As the torrential rain poured incessantly, rivers began to flow above danger levels, dams and reservoirs were filled to the brim and had to be opened, the worst floods in more than 100 year occurred, millions were stranded, vehicles were carried away like toys, homes submerged and swept away, hills and mountains gave way, huge landslides brought down buildings burying hundreds alive, more than 300 lives were lost and lakhs forced to take shelter in relief camps. Such was the magnitude of the calamity. The total loss is estimated at more than 20000 crores. As the catastrophe was unfolding before our very eyes on visual media, hate messages of all sorts also flooded the social media platforms.
Some people know the exact causes of the flood! One reason they point out is women’s entry in Sabarimala Temple. It may be reminded that it was some Delhi-based organisations that brought a petition before the Supreme Court demanding entry for women into Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. Recently the Apex Court reserved its verdict on the petitions praying for entry of menstruating women into the ancient temple dedicated to lord Ayyappan and located in Palakkad district of Kerala. Some think lord Ayyappa is angry with the people of Kerala and sent the rain and the floods as punishment for demanding entry of women into the well known pilgrimage centre located on a hilltop at an altitude of 1260 m.
This absurd and bizarre explanation is not limited to ordinary social media users. Unfortunately educated individuals like S Gurumurthy, an RSS ideologue, who was recently appointed to the board of the Reserve Bank of India, subscribes to ridiculous view. "Supreme court judges may like to see if there is any connection between the case (floods) and what is happening in Sabarimala. Even if there is one in a million chance of a link people would not like the case decided against Ayyappan," he thundered in his tweet.
The second cause, according to hate mongers and fanatics, is beef eating. Beef consumption in Kerala is legendary and an intrinsic part of the Kerala identity. Despite the 55% Hindu population in the state beef is served at home, hotels and restaurants and in roadside shops. They enjoy beef prepared deliciously with coconut, curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves, coriander powder and roasted chilly. No wonder the BBC in one of its reports in 2016 called ‘Kerala a state obsessed with beef fry’. Hindus, Muslims and Christians can be seen sitting at one table enjoying over a plate of beef fry and parotta transcending all differences of caste and class. This has led to insensitive social media users to hatefully declare that the people of Kerala deserve this harsh punishment for eating the flesh of the mother cow. Bigotry and hate were spread to justify that Malayalis face God’s wrath because they eat beef and warn them to stop the food habit or else future calamities will re-occur.
The BJP and other Hindutva outfits have been waging a war against beef consumption and many states have imposed a ban on cow slaughter but Kerala has been vehemently opposing it. Therefore, sick minded dogmatists even celebrate at the suffering of the flood-hit people of the Southern state. This is appalling to say the least.
Natural disasters happen all over the world. No country escapes natural disasters. No unscientific causes should be attributed to any calamity. In recent memory India was a victim of terrible disasters. The 1999 Odisha cyclone caused destruction amounting to US$4.44 billion, the 2001 Gujarat earthquake of 7.7 magnitude killed more than 20,000 people, the 2013 Odisha cyclone incurred a loss of about Rs 42.4 billion, the 2004 deadly tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed over 227,898 people in 14 countries (including India) and the 2015 Tamil Nadu floods left more than 500 people dead are mentioned here. If the Kerala floods are attributed to gods’ anger, what caused the above mentioned horrific calamities? Natural causes are the answers. No one likes attributing religious reasons for disasters. The realm of God or religion is neither visible nor verifiable and therefore, attributing them as causes for the misfortune of others is abominable.
Appeals for help for relief and rebuilding met heartrending responses of solidarity and empathy from all corners. But there are also outrageous and ugly responses from people who instead appealed against financial or other form of assistance for the ‘accursed people of Kerala’.
A group of them condemned that the people of Kerala need no help because they are Christians and Muslims. Almost half of the population of Kerala are non-Hindus. Therefore, for them they can suffer. No donation or contribution should be sent to them. These are more than stupid and insensitive comments. The floods did not discriminate against Hindus or Muslims or Christians. All were affected as water doesn't recognize religion. The population of Kerala suffered and is suffering. Shockingly people in the social media asked viewers not to make donation to Kerala because of the large Christians and Muslims population or even if they do, donate to organisations that exclusively help Hindus. Others warned that funds will be used to convert Hindus to Christianity or Islam.
Another set of hard-hearted people campaign for non-assistance because Keralites are ‘naxals'. A person who identifies himself as a faculty at Art of Living twitted, “Don’t donate money as it will not be used for relief work. It will be used against our country. It will be given for naxals and JNU ‘thugs’”. Another person wrote, “Kerala and JK are anti-national states. No need fund.”
These sorts of responses to a natural tragedy are shocking in the 21 Century. Humanity and solidarity is the only concern at this very challenging time for the people of Kerala and no other consideration should cross our mind.
The focus now is on the aftermath of the 2018 calamity. Recovery will be long. Rebuilding will be hard and challenging. The loss ravaged by this natural or man-made calamity is humongous. Obviously Kerala needs help. Individual’s or organisation’s donation should be encouraged and welcomed. Even if one wishes not to contribute, it is okay. But asking others not to send assistance because they don’t like the people of Kerala is despicable. It is against humanity.(Published on 17th September 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 38)