The Communal Virus
The Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin Markaz saw the media, politicians and the WhatsApp brigade leaving no stone unturned to give it a religious colour. Rumours were spread about how the Muslim community was intentionally trying to spread the deadly virus and their lack of cooperation in being treated. Fact-checking agencies like Alt News denied claims against the Jamaat members but by the time they released reports, establishment media had already been running debates labelling the entire community as traitors. Videos from other countries and different years were circulated painting the patients as lawless savages, roaming around naked and spitting on doctors.
The entire incident makes it interesting to understand why people so readily believe fake news, especially when it is concerned with Indian Muslims, one of the most vulnerable communities in India, with poor economic conditions, lack of education, and inadequate political leadership. Their rights and freedoms are judged from a prejudiced lens, and any attempts to secure dignity are welcomed with a conspiracy fed to millions. The media has played a key role in the propagation of fake news. Selective reporting, aggressive prime-time debates and airing unverified conspiracy charts have created a polarising sentiment. Members of the community as well as advocates of truth are slandered and their credibility viciously maligned. Coronavirus will, hopefully, disappear soon. But the communal virus will continue to haunt us for a long time.
Democracy can come up with institutions to tackle corruption but it cannot tackle communal hatred. Let’s not engage India in a war with itself.