COVID-19: Muslims in India face brunt of public ire

The pandemic has brought with it a barrage of hatred and attacks on the Muslims in India, as they are blamed for the spread of the virus

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COVID-19 has wrought anguish and indescribable horrors on communities around the world. This is no less true for the Muslims of India who with the addition of having to deal with the virus also have to deal with a barrage of fresh attacks on their communities and individuals.

Read More: COVID-19: Question of survivability of 1.4 billion Indians with no exit strategy

“These are dangerous people, these lockdown cheats!” Arnab Goswami, a news anchor on India’s popular Republic TV, shouted in a March 31 broadcast. “They have compromised us all!”

BJP official: Jamaat members should be shot

One official from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party suggested that Jamaat members should be shot. Another, however, issued a warning.

“Nobody should speak a word against Muslims,” Karnataka’s chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, told local TV. “If anyone blames the entire Muslim community for some isolated incident, I’ll take action against them.”

On Sunday, after the Organization of Islamic Cooperation expressed “deep concern” over what it called “Islamophobia within political and media circles” in India, Modi tweeted a plea for “unity and brotherhood.”

“COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or borders before striking,” the prime minister wrote. “We are in this together.”

Various other religious events, including a Hindu chariot-pulling festival, have been held across India in violation of lock down rules. But none has garnered as much public outrage as Jamaat’s Delhi conference. Speaking volumes on the adamant discrimination that the Muslim community within India have to face.

Corona Jihad: top twitter trend in India targets Muslims 

The #CoronaJihad hashtag was trending on Twitter in India, implying Muslims are using the virus as a form of Islamic “holy war.” It’s often accompanied by videos purportedly showing Muslims spitting on food and sneezing.

Read More: US religious freedom report; future of Muslims in India

“The right wing has found all these old videos and is circulating them to insinuate that Indian Muslims are knowingly spreading coronavirus and that it is equivalent to terrorist activity,” explains Pratik Sinha, co-founder of AltNews, an Indian website that debunks fake news.

Sinha has been investigating such videos and says most of them are misleading.

For example, a video recorded in July 2018 — before the coronavirus outbreak — depicts Muslims licking plates and utensils.

“There’s a sect of Muslims called the Bohra Muslims, and they have this extreme practice where they believe no food should be wasted,” Sinha told NPR. “So a bunch of young boys were licking all the plates and spoons after some event — and that went viral, claiming these are Muslims trying to spread coronavirus.”

Muslim vendors have since been blocked from selling food, and beaten up. A cancer hospital was forced to apologize after refusing to admit Muslims unless they undergo a coronavirus test. In the southern city of Bengaluru, Muslim volunteers came under attack with cricket bats when they distributed food to the poor.

A member of that volunteer group, Zia Nomani, told NPR that men approached him at a charity food drive and identified themselves as members of the RSS — the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — a Hindu group with close ties to India’s government. They singled him out as a Muslim because of his clothes.

Muslims in India face new brazen attacks

Police in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan have arrested two people on Saturday for allegedly beating a Muslim rickshaw driver, and forcing him to chant “Modi zindabad” — long live Modi — in reference to the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Read more: India sees largest-ever one-day jump in coronavirus cases

According to the police, 52-year-old Gaffar Ahmed Kachawa had lodged a police complaint against two individuals at the Sadar Police Station in the Sikar city for beating and forcing him to chant a slogan on Friday.

In a police complaint, Kachawa said two unknown people stopped him after he dropped his passengers in a nearby village and that they asked him to chant “Modi zindabad”.
“When I refused to chant, they pulled my beard, punched my tooth out, and even asked me to go to Pakistan,” said Kachawa in his complaint to the police.

The police station arrested Shambhudaya Jat and Rajendra Jat on Kachawa’s complaint.

According to Pushpendra Singh, the police station in charge, “the two accused involved in assaulting Kachawa were consuming alcohol at the time of the incident.”
Kachawa has been admitted in a city hospital after sustaining multiple injuries.

Recently, there have been many cases of attacks on Muslims in India.

GVS News Desk with additional input by other sources