Islamophobia has reached its crest in India. Today, as the world battles against coronavirus which has already claimed lakhs of lives, India battles another threat- hatred against Muslims. Muslims are being detained, arrested, attacked, tortured and boycotted due to the emerging hatred against them. Even amidst the pandemic, Muslim activists, journalists and students are being detained and arrested.
Islamophobia is an issue that India is facing since decades but it took a completely different turn when the Indian authorities announced that they found a large number of Muslims who tested positive for coronavirus as they attended the religious congregation of Tablighi Jamaat. (The congregation was not only attended by Indians but also by the people of other countries). No sooner did this news come to light than the extremist Hindu government (BJP) rulers started giving provocative statements and making derogatory comments nationally against Muslims giving rise to hatred among people. Many of them even called it “Corona Terrorism”. A deadly virus which affected millions of people across the globe, on entering the Indian shores was linked with religion.
The anti-Muslim media even called it “CoronaJihad” and this hashtag went trending on all social media platforms. According to Equality Labs, a digital advocacy group, the “CoronaJihad” hashtag was circulated 3,00,000 times. The Indian news channels came up with demeaning catchphrases and completely blamed the rise in coronavirus cases in the country on the meeting. They even called the people who attended the congregation as “suicide bombers” and “corona bombs.” The Indian media profiled the cases on the basis of religion. Muslims were accused of deliberately spreading coronavirus across the country. The outbreak of coronavirus gave the leaders of Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party another reason to target Muslims.
Just a few months before the outbreak of COVID-19, the government of India passed the Citizenship Amendment Act. According to the CAA, non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who had arrived in India before Dec 31, 2014, will be granted citizenship automatically. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) which requires people to produce documents of ancestry to prove their citizenship was opposed to be implemented nationwide. It aimed at identifying the immigrants so it was feared that many Muslims who have been living in India for ages would be stripped off their citizenship rights and would be left stateless if they were not able to prove their citizenship. The act was the first time religion had been used as a criterion for citizenship under Indian Law. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also called it “fundamentally discriminatory”.
The result of this act was protests and riots across different states in India. Delhi, the capital of India witnessed one of the worst riots in history. Even in such a sensitive situation, the RSS and BJP leaders didn’t back off in making derogatory comments inducing the supporters of the government to commit violence against Muslims. It ultimately led to destruction and deaths.
India has become an epicentre of Islamophobia. I don’t know when and how will it end. Oppression and discrimination on the basis of religion need to stop. Communalising every incident needs to stop. All religions are beautiful. Muslims are no different. Equality is what we need at this point of time. We need to unite and bring back love, peace and harmony in India.