Terrific disaster

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Earlier this month, many female Muslim students were abruptly banned from accessing the premises of the government school where they were enrolled, with the principal informing them that they could not enter the school until they removed their hijabs in accordance with new state laws. Because this had never been an issue before, and because examinations were just a month away, the girls objected and began a sit-in outside the school’s gate.
As other schools and educational institutes joined the rallies, hordes of Sanghi students and associates wearing saffron scarves marched in support of the ban and condemned the protestors, who were fairly few in number.
Then came the pivotal moment: a young girl called Muskan arrived at school on her scooter and was instantly confronted by a huge group of males who waved saffron scarves and shouted “Jai Shri Ram” in an attempt to frighten this lone lady. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching National Geographic and classics like The Lion King, it’s that hyenas always attack in packs when they try to take on lionesses. But this lioness was having none of it; turning back to the mob, she raised her fist and defiantly roared “Allah-o-Akbar” in defiance of their yells and catcalls.
“Any idea of a United India could never have worked and in my judgment it would have led us to terrific disaster.” ? Muhammad Ali Jinnah
I could see anchors and editors in India’s propaganda machine, the electronic media, licking their lips in glee as these words escaped her lips. Finally, they had a chance to steer the conversation in the way they desired. As a result, talk shows concentrated on the Allah-o-Akbar vs. Jai Shri Ram debate, as well as the hijab vs. saffron scarf debate. Of course, the goal was to present both sides of the argument and obscure the fact that this has nothing to do with the hijab or even women’s right to choose what they wear.
While those are important issues in and of themselves, reducing what is going on in Karnataka ignores the larger context: this is an India where hate and polarization are policies. This is an India where speakers at a Haridwar conference openly called for the genocide of Muslims without even a word of condemnation from the highest levels of government. In this India, Muslims are frequently demonized by a Goebbels an media, aided by a barrage of targeted and coordinated fake news and fear-mongering efforts on social media.
To believe that this is solely about school rules, the hijab, or women’s rights is naive and reductionist at best, and deceptive at worst. It is, in fact, about the systematic erasing and ghettoization of Indian Muslims as part of a well-coordinated effort that has the approval of all levels of government, including, but not limited to, the Indian Supreme Court.
The impostors retaliated almost quickly, uploading photos of a female dressed in jeans and a blouse and claiming to be Muskan. The idea was to portray her as a hypocrite who only insisted on her right to wear a hijab for political reasons. Najma Nazir, a Janata Dal member, is depicted in the photograph. Other photographs were also disseminated by BJP office holders, some of which were Photoshopped to make it appear as if Muskan wore revealing clothing in her private life.
The behavior of some media outlets can be much more sinister. “It’s disheartening that the hijab-saffron scarf controversy in Karnataka is compelling even well-meaning representatives of modernity and liberalism to defend the retrograde practice of covering up young women,” wrote an editorial in The Print.
The craftsmanship must be appreciated: not only was a false comparison made in just 50 words, but the argument was also cleverly guided to the subject of backwardness and modernity, all while striving to maintain the outlet’s ‘progressive’ credentials. “Who inspired young ladies to suddenly hide their bodies, battle for religion, instead of focusing on imminent college exams?” asked an India Today anchor. Who predicted that Hindus would react negatively and turn the situation into a sectarian issue?”
Once again, we witness the spin machine’s standard tactics: turning the oppressed into the oppressors, and turning the targets of a conspiracy into the conspirators.
It also works. It works because poison seeds are always slumbering beneath the earth, unseen by the naked eye, in every land. They simply wait for the appropriate kind of rain to fall before blossoming and flowering into a hatred harvest. Modi was the rain in India’s situation. It’s now time to reap the benefits.