India continues to divert attention from its incompetent handling of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic by pointing the finger at its Muslim minority. This is hardly unexpected. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already been blaming Muslims for everything that goes wrong, never mind that after almost six years in power, the buck should stop at his desk. Indian authorities have blamed the Tableeghi Jamaat for the spread of coronavirus in the country. Their argument is that the Jamaat’s convention, which was ongoing when Modi announced India’s lockdown, is to blame for the nationwide crisis. Never mind that immediately after the announcement, the Jamaat cancelled the event and began arranging to send out-of-towners back home.
But this was not enough for Modi’s goons, who say the event should have been cancelled in advance, even though the government could have easily told the Jamaat to do just that, but it didn’t, not out of respect for Muslims, but because it had its eyes closed to the risk. Now, a Jamaat member who tested negative for Covid-19 has committed suicide due to harassment by locals. Muslims are being thrashed just for being Muslim. A group of Muslims has been quarantined in Himachal Pradesh since February 25, even though quarantine should only last two weeks.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has called out the “unrelenting vicious Islamophobic campaign in India maligning Muslims for the spread of Covid-19,” along with the regular “negative profiling” of Muslims by the Indian media, and the “discrimination and violence” that they must face in the country. The group has also urged India to “stop the growing tide of Islamophobia in the country and protect the rights of its persecuted Muslim minority.” Prime Minister Imran Khan has also called out the fascistic manner in which the Modi government appears to be trying to divert attention from the roughshod manner in which it has handled its nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
The sad thing is that Modi had an easier solution than blaming Muslims. He could have just taken the Kashmir lockdown nationwide. No communications, no human interaction, no sickness, no complaints. Unless of course, he feels subjecting BJP voters to such conditions is oppressive.
Free roti in Quetta
Many claim that the coronavirus does not discriminate, but its effects sure do. While the country maintains quarantine and social distancing, let’s not forget that the poor is suffering the most due to such measures. Daily wage earners and labourers are seen wandering about the streets in search of work but are sent back home by security officials. For those who cannot even afford three square meals a day, safety equipment like masks, gloves and sanitizers seem to be a luxury they are devoid of. The poor and destitute class is more vulnerable to the virus and everything else. This predicament has not just emerged due to the pandemic, but it has been persisting for decades in the form of class divide. What is also surprising, however, is that middle-class families living from paycheck to paycheck are also in dire need of help due to the economic slowdown.
Amid the trauma of the pandemic, citizens and rulers have set a unique example by collaborating with each together to ensure that essential resources are provided to those in need. This is happening in Balochistan where the government is providing roti in the provincial capital free of cost with the help of an NGO, named Bailul Islam. The door-to-door distribution of roti among the needy families is spread out by dividing Quetta into different zones. Apart from the deserving families registered on an online application through call centers for delivery purposes, there are many that are either ashamed of asking for help or those that are not reached. Names should be kept anonymous and the reach of locating deserving families should constantly be expanded. Such ground-level initiatives are highly commendable because they form basis for creating a response system to help take on the Herculean task of overcoming the pandemic. The federal government needs to work with provincial governments to implement such initiatives across the country.