Last year, when coronavirus was at its peak, a corona profile was doing the rounds on social media. “The pandemic was born in China, brought up in Italy, and embraced Islam when it landed in India.” Though short, the cliché summed up the saga of the most deadly viral infection of our times.

At a time when the world was busy finding a viable cure for the infection, our TV channels found a scapegoat in Tablighi Jamaat, a hitherto unknown Muslim sect, to blame for the pandemic. They were gleefully assigning motives to a religious congregation at the Jamaat headquarter in Delhi.

The Jamaat was accused of deliberately spreading the disease with a motive to destabilise the country. Prime time on TV channels had become a hub of shouting match with anchors lending voice to sundry panellists venting ire against a community. Name calling and conspiracy theories of all shades rent the air night after night. The claims they made against the Jamaat had no basis was none of their concern. Their job was to run a campaign of calumny to deflect attention from the real issues of bread and butter.

Incidentally, the Tablighi Jamat building shares its wall with the Nizamuddin police station. There is a room on the ground floor where every entry is registers with details like the origin of the incumbent, his destination etc. along with his identity. So, no one was hiding anything.

The government knew all along where they came from. Those present at the markaz (headquarters) on the occasion had government permissions and other valid papers. Yet the stranded devotees were targeted for violation of rules for coronavirus when there was none.

The smearing campaign ended up labeling every Muslim a potential threat to the country, thus paving the way for the plight of an entire community. Consequently, members of the community were singled out for attacks and were hounded in parts of the country. Especially Muslim vegetable vendors were easy prey. They were boycotted and manhandled.

For those who had a sinister design to malign the community and treat them as antinational traitors had a field day. After all, their mission was accomplished. By the time courts cleared the Jamaat members of all the allegations levelled against them, the damage was already done.

Many of us tend to pass off the targeting of the members of a community as isolated incidents, but they are not. The attacks were neither random nor spontaneous. In fact, they were carried out with a purpose with so much subtlety that those behind the whole episode never came under public scrutiny. The aim was to make the entire community as a pariah.

We may blame a handful of rogue elements in the rightwing camp. But it is and by no means a personal vent of the spleen.

The conspiracy hatched to boost the electoral prospects of the rightwing by polarising the masses on religious lines. It’s because polarised elections are easy to win with the consolidated majority on your side. Thus, every time such tirade is run against a section of the society, it is not without a purpose. They have a motive and an action plan, as is the trend these days to have a toolkit ready, to meet the desired end. First it is the top echelons of a party who trigger an unsavoury controversy by shooting off their mouth. But as the controversy snowballs into a full blown strife, the wily the senior leaders go silent paving the way for the rank and file to take the lead.

The strategy can be best illustrated in a Bangalore incident. Tejasvi Surya, the Young Turk in the BJP firmament and a MP from Bangalore South, singled out 16 Muslims from 200-odd employees in the corona war room in a city hospital for action over a bed scam. He deliberately read out names with the intent to send out a message that only Muslims are corruptible. The allegations he made against the workers were though without basis, were no less diabolical. He went on to accuse them of denying beds to Hindu patients with a rare conviction. But when his bluff was called, he was on his knees making an unqualified apology saying he simply read the list handed to him. How naive can he be is a matter of conjecture, and a convenient escape too.

It doesn’t stop here. Playing down Muslim ethos and Islamic scriptures has become a pastime for some. Especially the foot soldiers of the Hindutva brigade with high political aspirations have a job at hand.

Consequences of their machinations are no less lethal. They could be bale to push the Hindutva agenda a little further, but jeopardise the peaceful co-existence of different communities in harmony.

Recently, Yati Narsimha Saraswati, a mahant in a nondescript temple in Ghaziabad, chose the Press Club of India (PCI) in Delhi as a venue to announce that Quran calls Muslims to kill non-Muslims. He even blasphemed the prophet of Islam. In a way he was trying to brand every Muslim a potential murderer and taking everything down that a Muslim would cherish. The schism in the society was of course the icing on the cake.

These communally surcharged youths have already started peeping into Muslim kitchens to ascertain what’s cooking. How much land Muslims use to bury their dead, and so on. The Muslim Personal Law needs repealing as it gives them the privileges of entering into polygamous marriages and getting rid of unwanted wives by summarily uttering talaq thrice. What Muslims wear is a new tool in the toolkit to identify them as such.

Since Independence, Nagpur has been promoting stereotypes of Muslim. They wanted Muslims branded as un-Indian if not anti-Indian and essentially a threat to the Indian nation. Nationalism is the new fad for Hindutvavadis.

The political and social space for Muslims is ever-shrinking. Their representation in the government and administration is abysmally low. Muslim’s economic status and education profile is at all-time low. So, do we have a pattern here? Is there a template from history being followed., Are Indian Muslims in the footsteps of German Jews?

Let’s savour a few facts from Germany of 1930s and decide for yourself what is going on in the country. To start with Jewish kids were denied education and certain vocations like the medical profession. The Germans were dissuaded from mixing with the Jews. Jewish businesses were brought down. Campaigns against buying from Jewish vendors and shops were launched and posters pasted on the walls of German stores. Their shops and factories were burnt and vandalised. It was done to break the backbone of Jewish economy.

Later, Jews were removed from public offices and professions – civil servants, lawyers, and teachers were sacked. Propaganda against Jews made it to school books. Jews were seen as wretched beings having bad practices and habits. Calls were given for their total. The Nuremberg Laws were passed which took away many civil rights the Jews.

Eventually, Jewish people were denied citizenship rights. The Gestapo, secret police saw that the top orders were being followed in letter and spirit.

By the late 1930s, Jews had to carry identity cards with a ‘J’ stamp. Their clothes had to have a star to identify them with their clothes from afar. In 1938 Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were attacked throughout Germany and Austria. The committed individuals took it upon themselves to teach errant Jews a lesson. The outcome of all these developments that took place in quick succession is known to all.

So, can anyone see a pattern here? Is a template being followed to achive a Nazi goal in the 21 st century India. Are Indian Muslims in the footsteps of German Jews? Is the final solution being arrived at? These are the question on the minds of concerned citizens of the country.

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The opinion expressed in the article is of the writer. Writer is a freelance journalist/journalist based in Delhi

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