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An Imaginary India of ‘Love Jihad’ vs the Real India of COVID-19

The world is embracing multi-ethnicity and cross-culturalism, why is India embracing hate?

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Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

In 1920, my great-grandfather, S Gadapalli Rao – a proud Indian and a practising Hindu – named his newborn son, Jesus! Two years later, he called his younger son Shah Jahan!

If Social Media had been there then, judged by today’s standards, my great grandfather would have been trolled for being a ‘sickular libtard’ and an ‘anti-national’. An FIR would have accused him of ‘hurting Hindu sentiments.’

But, in fact, no such thing happened. Yeh Jo India Hai Na, sau saal pehle, secular tha (This India was secular, a 100 years ago) but today, I don’t know.

A few days ago, soon after Tanishq withdrew its interfaith marriage ad, The Quint published a cartoon supporting interfaith marriages, saying that India’s Constitution allowed it, so why the trolling?

Sadly, we got intolerant comments from Hindus and Muslims both. But, there were some sane, secular comments too.

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When law professor Sameena Dalwai published a video on The Quint, about being the child of an interfaith marriage, she also got hate in response. Again, there were those who loved her video.

But, what’s my point? My point is… 2020 mein, hum sab ko kya yahi topic mila hai debate karne ke liye (Is this the only topic left to debate, in 2020)?

Don’t we look immature and directionless, as a society, as a country, throwing gaalis at each other over the issue of interfaith marriages in this day and age?

Author and social commentator Natasha Badhwar, writing about her own interfaith marriage for The Quint, says: “Technically, we are in 2020, but our consciousness, moral compass and collective humanity has regressed by centuries.”

She says the hate against the Tanishq ad isn’t an isolated event – the witch-hunt of Rhea Chakraborty after Sushant Singh’s tragic death, the targeting of the Hathras gang-rape victim’s family, the selective arrests of anti-CAA protestors under UAPA for the northeast Delhi violence, is all part of a “massive wave of hate that’s polarising us all even more on caste, religion, region, gender and class lines at a time when we should be having other priorities.”

What Other Priorities? COVID-19, & the Economy!

Let’s look at COVID-19. Yes, at last, the number of active cases is declining, the number of new cases and deaths daily is also dropping, but before we congratulate ourselves, we should ask the families of the 1.2 lakh killed by the novel coronavirus if our government did a good job. They will tell the government to stop bragging about a low death rate.

If you must compare, then compare India with other Asian countries with similarly dense populations, similar climate, similar health infrastructure, and you will see that while India’s death rate is over 80 per 1 million people, in Bangladesh it is just 34, Indonesia 46, Pakistan 30, Nepal 25, Japan 13, in Malaysia just 6 deaths per million, Thailand 0.8, Vietnam 0.4!

Vietnam is a country of 97 million people. Karnataka has just 67 million people but Karnataka has over 10,500 people dead while Vietnam has had only 35 deaths! Only 35 people have died of COVID in Vietnam in eight months. In India, 35 people die due to the virus every 60 minutes!

Now, let’s also look at what the IMF has to say about India’s economy, compared to its Asian neighbours. While India’s economy is shrinking, Bangladesh is set to grow at 3.8 percent, while Vietnam will grow at 1.6 percent.

Yes, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand will show negative growth but India will fare the worst, with a negative growth of minus (-) 10.3 percent.

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And yet, we stay obsessed with interfaith marriages, we stay obsessed with ‘love jihad’! Look around a bit – a half-Jamaican, half-Tamil lady is possibly on the verge of becoming the vice president of the US. Two of England’s senior-most ministers are both Indians – Rishi Sunak is Finance Minister, Priti Patel is Home Minister.

While Canada has a Sikh Defence Minister, Harjit Sajjan, the French football team is almost entirely made up of African-origin players, and the most common name in Denmark is now Mohammed.

The world is embracing multi-ethnicity and cross-culturalism, while in Yeh Jo India Hai Na, we seem to be stuck in some lost century – embracing hate, moving in totally the wrong direction.

Why can't we be like Sameena Dalwai, whose mother was a Saraswat Brahmin and father was a Konkan Muslim; whose brother married a Chinese girl from Hainan, and who married a Telangana Reddy herself. Who, along with her two biological children, has an adopted daughter from Nagaland?

Yeh Jo India Hai Na, why can't it be like Sameena Dalwai? Wouldn’t such a colourful, diverse India be a far happier place to live in?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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