Maridhas, a Tamil Vlogger, is under pressure again. Maridhas has been a persistent thorn for the dominant Dravidian party and now, there is an FIR against him for examining the role of Tablighi Jamaat in the spread of Coronavirus.
His YouTube channel has started gaining popularity in the last few years. His videos reflect his background as a college Professor of Computer Science. They are factual, share data and logical argumentation and are noted for their in-depth research. His target audience is the younger generation and he frequently insists that his aim is to help younger people build a society where change is brought in and decisions are made on the basis of rational and factual discussion rather than on emotion. He almost always ends his short videos with a list of references to news reports, research articles, books and factual quotes. He also insists that his social media followers and viewers go back and do some research for themselves before deciding to accept what he says.
This has brought him the unwanted attention of the Dravidian-Tamil Nationalist ecosystem of Tamil Nadu, which is driven by emotion and sentiment-based narratives. He has faced harassment in the past by the DMK over his presentation of facts related to CAA as well as his discussion on the DMK’s stance on the Kashmir issue.
He is under fire again, this time for having fallen foul of the Islamist fellow-travellers of the Dravidian movement. In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and emergency response in India, it has been found that the Tablighi Jamaat event held at Nizamuddin in Delhi has been responsible for a great number of people being infected with Coronavirus. This has affected Tamil Nadu as a State particularly badly. As of the time this report is being written, there are 690 cases of Coronavirus infection in Tamil Nadu of which 637 are either individuals that have attended the event or those who have been in contact with them.
In order to dispel the worries and hysteria and to improve the awareness of people towards the possibility of a terrorist threat that could materialize, Maridhas released this video on April 2nd.
He warns of the different types of individuals who end up providing covering fire for terrorism, intentionally or unintentionally, by conflating terrorism with Islam or invoking Islamophobia to thwart genuine enquiry into the nature of terrorism.
He has openly chronicled the cases of Mujeeb Mohammed, the software engineerwho exhorted people to go out and sneeze and spit in public and the multiple individuals who exhorted people to spit on rupee notes or the cleric who claimed the Wuhan virus epidemic is a punishment for implementing the NRC. He then shares the data related to impact of the Tableeghi Jamat gathering on India’s Covid-19 epidemic situation.
One can only wonder how many of the attendees at the Tableeghi Jamat gathering were of the same mind set as the software engineer? How many of them would actually put such thoughts into action?
The gathering was conducted between March 13-15, 2020, while the Government had issued an advisory even before this gathering for individuals who had travelled from abroad to self-isolate. People who had entered India on a tourist’s visa had attended a meeting related to evangelization of a particular religion, which is against the visa regulations of India, to begin with, and had spread out all over the country in various mosques after the event.
Of particular concern is the announcement by Maulana Saad that the Coronavirus pandemic was a conspiracy and urging Muslims to defy any isolation or lockdown announcements by the Government.
Subsequently, individuals who had attended the event had returned to Tamil Nadu and were resisting attempts by health authorities to test them for infection. Maridhas questions this highly irresponsible behaviour by Tablighi Jamaat and its role in spreading Coronavirus in his video.
Seeing this as a provocation, there are reports that an FIR has been filed against Maridhass in Melapalayam, Tirunelveli District under sections 292-A (printing of grossly indecent or scurrilous matter or matter intended to blackmail, 295-A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), and 505(2) (Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes and provisions under Section 67 B of Information Technology Act.
Initial probing indicates that the local police may have had no option but to take the FIR. Melapalayam village has had a long history of communal discord, Hindu Munnani activists have been murdered here in 1997, 1998 and 2002. The notorious Kichan Buhari, a leading member of the Al-Umma organization, indicted in the 1998 assassination attempt on L K Advani, hails from Melapalayam. Individuals from the same Melapalayam were identified as suspects in the 2013 Bangalore bombing incident. Even as recently as 2015, members of Islamist organizations like Tamil Nadu Towheed Jamaat (TNTJ) were involved in rioting and communal skirmishes. In January 2020, Tamil stage speaker ‘Nellai’ Kannan had issued a call to kill Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah at a meeting organized in Melapalayam.
Given this history of Melapalayam village and also the hostility that Maridhas faces from Islamists, it is certainly a threat to life if Maridhas is forced to go to an area where he might face the very people who he seems to have antagonised. It remains to be seen if the Tamil Nadu Government will act to prevent any mishaps or watch mutely in the face of Islamist pressure tactics.