“Seemingly isolated incidents appear to be building up to an ostracism of Muslims.”

As anti-Muslim hate crimes continue across India, 101 former civil servants write to state heads asking them to reassure people that there is no truth whatsoever in the rumours that result in communal targeting

Civil ServantsImage Courtesy:thewire.in

A group of former civil servants belonging to the All-India and Central Services, has written to the Chief Ministers, and Lt. Governors of all states and Union Territories of India to express their “anguish” at the harassment of Muslims in all over India. They say that they “do not subscribe to any particular political ideology” but are focused on issues that have a bearing upon the Indian Constitution. “We have been holding Conclaves and writing Open Letters on matters of concern since we came together as the Constitutional Conduct Group in June 2017,” they say they are concerned at the escalating harassment of Muslims in the recent times, “particularly following the meeting of the Tablighi Jamaat in March in the Nizamuddin area of New Delhi.” 

The Jamaat, they reminded the state heads,  was criticised for ignoring the principles of social distancing when cases of Covid19 had started emerging in India, but it was not the only such gathering that had taken place in that month. However, it was the only one which was used to communalise the Covid19 pandemic India. As reported over the past month the vilification, including allegations that the Tablighi Jamaat is spreading the Coronavirus “The action of the Jamaat in organising such an event, ignoring the Delhi Government’s advisories was, without question, misguided and condemnable. However, the action of the media in communalizing it and extending it to the Muslim community as a whole is utterly irresponsible and reprehensible,” said the former civil servants. 

They told the CMs and Lt Govs, that “such coverage has fuelled hostility towards the Muslim community in parts of the country. Fake video clips have been doing the rounds showing Muslim vendors spitting on the fruits and vegetables that they have for sale – purportedly to spread the Covid-19 disease. Cases have been reported of vegetable vendors being asked their religion, even being assaulted when they mention Muslim names. Video recordings of such incidents are circulating through social media at this time. 

The fear and insecurity generated by the pandemic is sought to be channelled into the “othering” of the Muslim community in different places to keep them out of public spaces, purportedly to protect the rest of the population.

The letter also points at reports from Hoshiarpur stating that “Muslim Gujjars who traditionally migrate from Punjab to Himachal Pradesh with their cattle were denied entry at the border by the police due to apprehension of tension created by mobs on the other side to prevent their entry. Photographs of men, women and children forced to take shelter on the banks of the Swan river, where hundreds of litres of milk had to be dumped following this blockade, have appeared. Photos from a market in Biharsharif, Nalanda district, Bihar, show pictures of flags being affixed to the carts of non-Muslim vendors with exhortations that buyers should only purchase produce from such carts. These seemingly isolated incidents appear to be building up to an ostracism of Muslims.” 

“More disturbingly,” said the civil servants, “reports of discrimination are also coming in from various places about Muslims being turned away from hospitals and health facilities”. They said that on April 8 it was  reported that, “Fauzia Shaheen, a weaver from the Muslim-dominated area of Madanpura in Varanasi,was in  labour but, was repeatedly turned away from clinics and hospitals including from the Sir Sunderlal Hospital at the Banaras Hindu University,” She did not get medical help even after she delivered her baby outside the hospital. 

“Following an outcry in the social media, police registered a case against the management of a cancer hospital in Meerut that had put out an advertisement saying that it would treat Muslims only when they produce a report showing that they have tested negative for coronavirus. In Ahmedabad, we learn that separate wards have been designated for Muslim patients of Coronavirus.” 

They said incidents like the one in Karnataka, “where three Hindu youth created panic at a police check post in Mandya district on April 8 by posing as Muslims with Coronavirus infection, need to be dealt with firmly, as was done in this case by the Karnataka police.”

According to the former civil servants who have served at the highest administrative positions across the country, “We can endure, survive and overcome the challenges that this pandemic has imposed on us only by remaining united and helping each other. We laud those Chief Ministers who have been resolutely secular in their approach both in general and, in particular, in relation to this pandemic.”

They too pointed out at the potential diplomatic crisis that could threaten India’s relationship with the Arab Nations. “We should remember that traditionally India has maintained good relations with Muslim nations and has been seen as their friend. Millions of our fellow citizens live and work in these countries. There has been serious concern expressed in these countries about the recent developments. We should ensure, through our non-discriminatory action and relief measures, that the minorities have nothing to fear in India. This will help assuage the misgivings of these countries and avoid any consequential detriment to the prospects of the sizable Indian diaspora there.”

They called upon the CMs and Lt Govs to, “reassure” all the people “that there is no truth whatsoever in the rumours that any particular group has more infections than others in our country.”

One of the latest such incidents was reported by The Telegraph from Uttar Pradesh where a local strongman said to have political connections, gathered a crowd to watch him humiliate a Muslim man and his minor son. 

According to the report, the culprit, identified as Shashikant Rai had accused the Muslim man and his child of stealing. He of course did not have any proof to back his accusations. This weekend a video of Rai forcing the boy to rub his nose on everyone’s feet went viral.

“Maafi maang, maafi maang. Naak ragar (Apologise, apologise. Rub your nose),” the video showed Rai slapping the boy frequently. Towards the end of the clip, he picks up a stick and orders the boy to touch the feet of everyone present. Rai  pushed the boy to the ground and made him rub his nose on the villagers’ feet. 

“There were policemen in the village, sitting about 50m from Rai’s bungalow…. The boy’s mother sat on the floor of the veranda and his elder sister stood helplessly. The entire village wanted to protest but none had the courage because he (Rai) is politically well-connected,” a villager is quoted by The Telegraph.

The Telegraph reported that Khandwa police station in Chandauli district had registered a case against Rai, booking him for violating the Covid-19 lockdown and for hurting the man and his son.




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