How the Muslim community is being ostracised and marginalised amidst the Covid-19 pandemic

Muslims all over India are being targeted, attacked and even boycotted, rendering them increasingly vulnerable

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Muslims are observing a somber Ramzan this year. After being vilified and accused of spreading the coronavirus due to the participation of some members in the Tablighi Jamaat Ijtema held at the Nizamiddin Markaz in New Delhi, they have been forced to face mass ostracisation all across the country.

From right-wing politicians to members of the civil society, hate has been coming towards them from all quarters.

1.  In Uttar Pradesh, a hotbed of communal violence, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Suresh Tiwari reportedly asked people in the state’s Deoria district to not buy vegetables from Muslim vendors, in a bid to bring about their economic boycott, reported The Indian Express.  

The legislator from the district’s Barhaj constituency in a video that went viral said, “Keep one thing in mind, I am telling everyone openly, no one should purchase vegetables from Muslims.”

Trying to clarify his stance he said, “After hearing complaints that people of a community were selling vegetables after contaminating them with saliva in an attempt to spread coronavirus disease, I advised them not to purchase vegetables from them… After the situation gets normal, then decide what they want.”

Read more – UP BJP MLA asks people not to buy vegetables from Muslim vendors

2.  Another BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh’s Charkhari constituency too allegedly threatened a Muslim vegetable vendor asking him not to make any sales in the area. In the video which has now gone viral, Rajput can be seen asking the vendor for his name. All the while the vendor kept saying his name was ‘Rajkumar’, Rajput and a neighbour who allegedly shot the video, continuously kept asking the man to reveal his real name. Sensing a threat to the vendor’s life after Rajput said, “Naam kya hai bete, tu bol, sahi bol. Tu bolega, tera baap bach jaayega” (You tell me his name, son. Tell me his correct name. Only if you do, will your father will be safe), a minor who was accompanying the him revealed the man’s name to be Azizur Rahman and told Rajput, “Chhod do, uncle. Ab nai karenge. Jaane do (Let us go, uncle. We won’t do it again. Let us go.)”

As the vendor and the minor who was with him turned to leave, Rajput was heard shouting, “Dikh mat jaana yahan mohallay main nahin toh maar maar ke theek kar denge (Do not be seen in this locality again else we will thrash you).”

Read more – Another UP BJP MLA targets Muslim vendors

3. In Madhya Pradesh, Muslim traders were barred from entering Indore’s Pemalpur village after residents signed and put up a banner that read, “Muslim vyapariyon ka gaon mein pravesh nishedh hai (Muslim traders are not allowed in the village).”

A case against unknown persons was registered since it wasn’t known who had put up the poster.

4. In another instance in the state, the economic survival of Muslims was once again threatened after the members of the community were barred from entering the Borud village. A picture of a banner with the message, “Vyapar ke liye is gaon me Musalmano ka aana pratibandhit hai” (the entry of Muslims for business purpose is not allowed in this village),” went viral on social media.

Police claimed that this was an old case and the banner had been put up even before the Covid-19 scare in the state.

Read more – Muslim traders barred entry to Madhya Pradesh village

5. In another attempt to economically endanger the Muslims, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) an affiliate of the BJP was seen distributing saffron flags with “Jai Shri Ram” written on them and banners which read “Hindu Shop” in Jamshedpur. VHP’s Jamshedpur Mahanagar Secretary Janardhan Pandey accused the Tablighi Jamaat for “irresponsible acts” and said that in Jharkhand most people wanted to be safe when they purchased essential items and food from the market. 

6. A group of Muslim men, in Mahoba, Uttar Pradesh, had complained to the authorities as they weren’t being allowed to sell vegetables in the area because of their religion. They had allegedly been subjected to verbal abuse for doing so.

7. A government hospital in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, allegedly segregated hospital wards for Covid-19 patients on the basis of religion, claiming that the order came from the government. “Generally, there are separate wards for male and female patients. But here, we have made separate wards for Hindu and Muslim patients. It is a decision of the government and you can ask them,” Dr Gunvant H Rathod, the medical superintendent of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, told The Indian Express. However, facing all the backlash that came with that statement and the Gujarat administration washing its hands off any responsibility, Dr. Rathod retracted his statement and said that he was “misquoted”.

Read more – Can a doctor tell if the Coronavirus has a religion?

8. In Arunachal Pradesh, several truckers belonging to the Muslim community were allegedly beaten up in Arunachal Pradesh, following which they fled to neighbouring Assam, leaving their vehicles behind, cited various media reports.

In North Karnataka, villagers allegedly beat up two Muslim men, kicked and assaulted them, terming them as ‘coronavirus spreaders’, reported Asianet News. The men who were returning from Mahalimgapura village have been ostracized and removed from the Bidari village in Mudhol taluk of North Karnataka. They were fishing on the banks of the Krishna River and were shooed away with sticks and were made to kneel by the men who assaulted them.

In Belagavi too, it was alleged that a mob of men attacked two mosques for the lights being on there during the 9 PM 9 Minutes call of the Prime Minister last month.

The Sadalaga Police arrested 13 people for allegedly attacking another mosque in the area demanding that the lights be turned off.

Read more – Muslim truckers assaulted in Arunachal Pradesh; reports of violence against minorities in other areas emerge

9.  A man who had returned to his village in Bawana in northwest Delhi after attending a Tablighi Jamaat conference in Bhopal was allegedly thrashed last month, after some people accused him of spreading Covid-19, reported News 18. Mehboob Ali, a resident of Harewali village in Bawana, Delhi, had gone to Bhopal for a Tablighi Jamaat conference. He came back to his village after 45 days and went through a Covid-19 test. When he later left for his village, rumours spread that he had plans to spread Covid-19. He was thrashed in the fields and was also threatened of being burnt alive. The perpetrators were later arrested and Ali too was booked under Sec 188 of the IPC for flouting lockdown protocol.

10. In Delhi, the police arrested a man for allegedly abusing and thrashing a Muslim youth after he failed to show him an ID card while selling vegetables at Tajpur Road near Badarpur extension in Delhi. The New Indian Express reported that a video of the incident that went viral on social media, the man is seen asking the vegetable seller to show his identity card but he could not. The man then angrily asks him his name and address. When the vegetable seller identifies himself as Mohammad Saleem, the man abuses him and beats him. The accused is heard saying “…tum logo ne jihad macha diya hai (people like you have started a jihad)” to the vegetable vendor in the southeast Delhi locality. The perpetrator, Praveen Babbar was booked under various sections of the IPC.

11. In Krishnanagara in Thokkutu near Mangaluru also saw the ostracization of Muslims, reported Deccan Herald. A notice put up there read, ““In the interest of the public, until coronavirus is completely contained, there is no entry for any Muslim vendor to our locality.” There were similar notices barring Muslim vendors from entering also put up in various parts of the district.

There had been similar instances in Bannur in Mysuru district and a couple of villages in Bagalkot district too, alleged Congress Shivajinagar MLA Rizwan Arshad.

12. In Uttarakhand’s Haldwani, last month, six people were booked for asking a fruit vendor from the minority community to shut shop in the wake of five members of Tablighi Jamaat testing positive for coronavirus, the Hindustan Times reported. “In the video of the incident, six accused identified as Manish Khati, Kamal Negi, Manoj Singh, Harendra Goswami, Rakesh Tapola and Chaman Goswami – all residents of Haldwani – could be seen inquiring about the names of the fruit vendors in the area. And when they come to know about a Muslim vendor hailing from Banbulpura area of the town from where five jamaatis tested positive, they asked him to close his shop and open it only after the pandemic gets over,” said Sanjay Kumar, station house officer of Haldwani Kotwali police station.

Taking suo moto cognisance of the case, the accused were booked on charges of violation of the lockdown and malignant act to spread infection of a dangerous disease under Sections 188, 269 and 270 of IPC and 57(B) of Disaster Management Act.

13. In another incident, Muslim aid workers were targeted in Bangalore, India’s IT hub. First a Hindu mob stopped and asked them for ID cards. Learning the aid workers were from Muslim faith, they accused them of ‘spreading’ the Covid-19, a politically-motivated impression circulated by Indian news TV channels. Then the public beating followed, reported TRT World.

14. Causing huge uproar, a video from Indore, Madhya Pradesh of a vegetable vendor refusing to sell groceries to Muslim women went viral on social media, reported The Week in April. In the video, the vendor is seen telling women who are enquiring vegetable rates from him that he will not sell to Muslims as “this will lead to my shop closing down”. He then dares the person shooting the video to properly document him by pulling down the mask he is wearing. He keeps repeating that he will not sell to the minority community and that anyone could get complaint registered anywhere against him.

15. In the latest incident, a 28-year-old Covid-19 positive health worker who is currently being treated for the virus at the Ali Jauhar University in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh has been booked for alleging that there was a lack of food at the centre and spreading rumours by uploading it on social media, reported The Indian Express.

According to Rakesh Mittal, Rampur District Hospital’s Chief Medical Superintendent, on Friday, a video went viral in which the ward boy is purportedly heard saying that he is not keeping Ramzan fast because iftar (meal eaten after sunset) and sehri (meal eaten before sunrise) are not provided in the hospital. He is purportedly heard saying that coronavirus fears created by media are false. In another video released the next day, he is purportedly apologising for “allegations”.

16. A Muslim security guard was accused of infecting three of a family in Delhi. The family had blamed their security guard, accusing him of visiting the Tablighi Jamaat gathering last month, which emerged as a major virus hotspot linked to cases across the country. It was also alleged that he was ‘missing’ once the family had accused him of being a criminal. But when the guard was tested for the coronavirus, he was found to be negative.

Read more – In defence of a Muslim security guard, who tested negative for Coronavirus

17. Last month, action was taken against two Delhi police officials for banning prayers in mosques. “Azaan ke liye bhi mana kar diya hai LG sahab ne. LG sahab ke order hain (azaan is also banned, these are the orders from the Lieutenant Governor)” two uniformed Delhi Police officials, took it upon themselves to tell the local muezzin at a mosque in Delhi’s Prem Nagar area, that azaan, or the Muslim call to prayers recited by a muezzin, was banned by the state’s Lt Governor a day before the month of Ramzaan began. This was not true. There was no ban on the call to prayers under the Covid19 lockdown. All religious gatherings, and congregational prayers had been banned and mosques, churches, temples, gurdwaras have already suspended them. The faithful had been asked to pray at home.

Read more – How did two Delhi Policemen decide to ‘ban’ azaan on their own?

18. A hospital in Meerut apologized for discriminating against patients on the basis of religion. The Valentis Cancer Hospital in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh had put out an advertisement asking Muslim patients and their caretakers to come to the hospital only if they had a medical certificate proving they had tested negative for Covid-19, has now apologized. Later it put out an apology saying, “The advertisement was an appeal to all the people to follow the government guidelines so that everyone stays safe. It has nothing to do with religion. We apologize as some word hurt people’s sentiments. The hospital never intended to hurt anyone’s sentiments.”

Read more – After warning, Meerut hospital apologizes for discriminating patients on the basis of religion  

19. A probe was launched into a video from north Delhi’s Shastri Nagar allegedly showing a self-organized group of residents talking about ‘banning’ Muslims from entering their neighbourhood. “We will not let any Muslim enter our lanes,” a man, who is also shooting the video on his phone can be heard saying. He is a part of a group of men sitting in a tight circle on a public road that runs through their colony of Shastri Nagar. The group was specially checking each vendor as they pass by, asking their names, seeking Aadhaar cards, and warning the ones they suspect of being Muslim against entering the colony. The men also allegedly harassed innocent vendors passing by and demanded that they returned with identification the next day or they would not be allowed to enter their lane.

Read more – Hate video calls for banning Muslims from Delhi colonies

These events of apathy and ostracization are just a minute representation of the actual number. The ostracization of Muslims has only been exacerbated in the recent times, first with the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act, then the Delhi riots and now due to the coronavirus. The media narrative that has downplayed Muslims, their contribution and their identity has led to mass vilification of the community and is only a signal of an ‘apartheid’ that may be in the making.


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