For years now, media organisations, both Indian and international, have diligently peddled propaganda against Hindu festivals and employed novel ways to disabuse Hindus of celebrating their festivals.
Be it the pollution bogey that they routinely pull out to guilt trip Hindus celebrating Diwali or maligning Holi as a festival that promotes molestation of women or cries of milk wastage of the occasion of Maha Shivratri, the media organisations have displayed single-minded zeal to cast a shadow on Hindu festivals and discourage Hindus from celebrating them.
Many media organisations who claim to religiously follow the principle of ‘secularism’ are often found indulging in blatant Hinduphobia and bashing of Hindu festivals while gushing over the festivals of other religions. The modus operandi espoused by such media outlets entails pontificating Hindus about the vices purportedly associated with their festivals and holding the festivals responsible for the perpetuation of those vices.
This was the tone and tenor with which media covered the 2020 festive season. People were made to feel guilty for celebrating festivals with propaganda that it will lead to a spike. Of course, now we know that not only did the spike never come, cases actually went down. pic.twitter.com/0H15XQwb9q— Sensei Kraken Zero (@YearOfTheKraken) June 23, 2021
However, this procedure is exclusive only for the Hindu festivals while for the non-Hindu festivals, lofty ideals of brotherhood, peace, inclusiveness etc. are highlighted and glaring vices are intentionally swept under the rug.
With the advent of coronavirus outbreak, the media organisations got yet another avenue to mount their propaganda against Hindu festivals and dissuade Hindus from celebrating them.
Last year, just before the start of the festive season in October 2020, a slew of media organisations made a beeline to publish articles based on unfounded assertions to purvey frightening and ominous rumours about festivals sparking the second wave of coronavirus outbreak.
Now we know that, both, daily new cases of Covid-19 and active cases continued to drop throughout the festive season in 2020.
Published in October 2020, when the cases were steadily subsiding, an article in Livemint said India’s festive season had spawned fears of renewed coronavirus surge.
Then there was Deccan Herald, which scare-mongered about a possible spike in the wake of India’s festive season. Of course, the spike which Deccan Herald assiduously talked about, never came. Yet, no apology to vilify India’s festivals was issued.
Similarly, The Hindustan Times also ran articles, compounding the fear among people who were looking at the festive season to compensate for the losses incurred due to coronavirus-induced lockdown earlier in the year. One article published by the HT wrongly claimed that loss of income and fear of spike in COVID-19 cases mark the arrival of India’s festive season.
A report published in News 18 went so far as to claim that India’s festive season would result in such a tremendous surge in COVID-19 cases that it would surpass the United States in terms of total coronavirus cases. In reality, even after the disastrous second wave of coronavirus, India’s cases are much lower than that of the United States.
Times of India
An article published in the Times of India appeared to provide an in-depth analysis on “why the festive season poses a big challenge for India now”. Far from posing a challenge to India, the cases dropped dramatically during the said time duration.
New Indian Express
The New Indian Express also published an article that said as the festive season is around the corner, the fear of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Karnataka has gone up.
India Today also ran a similar story linking the COVID-19 surge to India’s festival season even though there was no scientific basis to do so.
The Hindu came up with woke terminology to predict a rebound in the COVID-19 outbreak amidst the festive celebrations. It said COVID-19 cases will spike if ‘SMS’ is not followed. SMS here meant Social Distancing, Masks and Sanitisation.
IANS and Congress mouthpiece National Herald
IANS ran a story to make Hindus feel guilty for celebrating the festival of Diwali. It cited misleading figures to allege that there was a 30 per cent rise in the case following Diwali as if the only reason behind the purported spike was the festival. Many other media organisations, including Congress mouthpiece National Herald, reproduced the unadulterated version of the IANS reportage to slander Diwali as a possible reason for the rise in coronavirus cases.
A list of media organisations that issued false alarm over the resurgent wave of coronavirus outbreak cannot be complete with the inclusion of Shekhar Gupta’s ThePrint. Ahead of the festive season around October 2020, ThePrint published an article issuing early warnings of a massive COVID-19 surge.
Another online portal, The Quint, jumped the gun and confidently predicted that the second wave of coronavirus outbreak is guaranteed because of the festive celebrations. Through an article, it suggested what should India do in case the COVID-19 caseloads increase dramatically during the festive season. Of course, this analysis was not required later as the COVID-19 cases continued to sink.
The festive season Covid-19 spike prediction failed spectacularly
Even experts got it all wrong when they predicted that the second wave of coronavirus would hit India in winter in the aftermath of the festive season.
New York Times
The Western media outlets, always on the prowl to belittle and defame India, jumped the bandwagon to guilt trip Hindus from celebrating their festivals. As the cases in India plummeted, the New York Times published a cautionary article, warning of a resurgent wave of coronavirus sparked by the festive season that never came.
Likewise, The Gulf News also partook in spreading rumours and inducing fear among people about the period of festivities about to begin in India around October 2020. An article published on its website said the COVID-19 outbreak in India might intensify on the heels of the festive season and elections.
The Associated Press too forewarned that India’s COVID crisis might deepen following the festive season. Soon thereafter, many western media outlets carried the AP report to amplify groundless fear-mongering regarding the festival celebrations in India leading to a possible COVID-19 surge.
CNN cited “experts” to claim Diwali celebrations would usher in a new wave of coronavirus outbreak in India.
The deep-seated Hinduphobia among the media organisations
Of course, all the above warnings proved out to be profoundly wrong and incredibly exaggerated. Not only did the second wave of coronavirus did not arrive until April 2021, the cases actually plunged during the country’s festive season. But this did not stop the media organisations from scare-mongering about a possible second wave of coronavirus due to festivals being celebrated in India.
There was no accountability whatsoever for the unsubstantiated claims made by the media organisations. Even after it was fairly evident that festivals played no role in powering another wave of coronavirus outbreak, the media organisations carried on with their business, unruffled by the fact that they had wrongly demonised the festive season and guilt-tripped Hindus into not celebrating their cherished festivals. In fact, after wrongly linking the second wave of coronavirus outbreak with the festive season, the media organisations had the gall of associating Kumbh Mela celebrations with the resurgent COVID-19 outbreak.
The unfounded claims over the 2020 festive season also demonstrates that the media was on the lookout for ways to blame Hindu festivals for Covid-19 surge. Their dreams did not come true in 2020 but when the second wave did arrive, it conveniently coincided with the Kumbh Mela for them and thus gave them the opportunity to fulfill their fantasies.
Normally, media organisations are supposed to issue an apology even for the minutest of errors. But, Hindu bashing and vilifying Hindu festivals have become par for the course for the media organisations that they did not even bother to issue an apology or remove the articles from their websites after it became manifestly clear that the festivals did not spark any subsequent wave of the coronavirus outbreak. These instances signify the Hinduphobic prejudice harboured and institutionalised by the media organisations across the world, including India.