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AN OPEN LETTER TO SHRI. MOHAN BHAGWAT, SARSANGHCHALAK, RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH (RSS): Your Address of April 26 – Too little, too late!

AN OPEN LETTER TO SHRI. MOHAN BHAGWAT, SARSANGHCHALAK, RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH (RSS): Your Address of April 26 – Too little, too late!

Dear Shri. Mohan Bhagwat, The whole Nation, it is presumed, heard your online address on April 26, on the current situation in the wake of COVID-19 crisis. Probable exceptions may be the sea of poor migrant labourers stranded in various towns and cities, who might have been standing in lengthy queues during your address, to collect their food packets from good Samaritans. Neither was it the festive occasion of Vijayadashami, nor the annual training session for RSS workers – routine occasions for address by the Sangh chief. But still you chose to address on this day, which shows the gravity of the situation. At the outset, let me borrow a famous quote from Julius Caesar, the famous play written by William Shakespeare – “There is a tide in the affairs of men Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat; And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.” For the past one and a half months, the whole country has been reeling under the onslaught of Covid-19 Virus. Honourable Prime Minister of India has been leading from the front in India’s fight against this invisible enemy. Our proactive approach in tackling the Corona Virus has been receiving kudos from the whole world. Then, almost as a bolt from the blue, came about the Tablighi Jamaat controversy. And in no time, the focus of our war against this unprecedented Pandemic shifted to a little-known mosque in Nizamuddin Area of New Delhi – the Bangle Wali Masjid that serves as the Markaz (headquarters) of the Tablighi Jamaat movement. There is absolutely no doubt that the deplorable actions of some followers of the Tablighi Jamaat are beyond condonation, and must be dealt with according to the law of the land. No sooner had the Markaz fiasco came to pass, than all our traditional print and electronic media and social media appeared to have been jolted out of their hibernation, a more apt phrase would be ‘jolted out of their monotony’ of talking only about the Pandemic. What ensued can only be 

described as anything but journalism, a career that demands the highest level of professionalism and responsibility. The Islamophobic hashtags and topics began circulating on Twitter, Facebook and the Whatsapp, TRP-enhancing phrases like Corona Jihad flashing on most of the TV channels, with the newspapers taking every step not to be left behind their online counterparts in this race. Objective and balanced reporting of the event were few and far between, that naturally got drowned in the cacophony of unchecked activism on the part of majority of the media – TV channels, newspapers and the social media. In your address, you had emphasized that an entire community should not be blamed for the acts of a few, in an apparent reference to the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz controversy. By virtue of your stature, you enjoy enormous authority not only in the RSS but a larger agglomeration of Hindu organisations. Many of those who have been behind the ongoing targeting of Muslim community, in the name of the Tablighi Jamaat incident, are associated with these organisations. It is for this very reason that your intervention becomes all the more important. But, given your mysterious silence for almost a month since the Markaz controversy first erupted, your address can only be described as too little, too late. Had you chosen to speak out earlier, so many damages could have been avoided.

 Unscrupulous mischief mongers using this incident in some way to blame the entire Muslim community for the spread of Covid-19 in India, could have been avoided.

 Unchecked, misinformed, misguided and misdirected activism in majority of the electronic and print media in India, continuing unabashedly to this day, could have been avoided.

 Incessant spewing of venom against Muslims by the trolls on social media, with unsubstantiated allegations of some form of Jihad or conspiracy to weaken the country, could have been avoided.

 Physical assaults on Muslims, innocent and unconnected with the Markaz fiasco, in several places could have been avoided.

 Religious profiling and boycotting of poor Muslim vendors selling groceries and miscellaneous items, could have been avoided. Whether this is a prelude to the larger economic boycott of Muslims in the unorganised sector, only time will tell.

 Several instances of Muslim volunteers being harassed and prevented from carrying out relief activities in several parts of the country, could have been avoided.

 The most inhuman incidence of some hospitals and clinics turning away Muslim patients just because to their faith, could have been avoided.

 The Health Ministry’s bulletins, separately detailing break-up of Covid-19 cases caused by the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, forced the WHO Emergency Programme Director Mike Ryan to say, “This does not help. Having Covid-19 is not anybody’s fault. Every case is a victim. It is very important that we do not profile the cases on the basis of racial, religious and ethnic lines.”

Such adverse remarks against the country in an international forum could have been avoided.

 Recent diplomatic embarrassments faced by India over the outrage in Gulf countries due to relentless Islamophobia by certain misguided elements, necessitating the intervention of the
Prime Minister himself to assuage their unease, could have been avoided.

 

To make matter worse, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its
2020 annual report last week, recommended that India be designated as a “country of particular
concern” (CPC), for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious
freedom violations. It is for the first time since 2004 that India has been designated a CPC, and
finds itself bracketed with countries like China, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Syria
and Iran. Such dubious distinction for India as a secular democracy bodes ill for her international
image and goodwill.
Adverse international opinion does not make a difference for pariah states like North Korea, Syria
or Myanmar, nor do these states could care less about what the world thinks about them. But India
belongs to an entirely different league of nations. It is the largest democracy in the world. That is
why, any (adverse) remark about India in the international arena matters a lot for the country. India
has rightly rejected all such negative comments emanating from various international forums in
recent times, as any sovereign country should do. Nevertheless, this should lead us to an honest
introspection, whether such unpleasant remarks and their frequency are any pointer to a growing
lack of faith and credibility of India as a secular democracy. If so, this does not augur well for India
as a country aspiring to reclaim its status of a Vishwa Guru.
Let me quote a line from the famous novel, The Plague (French: La Peste) by Albert Camus,
published in 1947, that tells the story of a plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran.
“....... there is no denying that the plague had gradually killed off in all of us the faculty not of love
only but even of friendship........”
The above line is not only pertinent to be quoted in the present circumstances, but also bears a

frightening resemblance to the social conditions existing in the country under the prevailing Covid-
19 Pandemic. Thanks to irresponsible media coverage, as well as irresponsible statements by certain

 

politicians, the current Pandemic has caused the simmering schism between the two communities – Hindus and Muslims – to widen further. No doubt the deadly Corona Virus is wreaking havoc throughout the world, India being no exception to its curse. But what is unique to this country is the alarming reality that riding on the fatal Corona Virus, a far more deadly COMMUNAL VIRUS is slowly taking deeper roots in the Indian society. As if that were not enough, there is every indication that this Communal Virus will outlive the Corona Virus, further rupturing the socio-economic fabric of our country. This carries the grave risk of making India’s recovery post-Covid very, very difficult, if not impossible. Thus, you have upon your shoulders an added moral responsibility now, to ensure that your advice contained in the address of April 26 is religiously followed in letter and spirit, and enforced on the ground, by your cadres. It is to be hoped that a strong message had already gone with your address that all minorities, including Muslims, are an integral part of India’s socio-economic fabric, and that sincere recovery efforts post-Covid requires the Nation to work in unison.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE M. W. ANSARI, IPS (Retd.) Former D.G.P., Chhattisgarh Email: mwansari1984@gmail.com

 




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