I was disinfecting my phone with a wet tissue when news about Markaz flashed on TV. Only minutes earlier, I had agreed with the cashier that COVID 19 might temporarily tone down the unchecked hatred.
The irresponsible attitude of Tablighi Jamaat has put the entire Muslim community under a heightened risk. I focus on “Muslims” because “social distancing” has been an organised policy of interaction in Indian demography, only increasing over the last six years. Between the two communities are visible borders, drawn with invisible lines. Transmission from one community to another may take time, or never happen at all—a boycott has already begun somewhere in south India.
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However, at a time death is looming in the air, I am more concerned about the lump in my throat. The spread of Corona amongst Jamaatis has given enough fodder to the Indian Frankenstein’s monster to dump all the blame on the Muslims. Fake news factories are working overtime to produce compelling stories of illegal, illicit behaviour of the Jamaatis, driven by a single point agenda: to depict them as uncivilised and unruly people having inhumane instincts, who do not qualify to be a part of any social interaction or a respectable society. These images are not new. They’re a part of a very definitive pattern, a precursor to every genocide. First, there is a complete demonisation of one community, and then its murder quickly becomes a part of the greater good narrative.
Since March the 28th, Twitter has seen vilest of common trends; poison is spurting of Facebook and streets are overpouring with hatred. People readily believe that Muslims, who may be worst affected by COVID 19, are intentionally spreading the virus at the cost of their own lives. #Coronajihad has appeared 300,000 times, potentially seen by 165 million people. This number is extremely worrying as it cannot represent the fringe section of a society where presence on Twitter is still a class quotient. This bloodlust is mainstream now.
With the virus failing to diffuse communal tensions, in the lockdown, has again resurfaced my greatest fear: another extension of N-E Delhi episode may follow soon. As this fear has now naturalised, I take sorrow to my bed every night.
Amidst the crisis, as I wake up today, there is news that another Mosque is demolished in Delhi, 20th in less than two months. There is more, pregnant women denied admission in Hospital, for being a Muslim. She had to deliver in the ambulance; the baby couldn’t survive.
These two stories would set the course of my day—I would find it hard to focus; productivity would be on the lower side. I would close my eyes seeking momentary relief, but there would be no peace that I may find. Dejected, I find it hard to breathe, more so with a mask on my face.
I am reminded of Jaun Elia’s couplet, ‘Jo guzari na ja saki humse, humne wo zindagi guzaari hai.’