By Sushil Kutty
God versus Virus. Who would have thought! Praying for divine intervention at times of crisis has been in the nature of man from time immemorial. But for religions, which came rather late in the day, to take everything, including viruses, as a challenge to God’s supremacy and therefore to be challenged, even at the risk of total annihilation, is foolish to the extent of being suicidal!
It’s not as if Delhi Police was not aware what was on the other side? The Tablighi Markaz. A gathering of 2,500, cheek by jowl, members of the Tablighi Jamaat. Perfect fix and a poisonous mix for the coronavirus. There was mischief afoot. But the uniforms sat unawares at their side of the wall. Gross negligence. Criminal?
The Jamaat wanted to prove scientific wisdom wrong through a misplaced faith in God. Though Prime Minister Modi formally announced his lockdown days later, there was enough scientific data available advising against massive congregations such as at the Markaz. Result: India’s corona numbers jumped by a couple of hundreds overnight. The maulana, who sat at the head of the Tablighi table, told his apostles to spread out and go spread the word. It’s another matter that he helped spread the coronavirus.
We might be flying Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan, but there are among us folks who refuse to get out of their cave-mentality. People who believe that God will protect us from viruses. That belief lies shattered. Divinity does not mess with viruses. Religion is a manmade disaster. Quite like the coronavirus pandemic, if not the virus itself. But who will take that seriously?
The reality is, both believers and atheists stand indicted. If the godless communists “created” the coronavirus, those who blindly chatter the name of God are contributing to its spread. Is it 151 or 171 countries? All of humankind is in a hole, gasping for ventilators, and there are people who have nothing in their skullcaps.
The Tablighi Jamaat – a bunch of Islamic conservatives, whose main reason to exist is to proselytize – could be responsible for the deaths of scores of “faithful”. In Hyderabad and in Srinagar. In places where the COVID-19-infected were sent to spread the word, and what else?
Overnight, Delhi’s COVID-19 numbers shot up exponentially. The Tablighi Jamaat ensured a community-spread of the coronavirus. God and religion are an explosive mix of the unknown and superstition. Viruses raise ugly heads every now and then. But religion has more tentacles than an octopus.
Let’s be practical, and honest. If any good will come to mankind, it will not be because of religion. Only rationality and the pursuit of science will be the end of viruses, including the one in the head – religion, deadlier than any virus!
YouTube is awash with videos of young Muslim men – laughing at the “cowardice” of the “cow dung-eaters and gaumutra drinkers” – challenging coronavirus with couplets from the Quran. Social media is the theatre of the absurd.
“My religion is truer than yours,” has become the reason to live, and die! People are not praying for a vaccine. They want a direct and quick exit to the here and thereafter. The only problem is they want the annihilation of humankind because it’s said so in the Book.
That being said, if anybody can challenge religion, it is the godless and religion-shy China. Now that it has self-proclaimed that it’s more or less free of the coronavirus, Wuhan a bad dream best forgotten, President Xi Jinping’s country, pangolin-like, has gone and lifted the ban on wet markets from where it all began.
For China nothing matters more than making a fast buck. China is cashing in on the pandemic that it launched, dumping defective personal protective equipment in countries hit by the pandemic. If the religion-crazy Tablighi Jamaat is one side of the counterfeit coin, materialistic money-exchange China is the other side, both dubious to the core.
For all that, the Tablighi Jamaat has shifted attention from a lockdown indictment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who should have assessed the impact of a lockdown and prepared for its fallout. He should have learned from his demonetization experience. Modi failed to anticipate the migrant workers’ exodus and the disruption of the food supply chain.
Testing the population’s readiness to deal with a lockdown by experimenting with a “janata curfew” was not a bright idea. With 80% of India’s workforce dependent on the unorganized sector, it’s not rocket science to anticipate large-scale loss of daily wage employment.
Nobody pays wages to migrant workers “for staying at home.” Such charity is alien to entrepreneurs of the vast unorganized sector. Who owe no explanations to anyone, least of all to government which openly places all its bets on pakora and samosa-makers to shore up employment data!
India should, however, be grateful. But for the lockdown, thousands of the Tablighi Jamaat would have boarded trains and jets to take coronavirus to every nook and corner of India. That they succeeded to an extent even with the lockdown is a major setback to India. Secularism does not mean giving religion a break. It’s time India acted tough with religion and the crackpots who spread it like the coronavirus. (IPA Service)