The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India is skillfully using the COVID-19 outbreak as a tool to crackdown against democratic dissent. The main target of the majoritarian Indian regime has been the country’s largest religious minority, Muslims. According to several media reports since February this year until the middle of April, at least 800 Muslims have been arrested in the country. Out of these, 60 were detained after the lockdown began on March 24. Experts believe that the BJP’s government is weaponizing COVID-19 against Muslims.
Both lives and livelihoods of Muslims under threat in #India amid Covid-19: FM Qureshi
— Dawn.com (@dawn_com) May 14, 2020
The situation started turning from bad to worse as the ruling party passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). According to CAA, six minorities including Jain, Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, Parsis, and Buddhists from three neighboring countries Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh are eligible to get citizenship of India if they have lived for six years in the country. These lists exclude Muslim immigrants who have entered the country the same way as other non-Muslims immigrants. This bill amends the citizenship acts of 1995. It is the first time that India has used religion as a legal basis for determining nationality.
The legislation is part of the BJP government’s proposed plan to bring in a National Register for Citizens (NRC), which aims at preparing a register of ‘genuine’ citizens of India. Muslims fear that if their name does not show in the NRC, they will be declared stateless as opposed to everyone else, who will be able to get protection under the CAA if their names are missing from the NRC list.
As a result of protests and relentless use of force by the authorities, at least 53 people lost their lives with a majority of them from the Muslim community. Muslims also suffered substantial losses in property.
As the tussle between the fascist Indian regime and pro-democracy protesters was going on, the COVID-19 outbreak forced the government to implement a nationwide lockdown to contain the virus. However, the members of RSS under the government patronage as per media reports started targeting Muslims for the deadly pandemic outbreak.
Since March 28, tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad have appeared nearly 300,000 times and potentially seen by 165 million people on Twitter, according to data shared with TIME by Equality Labs, a digital human rights group. Equality Labs activists say that many of the posts are in clear violation of Twitter’s rules on hate speech and coronavirus, but have yet to be taken down. “We are committed to protect and serve the public conversation as we navigate this unprecedented global public healthcare crisis,” reads a statement Twitter provided to TIME. “We continue to remain vigilant.”
— Khalida (@KhalidaTasneem) May 13, 2020
Recently, on Russian Television RT News in a show “News with Rick Sanchez”, a video report about India explained how hate for Muslims in India had weaponized Coronavirus against Muslims, and BJP of Prime Minister Modi tagged Muslims as “Corona Jihadis” and “Corona Bombs”. Therefore, the civil society seems to be concerned about the way government is weaponizing COVID-19 against Muslims.
It may be mentioned that economic strangulation and harassment of Muslims in India earned outrage to India from all over the world, particularly from the Muslim world. Arab and gulf countries strongly condemned treatment faced by Muslins in India. The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expresses deep concern following recent media accounts of rising anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobia within political and media circles and on mainstream and social media platforms, where Indian Muslim minority is blamed of spreading the coronavirus in the country.
Analysts believe that the government is persistently weaponizing COVID-19 against Muslims. Social activist Harsh Mander says the government is “cynically using the crisis of the pandemic to kill all dissent and create an alternative mythology — that the movement against amending India’s citizenship laws was violent and seditious. If it is not halted in its tracks, both democracy and the fight against the pandemic, would be critically weakened”.