There is no doubt that the struggle to overcome the crisis created by coronavirus requires the highest possible level of responsibility and unity among Indian people.
Crores of workers are toiling hard at great risk to their own lives. These include the doctors, nurses and other health workers as well as workers in railways, banking, sanitation and other sectors involved in supplying essential goods and services.
Crores of daily wage workers all over the country have lost their means of livelihood as a result of the lockdown. Many of them are struggling without adequate food and a secure roof over their heads. The central and state governments, as well as numerous people’s organisations, are trying to address the requirements of these people.
The situation clearly demands united action and mutual trust among the people. It is a matter of grave concern that in such conditions, a venomous campaign is being carried out blaming Muslims for spreading corona virus. Muslims all over the country are facing police harassment, social discrimination and physical attacks.
An international gathering organized by a Muslim religious sect during 13-15 March in Nizamuddin, Delhi, has been used to portray all Muslims across the country as criminals who are spreading the virus. The holding of such an event at that time was undoubtedly a serious mistake. The government should not have allowed it. However, the religious people who participated in the gathering must not be treated like criminals. The government has to educate people of all religious faiths, on the necessity for avoiding public gatherings.
The official spokespersons of the Central government and the Delhi Government have repeatedly highlighted the number of ‘Markaz Masjid’ cases while reporting on the spread of coronavirus in the capital. Given that Muslims have been specifically targeted for testing, it is only natural that many of those testing positive will be Muslims. This has been used to present an exaggerated false impression that the spread of corona virus in India is linked mainly to that one religious gathering in Delhi.
This was accompanied with virulent anti-muslim propaganda on TV and social media, making out as if Muslims were hatching a deliberate plot to spread the corona virus infection. Fake videos have been circulated in which Muslims are shown spitting into food served in restaurants or coughing into the faces of other people. Video were also being circulated in the social media which showed Muslims refusing to get tested or gathering for prayer in violation of the lockdown. These have subsequently been found to be fake.
There have been numerous reports of lynch attacks on Muslims, in the wake of the feverish hate-campaign. In many parts of Karnataka and some other states, Muslims have been beaten up and humiliated, accused of spreading the virus. Mosques have been vandalized. Truck drivers were beaten up in Arunachal Pradesh. Vegetable vendors have been attacked in Delhi and other places. There have been calls and WhatsApp messages calling on people to boycott shops owned by Muslims. In several states, posters have appeared calling for boycotting Muslims and preventing their entry into the villages. Milk sellers in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, have been beaten up and forced to pour their milk into the river. In Rajasthan, Muslims are being attacked in villages where they have lived in harmony with people of other faiths for generations.
The Chairperson of the Delhi Minorities Commission had to write a letter to the Secretary, Delhi Health Department, asking that the “religious undertones” be eliminated from its daily bulletins. He pointed out that “Such … classification … has been easily turned into a handle to attack Muslims across the country…”.
There has been a public outcry against this anti-Muslim offensive. In the face of this public opposition, Chief Ministers of various states as well as leaders of many political parties have made public statements that it is wrong to communalize the struggle against corona virus. However, several TV channels are continuing to propagate the lie that the spread of the virus is a deliberate plot by Muslims in our country and abroad. No action has been taken to stop such hate propaganda.
Blaming and attacking Muslims does not help the united struggle of the Indian people. On the contrary, it weakens the unity of people and causes great harm to the struggle to overcome the crisis created by corona virus.
People must come together, irrespective of their religious beliefs, and strongly condemn the communal propaganda and hate crimes targeted at Muslims. We must demand strict punishment for the guilty.