Why should one be surprised thrice by the same thing? There’s no logical reason to be, yet that’s what is exactly happening with the Kumbh Mela and the English-speaking centre-left of polity. The past few days have been rife with rants against Kumbh Mela, and on the same note, sympathy for Tablighi Jamaat.
Tablighi Jamaat came in for harsh attack last year for being negligent about Corona spread. The campaign was led by a caucus of media houses who tried a novel method of easing the guilt of their viewers with respect to the spread of Corona, at the expense of a community with whom they shared no exchange relationship. The issue lived out its on-screen course in a couple of weeks, but the success of the method meant that it would be repeated sooner or later. India Today tried it with Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, but it wasn’t picked up the same way as before.
But onto our issue at hand. In August, there was widespread fear, glee and accusation that the ceremony for laying the foundation stone of Ram Mandir would cause a huge covid spike, spiraling into a health crisis, piling up of dead bodies, and finally, apocalypse.
Before that, there was the huge Corona exorcism, when a massive number of people took to the streets with no masks, across states, and banged on metals to rid India of Corona. It was not expected to work like magic by anyone other than Anti-Fascists, nor did it. It was like all ritual performances, expected to give fruit sometime in the future. But more interestingly, it was expected that there would be a surge in Corona cases in those areas. The expectation went unrealized, and there ought to be some explanation for it – either that it has gone unnoticed, or that some of the conditions in such gatherings are disabling Corona spread. That is for the medical experts to identify and describe
But a whole round of sympathy for Tablighi Jamaat had already been concluded by then. The Ram Mandir episode too saw a sympathy wave for Tablighi.
Nevertheless, those suspicious of Hindu irrationalism – the suspicion is more than justified – are expecting something different to happen during the Kumbh Mela. We should be rightfully critical of the unhealthy and regressive practices of Hinduism, but not for the sake of upmanship or as a wish for its collapse, because neither is bound to happen. It is curious why any mention of the two previous National Hindu Festivals are conspicuously missing in any discussion, be it in the BBC news reports or in the social media courthouse. Moreover, like the other two festivals, this one too was compared spontaneously to the Tablighi Jamaat case. The Hindu Festivals are never compared to each other, much less to the mass democratic gathering under the Farmers’ Protest.
This is certainly not any kind of amnesia. It is stubbornness. In 2019, this same stubbornness had this same crowd convinced that NDA did not have popular support. More specifically, it is a curious case of the Mass Psychology of Anti-Fascism, in which an unfounded belief thrives that Science, Democracy, Nature, Economy, Secularism or some other universal will destroy Fascism. That is why there is no point in following this crowd – they find it difficult to accept that even if Haridwar becomes a covid hotspot, it is not going to cause any threat to the regime.
This mania is neither about Covid, nor about the urgent need for reform in Hindu culture; it is about the helpless religiosity of Anti-Fascism.