Defending the indefensible: a response to Dr. Farooqi’s rejoinder

April 14, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

[I posted an article titles “Should we defend Tablighi Jamaat?” on this blog on 1st April.

The New Leam published it online on 3rd April, here.

Dr. Farooqi’s rejoinder was published online in The New Leam on 8th April, here.

The following article is a response to Dr. Farooqi’s article published online in The New Leam, here.]

Dr. Irfanullah Farooqi has raised several issues against what I said in my article titles “Should one defend Tablighi Jamaat?”, through a rejoinder titled “Tablighi Jamaat and the Perils of Precipitous Criticality: A response to Prof. Rohit Dhankar”. My article was written on 1st April 2020, put on my blog on the same day and was kindly published by New Leam on 3rd April. I am thankful to Dr. Farooqi for noticing this article and subjecting it to proper standards of “academic integrity”, in his own word. This short article was written as a comment in the course of ongoing debate in the country on Nizamuddin Markaz issue. Since the article was originally a blog post I may have been rather careless on strict academic parameters of referencing etc., and assumed some information already available to my readers or being clear in the context. Also, sorry to confess this but, I don’t even know what strict academic parameters are. However, my writing is guided by common sense and reason to communicate with people. Any one writing publicly should take full responsibility for facts, reasoning and conclusion drawn, be that academically rigorous or not. Veracity of the facts and premises, and validity of reasoning should be the main concern. Generally speaking, arguments and conclusion which pass these two tests are considered sound. The following response to Dr. Farooqi’s rejoinder is written keeping these parameters in mind.

Dr. Farooqi has organised his rejoinder under three major sub-heads, I will respond to charges made under them one by one.

Critical Review of arguments or flogging the same dead horses again and again

Dr. Farooqi is making a strenuous effort to resuscitate the already demolished arguments in this section. It is somewhat waste of time to deliberate on them again, but since Dr. Farooqi is not alone[1] who is still using all or some of these arguments, it may still merit some consideration. Therefore, I request the indulgence of readers on this part of my response.

On the argument of “holding the central government accountable” he accepts my contention that “we cannot overlook the Tablighis’ moral responsibility”. But has an objection to the “ease” with which, according to him, I am using the term “crime”; which he wants to consider later. So, shall we in this response.

In his analysis of the second argument about “the negligence on the part of the Delhi Police” Dr. Farooqi says very little regarding responsibility of the Jamaat, he mainly uses this argument to accuse me of naivety, lack of objectivity and irresponsibility. The basis of these intellectual and moral strictures against me is given as (a) the video cited by me, (b) cherry picking (not his words) from the video and (c) my remark that the police “should not have been scared of touching this Jamaat”.

In my article all I wanted to establish is that even if the police were negligent, the Delhi government order of 16th March made it mandatory for everyone to refrain from holding large gatherings, even for religious purposes. One does not always wait for police notices to follow publicly proclaimed orders of the governments. Dr. Farooqi says nothing against it, therefore, it is assumed here that he has no objection.

Regarding the videos: one can compare the two videos here, video1 is referred by me and video2 is provided by Dr. Farooqi. Yes, video1 has some unnecessary music and other visuals added to it, but the conversation in both the videos is exactly the same. If one sees video1 from 1:12 mins to the end, and video2 provided by Dr. Farooqi, in terms of conversation there is no difference. The SHO can be heard clearly saying “despite alerts and warnings there is a gathering of around 1,500 to 2,000 at the Markaz (every day)”, and a little later “if you had been serious since the last 3-4 days then it would have been empty by now”, which means from around 19-20 March. Despite all this Dr. Farooqi accuses me of not enquiring about “the date(s) when the Tablighis were asked in writing by the SHO to vacate the premises”. What could it mean but that he is assuming that unless the police ask in writing there is no problem in ignoring the Delhi government’s publicly announced orders and verbal “alerts and warnings” form the police? In my view the argument I made a paragraph above holds, and if it does, the video issue has no greater importance than some technicalities.

Cherry picking: Dr. Farooqi questions my objectivity on the basis that I did not emphasise the fact that 1,500 out of 2,500 had already left by then, as per a member of the Jamaat talking with the SHO. This fact has little or no bearing on the argument I make in my article. In any case later on it transpired that while Jamaat was talking of 1000 people to evacuate, actually the government ended up evacuating 23,00+ people. May be the additional 13,00+ were permanent residents in the Markaz, but they also should have been counted. (I have not checked this and am not really clear who the additional people were, therefore, will be open to accept alternative information.)

The police should not have been scared remark: in my view police in India is scared of touching all religious groups, be they Hindu or Muslim. And this remark is made in this sense only. The scenario Dr. Farooqi is paining especially of “bearded orthodox Muslims” etc. is his own interpretation and/or fertile imagination.

My refutation of the third argument that Hindu religious and other gatherings were also happening at the same time basically rests on my denial to accept the faulty argument “if A made mistake X, then you cannot blame B for making the same mistake”. Dr. Farooqi marks it to be taken up later, so shall do I at this point. But he also questions my contention that some of the Hindu gatherings referred to by Jamaat defenders may have happened before the lockdown in the places they occurred. He claims to have not understood what I mean by lockdown. My exact sentence is “they were before the lockdown, and one needs to find out if the states where they occurred had declared a ban on congregations of more than 200 as Delhi government did on 13th March.” I thought it is clear from the context that “lockdown” is the national lockdown declared on 24th March, and I am also saying that one needs to find out if the states where they occurred had declared a ban on congregations of more than 200 as Delhi government did on 13th March.” This is because people were referring to Tirupati gatherings of thousands. But Andhra Pradesh had no ban on gatherings or lockdown till 20th March, and Tirupati was closed on that same day. Still I am saying such temples “cannot be absolved of moral responsibility” as they knew the possibility of coronavirus spread in such gatherings. I am also saying that unknown to me if there were other religious gatherings at other places they too must be criticised and punished (if they broke any laws). He demands that I should have taken each case and refuted it! But why? In this particular article I am writing about the Jammat incident and have clearly expressed my views that all gatherings of similar nature should be treated similarly, irrespective of their religion. Yes, I agree the 13th March order of Delhi government does not specifically mention religious gatherings, but 16th March one does. And I am criticising Jamaat less for the event on 13-15 March and more for not dispersing even after 16th and continuing to hold congregations of thousands inside the Markaz in Maulana Saad’s lectures. But the real force of my argument lies in my complete denial to accept the morally slip-shod principle of “if A made mistake X, then you cannot blame B for making the same mistake”. Which remain unaffected by all these arguments.

In attempt to resuscitate the fourth defence that “the people entered Markaz before the government declared lockdown” Dr. Farooqi analyses the Delhi government orders again. And gives several advises as well as predicts my behaviour if I had done this or that. It does not touch my argument at all.

It is necessary to emphasise in present day India that establishing that ‘a particular writer is biased in choice of issues to write about’ does not necessarily prove that ‘what s/he writes is either wrong or biased’. A writer can be biased in his choice of issues, and still his facts, arguments and conclusions may be sound. However, I refute both the charges here.

In summing up: my arguments for holding Tablighi Jamaat’s Maulana Saad faction responsible can be restated as follows:

  1. That the coronavirus scare had already gripped the world and the country by the time Jamaat held its event.
  2. That the Delhi government had already declared that “sports gatherings …/conferences/seminars beyond 200 people are prohibited” on 13th By implication the Jamaat should have understood that it is very perilous to hold an event in which thousands of people will get together. But that implies only moral responsibility and it is possible to avoid legal consequences on technical grounds that the term “religious” is not included in the order.
  3. By 16th March the term religious was also included and number of people was reduced to 50. But thousands were staying in the Markaz. The police are claiming that dispersing people was not taken seriously even by 23rd
  4. Maulana Saad was holding religious discourses and namaaz with thousands gathered together till 26th March, and uploading videos of his discourses on delhimarkaz.org, which was after the written order of the police and declaration of national lockdown.
  5. The namaaz congregations and after namaaz discourse continued, which is clear from the written information running in the video (actually Maulana’s audio recording presented as a video) in the beginning.
  6. The Maulana repeatedly exhorts his audience not to abandon gathering together for namaaz, to bring people to moques “gasht karke”, meaning “bring people to mosques by patrolling”. He also says that the corona-scare and advice not to gather together is a conspiracy against Muslims (in another video). Also says even a doctor who does not adhere to Islam is not to be obeyed or taken seriously.
  7. All this coming from the head of the organisation that held the event and where thousands were staying during national lockdown certainly indicates exhortations to stick to the religious obligation in the face of government orders, and Tablighis actually followed the advice.

None of Dr. farooqi’s flogging of the dead horses of arguments deducts even an iota from this. Arguments like Dr. Farooqi’s are being reiterates even on 9th April amount to nothing more than obfuscation. That brings us to the closer of the first major section in Dr. Farooqi’s rejoinder.

Concerns and their dismissal

Dr. Farooqi rightly points out that I make a distinction between acts of violating government orders due to some ‘constraints or inadvertently’ on one side and ‘violating them deliberately’ on the other. Then he goes on to claim that “[W]e fail to come across a single credible argument to substantiate that the Tablighis violated the orders deliberately”. I wrote the following in my article:

“This Maulana has been holding congregations in the Markaz, perhaps attended by thousands, and delivering lectures right till 26th March morning. In these lectures the Maulana argues in many ways and in great detail that:

  1. In these days of coronavirus threat leaving Mosques is against the hadith (he quotes one).
  2. This is the time to congregate more in the Mosques. To bring people more into the mosques. The torments like illnesses come because of leaving ibadat, and it will go away only by coming more to the mosques for ibaadat.

 

“yah mauka kaam ko badhaane ka hai. Yah waqt is ka ki gast karke logon ko masjid ki taraf lane ka hai. Jo azaab gunahon ki wajah se aa rahe hain ve azaab ibaadat ko chhodane se khatm nahin honge, balki ibadaat ki nirdat(?) ko badhaane se khatam honge.”

The Maulana repeats this argument and message in many videos tracks and in many ways.”

This was on 26thMarch, after declaration of national lockdown. -One of the discourse was given after morning Namaaz. There were thousands of people living in the Markaz on that day, Delhi government later evacuated 2300+ people. It is reasonable to assume that when the head was giving this discourse, he did not offer namaaz alone, or in a small gathering. There are people heard in the audio continuously coughing, and also some voices. Therefore, one can reasonably conclude that the discourse was given in a congregation of perhaps hundreds, if not thousands. If this is not deliberate violation of the government orders, what else would be? But perhaps Dr. Farooqi is unwilling to accept this line of argument. In that case he should have refuted it rather than summarily declaring that there is no “credible argument”.

Dr. Farooqi then accuses me of “violence” simply because I did not research enough and mention that there are two factions of Tablighi Jamaat. My article is continuously talking of events in the Nizamuddin Markaz, Delhi. I am mentioning Maulana Saad as head of Tablighi Jamaat. I don’t see how anyone could have misunderstood that I am accusing both factions of Jamaat? Yes, I had no knowledge that Jamaat has two factions. But what difference does this knowledge make to my argument? What harm did my ignorance cause in this regard? Dr. Farooqi is welcome to share his knowledge about history and politics of the Jamaat, but accusation of violence is beyond my understanding. However, if some members of other faction of the Tablighi Jamaat felt that they are being implicated in all this, I unconditionally tender my apologies to them, for my ignorance of existence of another faction, I had no intention of implicating them. Actually, I am blaming only Maulana Saad, the decision makers in this episode and the those who obeyed him. I have no intention of implicating even all the Tablighis who though belong to Maulana Saad faction but do not agree with him

Regarding the whole Markaz episode and Maulana Saad’s discourse Dr. Farooqi claims that “in no way does it violate the constitutional provision vis-à-vis freedom of religion.” I have maintained above that his lectures and actions jeopardised public health, it is proved subsequently by the corona-infection data. Article 25, section 1 of the constitution states, “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.” (Italics added.) I would request Dr. Farooqi to pay attention to the italicised part of the quote from the constitution. I am no legal expert, as a common man at this moment Dr. Farooqi’s claim seems to be spacious to me, to say the least.

Dr. Farooqi accuses me of missing out on “the fine distinction between endangering oneself by following a religious obligation and using theology to deliberately put everyone else’s life in danger.” In this regard he also quotes Prof. Danish Iqbal of Aligarh Muslim University saying “[T]he former is a matter of faith … The latter –a devious act of religious bigotry– deserves criticism of the kind the author makes, but of the order the markaz incident certainly is not”.

Of course, I agree with the distinction Prof. Iqbal is making and was aware of this distinction when writing the article. But don’t agree with his conclusion that the Markaz incident was not an incident “to invoke theology while deliberately endangering others’ life.”

Dr. Jean Dreze writes on 23rd March in The Hindu, “When you decide to stay at home, there are two possible motives for it: a self-protection motive and a public-purpose motive. In the first case, you act out of fear of being infected. In the second, you participate in collective efforts to stop the spread of the virus. … The enlightened reason is not to protect ourselves, but to contribute to collective efforts to halt the epidemic.” I have used this idea in one of my article and criticised all acts of violation of social-distance norms irrespective of religion of people involved.

Regarding the Jamaat incident I have established the deliberateness of the act above. And am unwilling to accept that the Maulana did not know that every infected person is a danger to many others. One can certainly claim that the Maulana might have genuinely believed in his ignorant theories of Allah sending the illness and might have assumed His protection for himself and his followers. But that is precisely the kind of theological steadfastness that I am holding responsible for violating government orders specifically declared to protect people. Therefore, disagreeing with Prof. Iqbal assessment of the Markaz case as of the first kind, I put it in the second of his categories which he defines as “a devious act of religious bigotry– deserves criticism of the kind the author makes”.

In connection with treating equal crime or negligence equally Dr. Farooqi correctly says about me that “he (me) again insists that if a mahant or temple priest if (this “if” should be replaces with “is” to express the meaning of my sentence paraphrased here) found indulging in similar acts they should be equally condemned and punished”. But then he attributes to me something which I did not say, to quote Dr. Farooqi “[I]t is again with unsettling convenience that Prof. Dhankar points out that the Jamaat cannot be defended ‘if there are no such acts’ found.” (Emphasis added.) What I actually wrote is “[I]t (other congregations) can be equated with the Tablighi congregations only if there is evidence of deliberate theological support, deliberate staying together and deliberate instigating people not to obey the government orders.” There is a world of difference between “equating” two acts, and “defending” any of them. As far as I am concerned even after equating neither can be defended. Equation between the two can only be used for condemning and/or punishing both equally, not for absolving of their responsibilities.

Dr. Farooqi does not stop here, he makes even stranger accusations. He writes that “[I]t does not take a genius to know that there are hundreds of videos of preachers across the board that attest to continuous conflict between the state and the religion yet Prof. Dhankar entertains “if there are no such acts”.” Seems it does take a genius to understand that in my article I am talking about specific cases of violating the government orders on theological grounds in the present context of corona restrictions and equating other cases with Jamaat acts, therefore, cases of conflict between religion and state generally are irrelevant here.

Still more false claims about what I said. articled. Farooqi saya “he did acknowledge that there have been theologically-minded deliberate attempts of instigating people to disobey government orders”. What I actually say is “I am not saying that there have not been any such ‘theologically minded’ deliberate acts of instigating people to disobey the government orders.” A higher secondary student of logic knows that “I am not saying that Ramachandra does not smoke” does not mean the same thing as “I acknowledge that Ramachandra smokes”. I am astonished by this interpretation.

Dr. Farooqi further claims: “Prof. Dhankar expresses his ‘real concern’ in a deeply problematic way. Reading his final bits it seems that one of the religious obligations the Tablighis have (the most pressing one perhaps) is to do with disobeying government order. He goes even further and argues that their doings undermine the constitution and orders of the constitutionally elected government.” And then Dr. Farooqi taking high moral ground sensors me, “An ill-founded concern of this kind –surely a result of little awareness of the history and essentials of the movement– needs to be questioned at all costs. Prof. Dhankar needs to realise the consequences of a sweeping remark of the kind he has made.”

My actual paragraph is: The real concern in this is: that an interpretation of a religion is being preached that clearly declares that when there is a conflict between a government order and supposed to be religious duty a large section of believers will go by the supposed to be religious duty and disobey the government order. This attitude is very dangerous and can break the law and order any time. The issue is, in a democracy should the religious dictum be subordinate to the constitution or the religious dictum be supreme even if violates the orders of the constitutionally elected government? Facing this question squarely is necessary.” I don’t need to deliberate on this point, I am sure the readers will plainly see that Dr. Farooqi is grossly misinterpreting me.

Dr. Farooqi falsely claims “Prof. Dhankar is being disturbingly patronising in suggesting that one can only understand the Tablighi Jamaat by listening to Maulana Saad’s lectures.” And then accuses me of ignorance on this basis. Where he reads this suggestion in my article is a puzzle for me. All I claim is that the present incidents at the Markaz cannot be fully understood without taking into consideration Maulana Saad’s concomitant lectures. And I believe any one claiming otherwise is either too naïve or patently dishonest. How can one come to any other conclusion when (a) the gatherings were religious in nature, (b) the head of Jamaat gives direction to understanding the Jamaat interpretation of religion and religious obligations, (c) the same head is giving daily discourses on the very issues in the religion that are to be interpreted and understood?

In this section Dr. Farooqi is continuously misinterpreting and falsely attributing statement to me which I did not make. The whole exercise is nothing more than creating strawmen and attempting to destroy them. I wonder why would one do that? Is it necessitated by attempts to defend the indefensible? Puzzling, to say the least.

List of advices

The rest of Dr. Farooqi’s article consists of a list of condescending advices to me under the sub-heading “What Prof. Dhankar needs to be mindful of”. There are too many jumbled assertions and unsubstantiated claims in these advices, and they are often unrelated to my article; therefore, I will try to summaries each of these advises as best as I can and make a brief comment.

First: Dr. Farooqi takes objection to my term “defend” and rightly says that it “suggests some kind of blind advocacy”. He is right, as far as it goes, to make it more precise I would say “blind and/or committed irrespective of rational grounds”; and that is precisely what I want to communicate. I am not writing against the balanced articles which concede that Jamaat made a grave mistake that could have been avoided. I am writing against the articles which use the four arguments examined above. Anyone using those arguments to make light of the Jamaat acts is into blind advocacy, including Dr. Farooqi’s rejoinder to me.

Second: in his second advice Dr. Farooqi reads me a sermon on ‘Muslims are victims’ narrative. I reject this narrative. This is not the place to go into its details; however, someday I may articulate my views on this issue in detail. All I will say here is that in my view Hindu-Muslim issue in this country is a complex legacy of thousand years with strands deriving their damaging force from culture, religion, political ideology and identity politics. Presently this narrative is sustained by so-called liberals[2] through various devices. One very prominent device is that whenever one points out a mistake of any individual Muslim or a Muslim organization a very well-nit group of supposed to be intellectuals raises a cry of “maligning the whole Muslim community”. As is happening in the present case. This is not to deny that there are people in India who blame and vilify Muslims as a community and unfairly, such people visibly exist. But there are many more who argue reasonably and reject their vilification attempts. The real issue is how do we ensure that public discourse is reasonable and not biased in favour of any community? Seeing only one side of the public debate and sustaining a victimhood narrative on that is unjustifiable to say the least. But my real objection to his use of this sermon is that all arguments which use the device of “since X did it, therefore Y cannot be blamed” are morally slip-shot arguments. They spiral into ever increasing acceptance of crimes against the society. Hiding or shying away from stating the truth in the name of political correctness will never do any good to anyone, including the group or individual being defended. I find this line of argument highly biased and irresponsible.

Third: I am not sure what point Dr. Farooqi is making in his third advice to me. I never supported any news “about creating anger, hate, and disgust”.

Fourth: Dr. Farooqi’s fourth advice demands from me to ask myself if “any other community, having done what the Tablighis did, be subjected to the same brutality and hate?” and predicts that my “answer would urge him (me) to forsake the equal treatment thesis”. He asks this on the basis of a list of hate being spread against Muslims through fake news. One, I cannot guarantee that all other communities will be subjected to the same level of criticism, but have been arguing in all my little articles and conversations that they should be. Two, fake news of very obnoxious kind is being spread in a viral manner. Some of them are proved to be fake, others are claimed by responsible people to be true. I cannot accept or discard them all out of hand in the present atmosphere of crisis of trust. However, fake news does not make me discard the principle of equal treatment and sticking to the truth. There are other ways and means to stop fake news.

Just to highlight the problem of veracity of news these days we can consider Dr. Farooqi’s claim that “[O]n 3rd April, a mosque in Northwest Delhi was attacked and burnt by a group of about 200 people.” The Scroll has reported on 5th April that “[T]he police claimed that there was no attempt to break or vandalise the mosque, but, filed an FIR in connection with unlawful congregation.” Dr. Farooqi did not give enough detail to identify the mosque in question but I think the police statement is about the same incident. Now, I cannot make an immediate judgment whether the police are hiding the truth or the news was fake.

Fifth: Dr. Farooqi’s fifth point makes an argument against my contention of “informed and wilful disregard” of government orders. His argument is interesting to say the least. It runs thus:

  1. Tablighis are aware “of their status as second-class citizens”.
  2. That makes them vulnerable.
  3. “A vulnerable group cannot afford to take chances.”
  4. Conclusion: Tablighis did not knowingly and willfully disregard government orders.

The Tablighis may see themselves as second-class citizens. However, I have no doubt about this in my mind. They should have access to the same rights and privileges as everybody else, and of course, the same responsibilities. I do not accept premise C above. And therefore, the argument is fallacious.

Then he goes on to mention some Ramanavami celebration on 2nd April as an example of “act of deliberate disregard”. And directly makes an accusatory prediction, “[Y]ou will not write about it just when it happened. At some point later, when you will reflect on something else and you will be told about this event, and you might seek recourse to the ever-enchanting “That too should be condemned”.”

I did not write. One is not always in a position to keep track of all such incidents. Every citizen is not responsible for writing on every incident. One can be accused of a bias of this nature only if: 1. When asked to comment defends such incidents, 2. Has track record only of writing on one kind of incidents, and 3. Attacks others for writing on incidents that one wants to defend.

And for Dr. Farooqi’s information I have written on incidents of this nature which came to my notice and when I wanted to make some point. Just to give one example I have written on some issues without Dr. Farooqi’s prompting. See here.

Dr. Farooqi’s sixth and last advice to me is to reconsider the phrase “crime against humanity”, which I will take up presently. But before that shall deal with a few things he says along with this advice. In his declared judgment my comments in the article he is criticizing are “exceptionally violent”. Since it is a plain assertion I don’t understand why? The only reason I can think of is that in his view pointing out a grave mistake or crime of a Muslim organization is necessarily violent. I cannot accept that proposition. Then he goes on to site a much referred to incident in Morena which necessitated quarantine of 26,000 people. And claims that this news has not led to any anger. My opinion on the incident is expressed in an article written on 8th April, which in brief is “[T]he man committed an irresponsible act, but at that time there was no ban on gatherings in MP”. In my view this incident cannot be equated with the Markaz incident. Those interested in knowing a little more detail of the argument can refer to paragraph five of my article here. Invoking victimhood on the basis of such incidents is precisely the reason I call such writing “defending the indefensible”. To Dr. Farooqi my saying about other incidents that “this too should be condemned with equal ferocity” is meaningless. To me it is NOT. It seems to me it is meaningless to him because he wants to keep incidents where the Jamaat is involved ‘above criticism’. Dr. Farooqi goes on to state that “[E]ven when we condemn both we don’t end up creating the same response in the society”. That may unfortunately be true today. But selective criticism comes from both sides. One can read the article written in defence of the Jamaat to see how minor incidents are equated with the deliberate Jamaat acts that have huge implications in terms of scale as well as creating mindsets.

At the end Dr. Farooqi states “I do maintain that the Tablighis ought to have behaved more responsibly.” To me that shows that leave out crime, Tablighis did not even behave ‘irresponsibly’, their ‘responsibility just fell short’ of the degree Dr. Farooqi expected of them. That alone is enough to justify the term “defence” in the title of my article.

Finally, coming to the “crime against humanity” issue. Violation of Delhi government orders of 16th March and national lockdown declared on 25th March is a crime under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and a violation of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act – both of which have been invoked in the guidelines on the lockdown issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Moreover, the Delhi government invoked the colonial legislation – Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to tackle the crisis long before the union government announced the lockdown. In fact the Delhi Government invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act as early as March 12th. The criminality of an act does not depend on whether the police gave you notice not to do that or not. Deliberateness of the acts (now can be called crimes properly) is established on sound arguments and evidence as I have shown above. Therefore, the crime is will full. The alarming scale of the crime can be estimated from even a cursory survey of responsible print media in the country linked with the Markaz event and its aftermath. Therefore, I have no doubt in my mind that it was a crime of huge magnitude against the society. In this, somewhat figurative, sense I used the phrase “crime against humanity”. I did not use it in the technical legal sense as being fit to be taken for international trials. My article gives absolutely no indication that I used it in the technical legal sense. Still, it is responsibility of a writer to guard against even deliberate misinterpretation of his writing. Therefore, I accept that I should have been more careful against this kind of deliberate misinterpretation; and should have used the phrase “crime against society”, which it certainly is; or should have qualified the use of the phrase “crime against humanity”.

I thank Dr. Farooqi for writing the rejoinder. It has given me the opportunity to re-examine many of my facts, arguments and articulation. It has also given me an opportunity to articulate some of my contentions in relatively more detail, and firmed up my conviction in all I wrote in that article except the two I have already mentioned. One, my apology to the other faction of the Tablighi Jamaat for not specifically stating that this article is only about the Maulana Saad faction of the Jamaat, though the context left no doubt about that. And two, replacing the word “humanity” with “society” or qualification for the phrase originally used. My resolve to guard against deliberate misinterpretation in public writing is also strengthened. This response has become longer than it should have been partly because of this caution.

******

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/06/islamophobia-taints-indias-response-coronavirus/?utm_campaign=wp_opinions&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter, https://thewire.in/communalism/coronavirus-tablighi-jamaat-scapegoat-muslims

[2] If a liberal is one who believes and acts as per the principles and understandings of political philosophy known as liberalism then a very vocal section of people in India identified as ‘liberals’ seem to be deviating from the liberal principle of fairness in public discourse and action. I would prefer to use the term ‘so-called liberals’ for this section of people; because calling them simply ‘liberals’ implicates other people who follow principles of liberalism unfairly.


Fighting COVID-19

April 13, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

This is clear by now that the country needs to do a lot if it wants to eradicate coronavirus. Medical equipment necessary for prevention and cure is needed in huge qualities, capability of health care system needs to be enhanced, protection measures for health workers need to be strengthened, number of tests need to be increased, so on and so forth. But the main thrust presently is on lockdown and social distancing. Initially the print media showed some suspicion of lockdown and seemed to indicate usual fragmentation in the society on almost all measures taken by the government. However, slowly the realisation seems to have dawned that this might be a necessary evil, and therefore, a socially united effort is essential to make it successful.

Since social distancing and lockdown to facilitate it is seen as the main method of fighting COVID19 in India, success of these measures become crucial for the society. In this situation cases of violation of lockdown guidelines jeopardise public health and even life. As Prof. Jean Dreze says in his piece in The Hindu on 23rd March 2020, risking one’s own health or life is a smaller consideration in these precautions; the larger consideration is being cautious about not causing harm to others, even unintentionally. From this point of view violations of lockdown guidelines are anti-social acts. However, lumping all cases of such violations together in one category and treating them similarly is neither just nor can it be used to improve efficiency of this measure. The cases of violations have to be understood in the context and in terms of intentions/ motivations. Without such differentiation treating all cases alike would be unjust to many people and effective ways of reducing such incidents can not be devised. This is the job of experts who have all the information and understand social psychology. Below I am sharing my common sense views in categorisation, legal and moral sanctions and measures that should be taken to prevent them.

In my view the incidents of lockdown violations can be classified in the following four categories:

  1. Arising out of necessity
  2. Due to selfishness and arrogance
  3. Due to ignorance and negligence
  4. Due to deliberate religious reasons

 

  1. Arising out of necessity

A very disturbing and difficult to prevent example of this kind of cases is the movement of migrant labourers. They are not the culprits but victims in spite of their movement being in violation of the lockdown. Most of them had or have no choice. Lack of place to say in, unavailability of amenities and money, facing hunger, etc. forced them to start moving. This clearly was an oversite on the part of the central and state governments. And even now the arrangements made for this group of people are perhaps not adequate to prevent all incidents of violation of lockdown due to necessity. In my view most of the violations by homeless people in cities also fall under this category.

Other case arising out of necessity could be related with medical emergency, unavailability of food and water in the people’s houses or some other unavoidable and unbearable conditions.

All these cases can not properly be said to be of wilful violation. It seems to me that they should not attract any legal or moral sanctions. Rather they should be considered cases to be helped. Provisions of food, water, medical care and other necessities should be organised to prevent cases of violation of this nature.

  1. Due to selfishness and arrogance

There have been many cases of violation of lockdown which can only be seen as arising out of selfishness and/or arrogance of people. Examples of such cases would be people fighting with security personnel to bring their household helps in the building, politicians celebrating birthdays (Karnataka MLA, BJP), political parties having victory meetings (Madhya Pradesh, BJP), political parties celebrating their foundation day (Karnataka, BJP), people bringing in household helps surreptitiously, deliberately roaming on the roads and picking up fight with police when they want them to remain in their homes, and so on.

All such cases should be severely condemned by the society and appropriate legal action should be taken quickly and with complete transparency.

  1. Due to ignorance and negligence

There may be any cases of people just inadvertently or in ignorance violate lockdown. Some of them may not have information and some others may be somewhat negligent. Such cases are likely to involve only individuals, and therefore, may not have big impact, however, that is by no means certain.

This kind of cases can be prevented only throw greater awareness. Ignorance may attract legal punishment but not moral sanction. Negligence attracts both.

  1. Due to deliberate religious reasons

Most of the cases of violation of lockdown and government orders fall under this category. They are not only most numerous, they also involve largest gatherings, and most persistent disregard for social safety. Some of the cases which immediately come in the mind are a Rath Yatra in Maharashtra, Yogi Adityanath moving Ram statue, two Telangana Ministers performing pooja in temples, Ramanavami gathering in Bengal, continued gathering for namaz (especially Friday) in Mosques, a gathering in a Jain temple, people having a dip in Golden Temple sarovar, and of course the most famous Tabilighi Jamaat event. There is unconfirmed news of many more such cases. The cases of attacks on police and health workers visiting certain localities also have been motivated, as per the unconfirmed news, by religious considerations. The latest in Punjab where a Nihang cut off hand of a police personnel; the most arrogant, fierce and gruesome so fat.

These cases are presenting and will continue to present the toughest challenge to the government. Most of them are adamant and think that religion is above the law. To my mind they need the most severe legal punishment and social condemnation. Unfortunately, the society is most fragmented on such cases. If you mention Rath Yatra or Ramavanami gathering some people will site Jamaat incident to defend them. If you mention the Jamaat some other people will site Rath Yatra to defend them. They use the crimes of others to seek immunity from legal action to commits of their own. They don’t site the other’s crime to punish him as well. Some other people even use case of the first three kinds to defend the fourth kind. This is gross stupidity to site a case of unavoidable necessity (migrant labourers) to justify a case of religious arrogance and violation.

The governments have to improve supplies of food and other necessary amenities to reduce the number of cases of first kind, and step up awareness programmes for the cases of third kind. The cases of second and fourth kind need very stern and prompt legal action against those who are found responsible. Leniency because of connections with powerful politicians or due to considerations for religions will encourage these people.

*****

13th April 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 


सड़कों पर दुर्भाव

April 11, 2020

रोहित धनकर

आज कई बहुत चिंताजनक विडियो क्लिप्स देखे। कई जगह पर लोग सब्जी आदि का ठेला लगाने वालों से नाम पूछ रहे हैं, उन्हें आधार कार्ड दिखाने को कह रहे हैं। मुसलमान पाये जाने पर उन्हें अपनी गली-मुहल्ले से चले जाने को कह रहे हैं। नहीं जाने पर मार-पीट कर रहे हैं। एक में तो एक व्यक्ति माँ-बहन की गंदी गालियां दे रहा है और डंडे से मार रहा है। इतने और सहज आम जगहों पर बने विडियो गलत खबर होंगे यह भी नहीं लगता।

यह सब बहुत चिंता जनक है। जो लोग भौतिक-दूरी (मुझे social-distance शब्द आज और भी बुरा लगाने लगा है) बनाए रखते हुए, जरूरत की चीजें बेच रहे हैं, वे लोगों की मदद कर रहे हैं। और यही उनके लिए रोजगार का साधन भी है। इस में धर्म के आधार पर यह घोर-नीचता पूर्ण व्यवहार है। इस शब्द के लिए और सीधे निर्णय सुना देने के लिए माफी चाहता हूँ  पर और किसी चीज से अभिव्यक्ती का संतोष नहीं हो रहा। संभव है ये बदसलूकी करने वाले भी बीमारी से डर कर कर रहे हों। पर इसमें धर्म के आधार पर भेद करने का और धर्म के आधार पर मुसलमान के प्रती दुर्भाव भी साफ दीख रहा है।

इन लोगों के पास न तो मुसलमान फेरी वालों को इस तरह मारने-पीटने का हक है, ना ही उन्हें रोकने का। यह सीधा फेरीवालों के नागरिक से रूप में मूल अधिकारों को गुंडागिर्दी के बल पर छीनना है। आश्चर्य की बात है की एक जगह तो सरीफ़ और माध्यम उम्र के समझदार लगाने वाले लोग इस पर समूहिक निर्णय लेते भी दीख रहे हैं।

निसंदेह कोरोना के फैलाव और मरकज़ की घटना के आपसी संबंध का भी इस में योगदान है। पर तबलिगी जमात के मौलाना साद वाले घटक के सब लोगों को कोरोना संक्रमण से नहीं जोड़ा जा सकता। और सब मुसलमान तो जमात से संबन्धित भी नहीं हैं। संक्रमण का अकेला कारण जमात के कार्यक्रम में भागीदारी भी नहीं है। और भी बहुत लोग हैं जिनका जमात से कुछ लेने-देना नहीं और संक्रमित हुए हैं। यदि कुल संख्या संक्रमित लोगों की देखी जाये तो लग-भग तय है हिन्दू अधिक होंगे, क्यों की संख्या में हिन्दू अधिक हैं। तो मुसलमान फेरीवालों के साथ इस व्यवहार का कोई आधार नहीं है।

साथ ही, यदी कोई व्यक्ती संक्रमित है तो भी किसी का यह हक नहीं बनाता की उसे गलियाँ देते हुए मार पीट करे। यह सरकार और पुलिस का काम है कि लोगों को इस तरह की गुंडागर्दी से बचाए।

लेकिन असली समस्या मन में दुर्भावना की है। जो लोग अपने ही मन की गंदगी के इस तरह से शिकार हो रहे हैं वे समाज में विखंडन कर रहे हैं। स्वयं अमानवीय हो रहे हैं। यदी यह कोरोना से बचाने का तरीका हो भी—जो कि यह नहीं है—तो भी यह तो अपनी ही मानवता को मार कर बचना हुआ। क्या यह कीमत बहुत ज्यादा नहीं है? इसवक्त हमें ऐसे टीवी चनेल्स और अखबारों की जरूरत है जो इस तरह की सामाजिक विघटन की घटनाओं पर लोगों को ठीक से समझा सकें। धर्म के नाम पर नहीं, बल्कि मानवता, सभ्यता, नागरिकता और अधिकारों के आधार पर।

ऐसी घटनाओं को तुरंत और शख्ती से पुलिस के द्वारा रोका जाना चाहिए। बाकी समझाइस के तरीकों में समय लगता है। जब तक लोगों की अक्ल और इसानियत पर काम शुरू हो तब तक और कोई रास्ता नहीं है। साथ ही अक्ल और इंसानियत के तरीके सब के व्यवहार को कभी नहीं सुधार सकते। कुछ लोग सदा रहेंगे जो मौका मिलने पर दूसरों को परेशान करेंगे, उनपर अन्याय करेंगे। इन्हें राज्य का व्यवस्था तंत्र ही रोक सकता है।

पर यह रोकना केवल बाहरी होगा। सामाजिक समरसता के लिए हमें अपने मन में यह समझना होगा की धार्मिक-दुर्भावना स्वयं के लिए, दूसरों के लिए और समाज के लिए केवल बुरा ही कर सकती है। इस वक्त ऐसी सामाजिक चीजों के लिए समर्पित टीवी कार्यक्रम और अखबार में लेखों की जरूरत है। एक बड़ी मुश्किल यह है की बिना पार्टी-पॉलिटिक्स के ऐसा कुछ बचा ही नहीं है। राजनीती का जागरूकता, संवैधानिक मूल्यों वाला रूप खत्म हो गया है। बस पार्टी-बाजी या विचार-धारा-बाजी बची है। विचार-धारा-बाजी मैं किसी राजनैतिक विचार धारा के प्रती अंध-समर्पण के आधार पर चिंतन और कर्म को कह रहा हूँ। सामाजिक समरसता के लिए समझ का काम इस से ज्यादा गहरे मानसिक स्तर पर होने की जरूरत है। जहां इंसान को केवल इंसान के रूप में देखा जाये।

गलत खबरें भी बहुत नुकशान कर रही हैं। इस वक़्त देश में कोई निकाय, व्यक्ती, या संचार माध्यम नहीं बचा है जिस पर पूरा भरोसा किया जा सके। बहुत से गलत खबरें बना कर चलाते हैं, जो बनाते नहीं वे बिगाड़ कर चलते हैं, जो बिगाड़ते नहीं वे कुछ को तरजीह देते हैं और कुछ को अनदेखा करते हैं। इस वक़्त कोई भी हमारे देश के सामाजिक और राजनैतिक चेहरे की असलयत नहीं जानता। सब अपने चश्मे और अपने समूह के रंग में देख रहे हैं। सामाजिक माध्यमों के भरपूर दुरुपयोग का शमा बना हुआ है। पिछले कुछ वर्षों में एक से अधिक सही पत्रकारिता का दावा करने वाले मैदान में आए और कुछ ही महीनों में अपना असली रंग दिखाने लगे। मन में खयाल आता है की लोगों को ही मिलकर सही जानकारी सबतक पहुंचे इस की कोई व्यवस्था करनी चाहिए। पर कैसे? कुछ पता नहीं।

एक बहुत बड़ी जरूरत इस धार्मिक दुर्भावना के कारणों को ठीक से समझने की भी है। इसे पूरी तरह अभी की खबरों के कारण मानलेना या हिन्दुत्व के नारे से समझने की कोशिश बहुत सतही है। मानवीय संवेदनाओं और सम्बन्धों के बिखरने की कहानी ऐसे घड़े-घड़ाए औजारों से समझ में नहीं आएगी। बार बार सोचने पर भी समझ नहीं आ रहा कि कोई व्यक्ती किसी ठेले वाले को केवल दूसरे धर्म का होने के कारण मारना और गाली देना कैसे शुरू कर सकता है? उस के मन में क्या होगा? वह अपने आप को क्या समझता होगा? दूसरे को क्या समझता होगा? लगता है समाज में जो संवाद सहज रूप से रोज-मर्रा की जिंदगी में चल रहा है उस में कहीं कोई बड़ी विकृती आ गई है। लगता है की आम आदमी के विचार, विश्वास, भाव, और कर्म किसी बनाए हुए सिद्धांतों से नहीं जीवन जीने की प्रक्रिया में अनजाने ग्रहण किए गए प्रतीकों और संस्कारों से चलते हैं। और जीवन की उस मूल स्वयंभू घारा में किसी ने कुछ बिगाड़ कर दिया है। क्या साधन हो हो सकते हैं जो समाज में चलने वाली ऐसी असंख्य जीवन-धाराओं तक पहुँच बना सकें, उन्हें समझ सकें, और वहाँ पर इस दुराव की काट ढूंढ सकें?

इस दुर्भावना की धारा को रोकने के दूरगामी तरीके जो भी हों, इस वाक़ई तो इसे गली-मोहल्ले में बचे हुए सहृदय लोग और पुलिस ही रोक सकती है। और यदि यह नहीं रुकती है तो यह हमारे समाज और सरकार दोनों की असफलता होगी। इस के दूरगामी परिणाम बहुत भयावह हो सकते हैं।

******

11 अप्रैल 2020


For Rana Ayyub: physician heal thyself

April 8, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

Rana Ayyub claims to be disturbed by the moral crisis of her unfortunate country. She concludes an article published in Washington Post[1] saying “my country and its leaders force me to focus on prejudice yet again, revealing an acute and disturbing crisis of morality.” (Emphasis added) Ms. Ayyub had earlier declared India a morally corrupt nation on twitter. She seems to be in a habit of casting her disagreements in moral terminology. It would be worthwhile to examine the moral standards and logical acuity someone taking such a high moral ground herself adheres to. For this purpose, I am using only one article written by her and checking how fair or otherwise is she in reporting and interpreting incidents. I wanted to avoid writing on any issues related to Tablighi Jamaat event and its fallout any more. The references here to these incidents are only to show Ms. Ayyub’s coloured vision.

Distorting facts

In the article pronouncing judgement on India in its very title “Islamophobia taints India’s response to the coronavirus” Ms. Ayyub deliberately distorts and hides facts to coverup Tablighi Jamaat. She claims that the Jamaat held it event “from March 8-10, days before India declared a health emergency and called for a national lockdown.” Everyone knows by this time that she is making a wrong claim. (1) The event with thousands of participants was held from March 13-15, and not from March 8-10. (2) The Delhi government orders not to congregate more than 200 people were in force from March 13, a ban on all religious gatherings of more than 50 was declared on 16th March, and another ban reducing the numbers to 20 was in force from March 19. (3) Complete lockdown of the country was in force from 24th March. (4) The head of Jamaat Maulana Saad was holding discourses in congregations of thousands till 26th March 2020. Therefore, one has to ask whether Ms. Ayyub is ignorant of all these facts or is she deliberately lying? Lying in an international newspaper to malign a whole nation, in order to coverup crimes of a preferred religious organisation can not be called a very high moral principle.

Then she claims that “virtually overnight, Muslims became the sole culprits responsible for the spread of the coronavirus in India”. As we all know it never happened. No responsible leader, opinion maker or media house ever claimed that. All the papers reported was the percentage of cases linked with Tablighi Jamaat event, and not to Muslims. The percentage the government claimed was 42%, and it was based on cases discovered in many states, majority of them not rules by BJP. Ms. Ayyub never sees any moral problem in this kind of false exaggeration when maligning India is the going project.

False parallel

Ms. Ayyub states that “various religious groups held temple gatherings across India during the same period of time, putting many lives at risk”. And also claims that no one minded that (“never mind”). Each one of these gatherings were roundly criticised and condemned and not a single commentator worth his salt came forward to defend them. None of the temples took an arrogant attitude of never stopping their gathering and violating the government orders. While the entire so-called liberal section of Indian opinion makers worked overtime to either defend the Jamaat or obfuscate the issue, and the Jamaat remained as arrogant as always in insisting on congregating in mosques. There is no parallel between these cases and the Jamaat incident.

Then the global opinion maker of Washington Post jumps to the case of an individual who held a funeral feast on 20th March, in Madhya Pradesh. The MP government announced lockdown only on 23rd March, a day before the national lockdown announcement. The man committed an irresponsible act, but at that time there was no ban on gatherings in MP. The expectations of awareness and sensitivity from an individual restaurant waiter and a global religious organisation like Jamaat differ. And, again, no one defended the man’s act. Ms. Ayyub’s argument can be spelled out as follows: A Hindu individual who held a funeral feast before lockdown was announced in his area of residence was not criticised. The Jamaat, a Muslim organisation, was criticised. Therefore, India is tainted by Islamophobia and is in moral crisis. With available facts, in such arguments either morality (fairness is a moral principle) dies or intellect (reasoning is faulty) dies. Ms. Ayyub can decide which.

Misreporting on personal acts

Ms. Ayyub presents the WhatApp comment of an individual in her society as a bias against Muslims in corona-spread. The comment is about Modi’s call for “bang and applaud”, in her own word. But does not share what message she shared on the same WhatsApp group to invoke the response she reports here. Looking at what she has written my guess (only guess) is that she herself objected to the noise made by clapping and banging plates. The man responded by saying that they are making noise only on one day, azaan noise is being tolerated every day. It might be a bad comment, but has got nothing like blaming Muslims for coronavirus. And the objectionable part of the comment seems to be directed to her own high-handed intolerance of others people’s actions.

Another personal experience she reports is her comment on India: She twitted “What is left for a virus to kill in a morally corrupt nation.” In her self-righteousness she even now cannot notice that she is condemning a whole nation. Her explanation of this being directed to leaders etc. is patently unacceptable, as nothing in the comment suggests that. And what is there to complaint if a nation blamed for complete moral corruption retaliates? If it is really morally as corrupt as she declared, she should have expected it; if it is not so corrupt, it has the right to defend itself. She wants all the stones in her own possession to throw at others, if others respond in the same manner, she gets morally disturbed! Ms. Ayyub seems to be blissfully ignorant of the age old, perhaps the first, moral principle almost all cultures invoked: do not do to others what you don’t want to be done to you. She wants to attack others right and left but is very heart when paid in the same coins.

Biased reporting of social media

She declares India to be in acute moral crisis on the basis of what trended on Twitter. Yes, #CoronaJihad etc. trended, and many TV channels and people on Facebook and Twitter blamed entire Muslim community. But she forgets that in this social media storm there was equal force from the other side, people on these very same platforms were also condemning such attempts and were defending not only the Muslim community, but even the criminal act of Tablighi Jamaat, as she is defending in the article under consideration. And these forces in the social media are also Indians. She remembers one side, and ignores the other. Morally upright?

Suicide by a harassed man

Ms. Ayyub used a story from News18 to claim that “a Muslim man committed suicide after members of his village socially boycotted him for allegedly being in touch with members of the Muslim congregation in Delhi”. But forgets that the same story also states: “However, the SHO told PTI that the matter was being investigated whether he was discriminated against or socially boycotted by villagers.

I have sent an ASI on the spot. So far, no issue of social boycott or discrimination has come to the fore. I will be able to say anything in detail about this at around 5 pm after the ASI’s return,” He added.”

There was also a story in several national dailies that a Hindu man was shot dead because he blamed Tablighi Jamaat for helping coconavirus spread. This cherry picking is natural for her, because her morally upright project is to blame India of Islamophobia, not pointing out what could be the reasons behind criticism of some Muslims and Islamic organisations in India.

The Jamaat: acts and intentions

Someone who invokes morality so frequently should be aware that intentions behind an act and its heinousness play an important role in blame it attracts. The heinousness of Jamaat acts can be gauged from the threat of life they pose to people and their scale. The Jamaat is held responsible for significant contribution to coronavirus not only in India but also in Indonesia, Malesia and Pakistan.

I personally believe that in India it angered people so much because of its intentions, which the moral drummers like Ms. Ayyub are not even paying any attention to. By intentions I don’t mean that Tablighis wanted to deliberately infect themselves to infect others. No, not at all. By intentions I mean that their congregations were not by chance, by mistake or because of ignorance. They were motivated by an arrogant religious stance, that stance can be expressed somewhat like this: ‘my Allah’s farmaan is above all humanitarian concerns and all government rules. If my Allah wants me to go to mosque I will continued praying in the mosque’. Under this theological position their head continued his congregations and lectures till 26th Match 2020. An example of what the Head of Tablighi Jamaat says can be heard here. One can ignore the anchor’s analysis and pay attention only to what the maulana says. There are several videos like this. They prove beyond doubt that the Jamaat congregations were not accidental, inadvertent mistakes. They were deliberate religious gatherings to violate government orders motivated by reasons of faith. The intention is clear in what the Maulana says. I am not concerned about his theory of why Allah sends azaab and how you can appease Allah to take that back. What is of interest here is the complete unconcern for peoples’ lives and governments’ directives. This angered people.

Ms. Ayyub takes no notice of this, simply because it does not serve her purpose of showing Islamophobia in India. A balanced view of the whole issue can be seen here and here. And in many more articles written by both Hindu and Muslim citizens of India.

All this shows the moral standards of fairness and intellectual acuity of the global opinion maker journalist(?) of Washington Post. And on top of all this she has the gall to declare a whole nation “revealing an acute and disturbing crisis of morality”. And there is a news paper with world wide reputation that publishes such bundle of half-truths and intellectually challenged conclusions. We are supposed to take heed of this kind of biased writing.

No one is claiming that India is a morally perfect society and that the people behaved in an exemplary manner regarding Jamaat issue. But the society is fighting against two extremes on this issue. One is branding every Muslim a deliberate virus spreading agent and the other is that the Jamaat issue is a fault of everyone else but not of the Jamaat. If we want to find our way in this confusion, we have to subject writings of likes of Ms. Ayyub to rigorous scrutiny. And have to see through the web of half-lies and biased analysis. To blame the whole nation on the basis of mindless junk floating in the social media is highly irresponsible act. But what else can you expect from someone adapt at barbed and poisonous tweets? My advice to Ms. Ayyub would be ‘physician heal thyself’.

And a question for all of us: does equal respect and concern for well being of all necessarily demand ignoring some uncomfortable truths?

******

7th April 2020

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/06/islamophobia-taints-indias-response-coronavirus/?utm_campaign=wp_opinions&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter


Religions are the best friends of COVID-19

April 5, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

The central and UP governments still seem to be far away from tacking the problem of migrant workers. Obviously there have been a series of kneejerk responses to the problem right from the beginning. The different responses from providing buses, to freeze where the pedestrian travellers were, to providing shelters, everywhere there seem to be lacunas and loopholes. May be the governments are making their best efforts, but the magnitude of the problem is such that they are not able to cope. Or may be they are making half hearted efforts so are leaving loopholes.

Some unconfirmed and/or incomplete news regarding Gujarat government arranging buses for 2000 pilgrims stuck in Uttara Khand and foreign tourist being taken in buses during the lockdown have also been circulating. These news items, if true in the form they are circulated in social media, certainly show differential treatment mated out by the government to different sections of people. And that is not reassuring in the present times. All these problems and many more are there.

This article, however, is about contribution of religion to spread of coronavirus. If one discounts the people generally dubbed as “bhaktas”, “IT cell members” and “Right Wingers”, all other Indians seem to be denouncing attempts to “communalise” or making a “Hindu-Muslim” issue or “associating corona spread with any particular religion”. All seem to be unanimous in this. And it sounds the right way to look at the situation as well. COVID-19 is equally dangerous to all, what ever crime the Jamaat committed there are no grounds for assuming that all Islam supports it, nor for holding every individual Muslim as responsible. Actually, no sane person is thinking or saying that every individual Muslim is responsible for it. Many Muslims have actually condemned the acts in harshest terms in print and electronic media. So, certainly every Muslim can not be seen as responsible for this.

But, have religions played a significant role in spreading the virus in South-East Asia? An article in the Wall Street Journal says they have[1]. It gives facts and figures to support the claim that “from Malaysia to Iran, faith groups and pilgrims have emerged as risks, transmitting the disease in ways that are proving difficult to trace and contain.” Tablighi Jamaat figures in a big way in connection with Indonesia, Malesia and Pakistan. Churches in connection with Singapore and South Korea. It does not have anything on India, though by now Delhi Markaz even is known to have links with a similar event in Indonesia.

Therefore, asking “whether religions resist more to closing down congregations than other non-religious congregations?” seems to be a legitimate question in present times. If one goes by the example of stone pelting in Ratha Yatra at Akkalkot, two Telangana ministers offering pooja on Rama Navami, Yogi Adityanath participating in shifting of Rama statue, Karnataka state government permitting 4-5 priests to celebrate Kharaga festival in side the temple, etc. and perhaps numerous others, then one has to come to the conclusion that religious gatherings are relatively more difficult to control.

In have absolutely no hesitation in saying that in all the incidents mentioned in the last paragraph Hinduism is a significant, may be the most significant, factor. There is no way of escaping the conclusion that all these acts are motivated by the desire to fulfil some or other supposed to be religious obligation as per Hindu belief system(s) and practices. The motivation to undertake these acts, desire to ignore the social distance orders, anger for stone pelting in one case, and seeking and granting permission to celebrate festival; all are based on the Hindu belief system(s) and practices connected with these occasions. If one argues that these incidents are not connected with Hinduism, it does not make sense at all. Therefore, all these incidents have to be understood as motivated by Hinduism, and at the minimum, Hinduism is a very significant factor in all these.

Is this conclusion communalising the issue? First lets see what is communalism. Mild communalism, put simply, is “loyalty and commitment to the interests of your own group (Ex. ethnic or religious) rather than to society as a whole”. Rabid communalism would be “loyalty and commitment to your own group, even in situations it might harm the whole society or other particular groups”. Now suppose a citizen of India, X, who happens to be a Muslim, comes to the above-mentioned conclusion after looking at the facts of these incidents that beliefs and practices generally associated with Hinduism are a significant or the central motivating factor in all of them. Is X being communal? In what sense? He is stating a logical conclusion, we do not know his real motive, his facts cannot be denied. There is no obvious benefit to his community in this. Aren’t those, who blame him of communalism, being communal? A counter argument could be: that the Hindus who call X communal are actually trying to save the image of their own community, in the face of possible danger to the whole society, and therefore, showing commitment to their own group even in the face of harm to the whole society. Therefore, the Hindus who call X communal are themselves behaving in a communal manner.

Hinduism recently has received a very bad press nationally and internationally, and almost every so-called Indian liberal is attacking Hinduism for almost everything that goes wrong in our country. Does this situation, Hinduism receiving a bad press presently, makes pointing out something reasonably true anti-Hindu or communal? I don’t see any rational grounds to come to that conclusion. Therefore, to me stating that “all the above-mentioned incidents have to be understood as motivated by Hinduism, and at the minimum, Hinduism is a very significant factor in all these” is neither anti-Hindu nor communal. It is simply a statement of the case as it is. Period.

Next, is X, in stating as said above, making it a Hindu-Muslim issue? Again, in this simple statement I see nothing of Hindu-Muslim issue. Suppose Mr. X is analysing overall impact of all such religion incidents on the coronavirus spread in India. And suppose further, that he comes to the conclusion that there are many more incidents of this nature related to Hinduism than they are related to Islam. And he says that openly. Is he making a Hindu-Muslim issue out of it? I find it hard to accept that. He is simply comparing the incidents, and this understanding might be useful in preparing the future course of action. Thus, as long as his facts are correct and his reasoning is valid, sharing publicly the results of his analysis is neither communal, nor anti-Hindu, nor is he making a Hindu-Muslim issue out of it.

Hindus may like or dislike it, but Asharam, Rampal, Nityanand, etc. all are products of Hinduism. They became influential and could dupe people because there are certain systems of beliefs, practices and rituals which they could use for their own purposes. It could be argued that they did not follow the philosophy and spiritual thought of Hinduism. Similarly, the stone pelting in Akkalkot Rath yatra and other incidents mentioned above are not supported by the philosophy of Hinduism. But a religion is not just its philosophy. It is, as said above, a complex system of beliefs, preachers, believers, social structures, rituals and practices. And all these people draw from the history, mythology, theology, philosophy (even if distorted) and practices of Hinduism. They also shape modern Hinduism. And it does not matter whether you like it or not as long as they have millions of followers who think of themselves as Hindus, they are products of Hinduism. Saying all this, even by a non-Hindu, is not communal and not anti-Hindu. It is just the statement of views that person has formed on the basis of some facts and reasoning.

Is Tablighi Jamaat issue being communalised if some one states that 33% cases till date are connected with its event in Delhi?

From this point of view; noting, stating and arguing that in aggression, in being adamant, in terms of scale and in terms of bold public theological support to continuing congregation come-what-may, Tabligi Jamaat takes the cake. The facts are available to all to check and see. Also, there are several Imams all over the world proclaiming that Allah’s azaab comes because of deviating from the true Islam and coronavirus can not harm believers. In face of all this it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Islamic thought and hadith is liberally used in support of continuing congregations, and instigating people to violate public safety measures. This is the most dangerous aspect of Jamaat incident: it gives elaborate religious justification for endangering oneself, one’s community and the whole society; and declares is pious. I have not seen any such religious justification from any religious leader, other than Islamic scholars. It has to be countered, and to counter it has to be admitted and understood.

In saying so no one is saying that every Islamic scholar supports this view. Actually not. Several Islamic scholars have denounced this view and have said that this is not the ‘true interpretation of Islam’. That however, is neither here not there. As the Maulanas who preach this view call it the real Islam and the counter view is seen as not true Islam; and they also have millions of followers. We do not know; we cannot know the true essence of any religion be that Hinduism or Islam; simply because there is no such thing as true essence of any religion. Religions, be that Hinduism or Islam, are very adept at wriggling out of responsibility of obnoxious acts committed in their name, simply by saying that this is not according to the true meaning of this religion. Personally, I don’t think religious thought can be absolved of the responsibility of such interpretations.

Therefore, the repeated charges of communalising, anti-Muslims and making Hindu-Muslim issue on everyone who states that Tablighi Jamaat has contributed heavily to the spread of coronavirus is hiding behind a smoke screen and avoiding the truth. A problem when ignored, does not go away, it becomes bigger and more harmful.

However, that does not mean that all Islamic thought supports it, nor does it mean that every Muslim supports it or is responsible for it. Those who claim that all Islamic thought supports it and all Muslims are responsible are making false charges against Islam and Muslims, and thus, communalising. But claiming that Jamaat is centrally responsible and the power of Jamaat is drawn from Islamic theology and practices is the truth and has to be stated as it is. Branding impartial truth as communal is a communal act.

The charge that the Tablighi Jamaat is being unfairly selected may be true for some TRP hunting TV channels, but is not generally true. The repeated occurrence of obduracy of Jamaat members, the magnitude of the act, the arrogant defence and defiance eclipse all other such acts, that’s why it figures more in the conversations and discussions. All other acts of this nature by all religions are equally criticised, the debate on them dies quickly because no one comes forward for an unjustified defence for them. When a determined argument savvy group tries to justify unjustifiable in their intellectual arrogance, debate prolongs and truth gets repeatedly underlined.

[Listens to part of the Maulana’s one long bayan here. It takes patience and keen listening abilities to get the force and purport of the lecture.]

******

5th April 2020

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-is-spreading-at-religious-gatherings-ricocheting-across-nations-11584548174?mod=e2fb&fbclid=IwAR1aptUXsh2rWpvRr0BlelmksiV833WVH0oat7fhLXAdiOYwoqPpb3SBBV0


कोरोना-बंदी में भोला

April 2, 2020

रोहित धनकर

भोला कोरोना-बंदी में अपनी छत पर बैठा था। वह घर के अंदर बैठा-बैठा कुछ ऊब गया था, तो शाम ढलने पर छत पर चारपाई लगाई, हुक्का भरा (यह उसकी बहुत बुरी आदत थी) और चारपाई पर बैठ कर हुक्का गुड़-गुड़ाते हुए कुछ सोचने लगा। उसकी मुद्रा कुछ गंभीर थी, चारपाई पर पैर लटका कर बैठा था, कोहनियाँ दोनों घुटनों पर टिकी थी और ठुड्डी दोनों हाथों की एक-पर-एक बंधी मुट्ठी पर। जब वह सोचता था तो उसे ऐसे बैठने की आदत थी उसकी। ये हुक्का पीना और सोचना उस की दो बहुत बुरी आदतें थीं। अचानक भोला को कोई बोलता सुनाई दिया।

आवाज़: भोला किस सोच में डूबा है?

भोला ने नजर उठा कर देखा उसका पड़ोसी ज्ञानचंद अपनी छत से पूछ रहा था। ज्ञानचंद और भोला बिलकुल अलग-अलग तरह से सोचते थे। उन में सहमती कभी-कभार ही होती थी। दोनों में लेकिन बनती खूब थी। भोला कहता ‘ज्ञानु का ज्ञान अंधा है’, ज्ञानचन्द कहता ‘भोला तो बस बेअकल-भोला ही है’। अभी भोला को लगा चलो ज्ञानचन्द से कुछ बहस ही सही। ये घर-से-काम के चक्कर में भोला एकदम आलसी और काम-चोर हो गया था।

भोला: ज्ञानी, तुम टिपणीस जो लिखता है पढ़ते हो?

ज्ञानचन्द: हाँ, कभी-कभी। क्यों?

भोला: तुम्हें याद है इंदोर में 21 मार्च को जनता-कर्फ़्यू के बाद पाँच बजे लोग थाली-कटोरा बजते जुलूश की शक्ल में सड़कों पर आ गए थे। मोदी को समर्थन दिखाने के लिए?

ज्ञानचंद: हाँ, तो क्या हुआ? ये थाली-कटोरे वाले तो बेवकूफ़ियाँ करते ही रहते हैं।

भोला: हाँ, तब टिपणीस ने यही कहा था कि इन लोगों ने अपनी अंधभक्ति में दिन-भर के किए कराये पर पानी फेरदिया। और अपनी मोदी-भक्ति में लोगों को खतरे में डाल दिया। तो क्या तब टिपणीस मोदी समर्थकों और थाली छाप-हिंदुओं के विरुद्ध पक्षपाती (biased) हो रहा था? या सभी हिंदुओं के विरुद्ध हो रहा था?

ज्ञानचन्द: नहीं, वह तो ठीक ही कह रहा था। सही बात थी।

भोला: अच्छा, और जब योगी ने करोना-बंदी की अगली ही सुबह राम की मूर्ति दूसरी जगह स्थापित करने का तमाशा सरकारी अधिकारियों के साथ किया था, तब टिपणीस ने कहा की इसने आदेश तोड़ा है, ये धर्मांध आदमी है। तब वह पक्षपात कर रहा था, हिंदुओं के विरुद्ध? या हिंदुओं को बदनाम कर रहा था?

ज्ञानचन्द: नहीं भोला, वह ठीक कहा रहा था। पर तुम टिपणीस के चक्कर में क्यों पड़े हो?

भोला: हुम्म, और जब शायद इंदोर में ही, नवारात्रा के लिए जुलूश को धर्म के नाम पर सब के लिए खतरा फैलाना कहा तब? क्या वह पक्षपात था? वह हिंदुओं को बदनाम कर रहा था?

ज्ञानचन्द: बिलकुल नहीं, वह धर्म के नाम पर इन हिंदुओं के समाज को खतरे में डालने वाले करनामे को गलत कहा रहा था। और यह कारनामा धर्म के नाम पर तो था ही। इस में बदनाम करने की क्या बात है।

भोला: हुम्म, अच्छा, अब वह कहा रहा है कि तबलिगी जमात ने जानते-बूझते इतने लोगों को एकत्रित होने दिया। कि जमात का हैड मौलाना साद (Sa’ad) बार बार अपने भाषणों में कहता रहा (17 मार्च, 26 मार्च) कि अल्लाह का अज़ाब अल्लाह को और इस्लाम को नकारने से आता है, एकत्रित हो कर इबादत (नमाज़) से नहीं। और मस्जिदों में सामूहिक नमाज़ से दूर होता है। कि मस्जिदों से दूर रहने की सलाह मुसलमानों के खिलाफ साजिस है। कि यह मौका मस्जिदों से दूर रहने का नहीं बल्कि लोगों को मस्जिदों में ज्यादा बुलाने का है। टिपणीस कहता है कि यह धर्म के नाम पर गैर-जिम्मेदाराना काम है। कि इस में मौलाना के मुरीद मुसलमान अन्य मसलमानों की, अपनी स्वयं की और गैर-मुसलमानों की जान के लिए अपने विवेकहीन विश्ववास के कारण खरतारा फैला रहे हैं। तो क्या अब वह मुसलमानों के विरुद्ध पक्षपाती हो रहा है? क्या वह मुसलमानों को बदनाम कर रहा है? क्या वह biased है?

ज्ञानचन्द: (अपनी सफाई से तरासी दाढ़ी खुजलाते हुए) उम्म हूँ  उम्म …

भोला: (भोला बोलते हुए नीचे जमीन पर देख रहा था। ज्ञानचन्द की आवाज न आने पर गर्दन उठा कर देखा तो ज्ञानचन्द इधर-उधर देख रहा था) क्या हुआ ज्ञानी? दाढ़ी में जूएँ हो गई क्या?

ज्ञानचन्द: हुम्म, हाँ, टिपणीस के पास क्या प्रमाण हैं कि इतने लोग जानते बूझते एकत्रित होने दिये? कि मौलाना सच में मस्जिदों में ज्यादा लोगों को आने को कहा रहे है?

भोला: ज्ञानी भाई, दिल्ली सरकार के आदेश 12, 13, 16 और 19 मार्च के जमात के सामने थे। मौलाना के औडियो और विडियो (उन में मौलाना नहीं दिख रहे पर किसी ने इंकार नहीं किया है कि आवाज़ उन की ही है) इन्हीं की वैबसाइट से, उन्हीं के नाम के साथ विडियो का नाम भी दिया है, तारीख भी दी है। ये सब प्रमाण नहीं हैं क्या?

ज्ञानचन्द: ये सब गोदी मीडिया चनेल्स की मुसलमानों को बदनाम करने की साजिस है।

भोला: पर विडियो तो लोगों ने खुद उनकी साइट www.delhimarkaz.com से लिए हैं। जमात कह रही थी कि हजार के करीब लोग फंसे है, दिल्ली सरकार ने निकाले तो कोई 2300 निकले। दो दिन में अचानक जो इन्फ़ैकशन के केस बढ़े हैं वे जमात के लोगों से संबन्धित हैं। तो bias कहाँ है यह सब कहने में? ये मुस्लिम-विरोधी क्यों है?

ज्ञानचन्द: भोला, अपनी मुस्लिम-विरोधी मानसिकता से निकालो। ये सब मुसलमानों के विरुद्ध कु-प्रचार है।

भोला: पर ज्ञानी, कई मुसलमानों ने लेख लिखे हैं, टीवी पर कहा है कि जमात ने यह अपराध किया है। कोई भी सब मुसलमानों के विरुद्ध नहीं कहा रहा। पर बड़ी तादाद में मौलाना जैसों के मुरीदों को जरूर कह रहे हैं। मुसलमानों के विरुद्ध बात है तो वे मुसलमान क्यों बोल रहे हैं? और यदि मौलाना जैसों की मानने वाले बहुत लोग हैं तो चिंता की बात तो है ही, इस को नकारने से क्या बनेगा?

ज्ञानचन्द: जब और धर्म, खास कर हिन्दू लोग ऐसी ही गलती करते हैं तो इतना हल्ला क्यों नहीं मचाता?

भोला: जब ऐसी गलती पर हिंदुओं को लोग दोष देते हैं तो उनके पक्ष में कब ऐसी दलीलों की बाढ़ आती है? गलती की, लोगों ने बोला, कोई समझदार व्यक्ति बचाव में नहीं उतारा। बात खत्म हो जाती है। पर जमात का नाम लिया को ढेरों तुम जैसे ज्ञानी बचाव में उतार पड़े। तो लोगों को भी अपनी बात के प्रमाण देने पड़ते हैं। बात बढ़ती है। और फिर ज्ञानी साहब, मौलाना के अलावा किस धर्म गुरु ने कहा है कि किसी भी हालत में एकत्रित होना, समूहिक पूजा-पाठ मत छोड़ना? और यदि ऐसा कहा और किया है, तो उस को दोष देने से कौन रोक रहा है? बताओ कब और किसने कहा?

ज्ञानचन्द: भोला, तुम में अक्ल तो पहले ही कम थी, आजकल टिपणीस की तरह से तुम भी मुस्लिम-विरोधी हो गए हो।

भोला: पर अंध-ज्ञानी भाई, (भोला ने चिढ़ाने के लिए कहा) मैंने तो जो कुछ कहा उस के लिए तथ्य या तर्क दिये। तुमने मेरे तथ्यों को तो नहीं नकारा। तर्कों को भी नहीं काटा, तो दोष किस लिए?

ज्ञानचन्द: तुम संदर्भ और व्यापक परिदृश्य देखने में असमर्थ हो। शूक्ष्म विश्लेषण करने में असमर्थ हो। तुम्हें समझ नहीं आ रहा।

भोला: तो समझाओ भाई, मैंने क्या छोड़ा है? क्या गलती की है? ये मुस्लिम-विरोध आदि उपाधियाँ क्यों दे रहे हो?

ज्ञानचन्द: अभी मुझे काम है, फिर कभी समझाता हूँ। पर भोला, सोचो, जो लोग फंसे थे मरकज़ में, वे गरीब लोग हैं, उनके कुछ धार्मिक विश्वास है। विज्ञान और धर्म में एक-दूसरे को नकारने की जद्दो-जहद चलती रहती है। इन में से बहुत से लोगों को वैज्ञान की चिकित्सा उपलब्ध भी नहीं है। तो मौलाना जो कहा रहा था वह चिकित्सा के अभाव में धर्म के सहारे की बात भी हो सकती है।

(यह कहते हुए ज्ञानचन्द अपने घर में जीना उतार कर नीचे चला गया।)

भोला सोचने लगा: जमात तो बिलकुल गरीब संस्था नहीं है। वहाँ धर्म-प्रचारक लोग आए थे वे भी कितने गरीब हैं, पता नहीं। फिर क्या किसी को अपने धर्म को चिकित्सा के अभाव में सहारा बनाने के लिए दूसरों की जान को खतरे में डालने का हक़ मिलजाता है? हो सकता है की गरीब लोग चिकित्सा के अभाव में धर्म का सहारा लें; पर क्या मौलाना भी यही सोचता था?

भोला को ये बातें समझ में नहीं आईं। पर सोचा ज्ञानी पड़ोसी है जाएगा कहाँ। फिर पकड़ लेंगे कभी। इन दिनों तो घर से भाग भी नहीं सकता। जब बहुत जरूरत होगी छत पर चढ़ कर आवाज़ लगा लेंगे। यही सोचते हुये भोला अपना हुक्का ताजा करने छत से नीचे चला गया।

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2 अप्रैल 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Should one defend Tablighi Jamaat?

April 1, 2020

Rohit Dhankar

This is not surprising that in India many people are busy defending Tablighi Jamaat’s crime against humanity. What is surprising is that they are oblivious of possible dangers in defending it.

The defence of Tablighis rests on three very spacious arguments. One, that the central government is responsible as they gave the visas to foreigners from countries where coronavirus is spreading. Two, that the Delhi Police knew that so many people are congregating in Tablighi Markaz, they should have vacated the premises. And three, that many other places, particularly temples allowed gatherings till about 16th or 17th March. There was one more defence till yesterday, four, that the people entered Markaz before the government declared lockdown and then they could not go from there. But this last one has collapsed due to Delhi government’s orders of 13th, 16th and 19th March.

One, it is difficult to completely absolve the central government of responsibility to implement the instructions of self-isolation for foreigners and misuse of tourist visa for religious preaching. These preachers have travelled as far as Patana and Jharkhand and have been living there in Mosques. This, simply put, means that the government has been lax in security measures; and it is very grave indeed. And for this it should be criticised. However, this does not absolve the Tablighis from their moral responsibility and failure to inform the police regarding whereabouts of their ‘guests’. The culpability of government can not be used as a defence for the crime of the Tablighis.

Two, the Delhi Police is guilty of handling a hoodwinking organisation with kid-gloves. The 23rd March video released by the SHO shows that the police has been telling them to vacate the premises even before 23rd March. The Tablighis were digging their heels on this or that pretext. (I will talk of the real reason below.) But, again, it is difficult to give the police a clean chit. They should not have been scared of touching this Jamaat and should have done their duty even if that required use of force.

Three, that there were some temples and Hindu gatherings can not be denied. However, they were before the lockdown, and one needs to find out if the states where they occurred had declared a ban on congregations of more than 200 as Delhi government did on 13th March. Since the idea of social distance and fear of coronavirus spread was already known before these events, the concerned organisations (temples etc.) cannot be absolved of moral responsibility. But, again, the culpability of temples does not make what Tablighis did right. In last few years, the argument that “if A made mistake X, then you can not blame B for making the same mistake” is being used too frequently. This is a fallacious argument. We should criticise, and if need be punish, both A and B. Therefore, if there are any other religious places which had such gatherings staying in congested places, they should also be criticised. This can not be an argument for Tablighi Jamaat’s defence, though, can be an argument for criticising the concerned other religious places.

However, at the same time, we have to make a distinction between ‘violating an order because of some constraints or inadvertently’ or violating them deliberately. And this, as we will see further down is an important distinction.

Another very strange argument advanced in this regard is that some events, like Ramanavami gathering and some yagna, were planned. One wonders how planned and then abandoned in the face of government orders can be equated with violating the government orders with impunity. But that is the way some people in this dear country of ours argue day in and day out. And no one points the foolishness of this line of argument to them.

Now let’s try to have a cursory look at the two very grave concerns in this whole episode which not many people are talking about.

One of these concerns emerges from listening to Maulana Saad’s audios. Maulana Saad is head of Tablighi Jamaat and a very respected Islamic scholar. He has millions of followers world over. Imagine an organisation which can host about 10-15 thousand guests every day through out the year in Delhi Markaz. And the Jamaat has many more such palaces, may be a bit smaller but perhaps in dozens. Thus, Maulana Saad is a very powerful and influential religious leader.

This Maulana has been holding congregations in the Markaz, perhaps attended by thousands, and delivering lectures right till 26th March morning. In these lectures the Maulana argues in many ways and in great detail that:

  1. In these days of coronavirus threat leaving Mosques is against the hadith (he quotes one).
  2. This is the time to congregate more in the Mosques. To bring people more into the mosques. The torments like illnesses come because of leaving ibadat, and it will go away only by coming more to the mosques for ibaadat.

“yah mauka kaam ko badhaane ka hai. Yah waqt is ka ki gast karke logon ko masjid ki taraf lane ka hai. Jo azaab gunahon ki wajah se aa rahe hain ve azaab ibaadat ko chhodane se khatm nahin honge, balki ibadaat ki nirdat(?) ko badhaane se khatam honge.”

The Maulana repeats this argument and message in many videos tracks and in many ways. I found the video of 26th March morning (?) (after Fajr) most instructive. It is very long (1:54:57) and like all religious discourses very repetitive. But explains the Maulana’s views great clarity. In this video the Maulana explains the importance of “imaan” (faith) and “ilm” in great detail. At the end comes to the conclusion that imaan and ilm dictate that namaaz should be offered in the mosques and the message of Islam should be given to people by personally visiting them. No other considerations come in the ways of those who have imaan and ilm in these duties. Which means he is not only preaching to live in close proximity with each other, to pay in large congregations; but also, to visit people during the lockdown. One can say that these are his religious views and he has the freedom of expressing as well as trying to convince others to accept them. The problem is that these religious views endanger lives of thousands of people, and are capable of creating a very large-scale health hazard.

This theology and asking people to stick to these duties ‘come what may’ makes the Tablighi act of congregation very different from other acts of congregation either because of lack of facilities to vacate the premises or because of some religious stupidity for a day or two. If the people stuck in a yatra or a Gurudwara and could not disperse, it may have been for various reasons. It can be equated with the Tablighi congregations only if there is evidence of deliberate theological support, deliberate staying together and deliberate instigating people not to obey the government orders. I am not saying that there have not been any such ‘theologically minded’ deliberate acts of instigating people to disobey the government orders. All I am saying is, we should not equate acts of ‘being stuck’ with ‘acts of theological disregard’ of the orders. If there are such preachings of the temple priests and Mahants they should be equally condemned and punished. But if there are no such acts then the false analogy can not be used to defend the Jamaat.

The real concern in this is: that an interpretation of a religion is being preached that clearly declares that when there is a conflict between a government order and supposed to be religious duty a large section of believers will go by the supposed to be religious duty and disobey the government order. This attitude is very dangerous and can break the law and order any time. The issue is, in a democracy should the religious dictum be subordinate to the constitution or the religious dictum be supreme even if violates the orders of the constitutionally elected government? Facing this question squarely is necessary.

The second concern is that those who are defending the Tablighis at this moment, are completely oblivious that they are not defending it only in a particular situation and in a particular act; they are supporting a mindset of continuous conflict between the state and the religion. And that too on the basis of unreasonable theories, and even in the public health matters. Consider the Maulana’s explanation of why illnesses spread and how the Allah vanishes them.

The added problem is that fulfilling the religious duty as the Maulana preaches endangers the lives of large number of unbelievers as well. Thus, those who do not believe in the ‘Allah sent azaab’ theory will pay the price for the beliefs of the adherents of this faith. Sticking to one’s religious acts even if it kills others can not be defended.

All those who want to defend the Jamaat in this episode will do well to listen to Maulana’s lectures and decide for themselves whether they really want to support this mindset. The listening to the lectures will also make clear if the Jamaat’s explanation of being stuck is reliable or there has been a deliberate disregard.

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1st April 2020