Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India
NEW DELHI—Vilification campaign against Tablighi Jamaat by a large sections of the media after its Nizamuddin Markaz emerged a major coronavirus hotspot has led to rise in the hate crimes against ordinary Muslims ranging from mob attacks, online trolling, hurling religious slurs to economic discrimination against vendors.
Following the Nizamuddin fiasco, the TV channels with a blatant rightwing slant are churning out fabricated news reports accusing Tablighi Jamaat members in quarantine of misbehaviour with health workers.
The reports even went to heap allegations against the hapless people that they were moving around naked in the centres and spitting on nurses. In several cases, the police came forward to refute the allegations terming the reports as fake news. But the brash and partisan media went a step ahead and levelled more serious allegations that Muslim vendors were spitting on fruits and vegetables they sell to spread coronavirus in the country.
Consequently, the venomous propaganda in the name of reporting and unabashed promotion of Islamophobia have caused much harm to the community, so much so that poor Muslim workers in search of livelihood are facing discrimination across the country.
In Haldwani, Uttarakhand, Muslim fruit sellers were forced to shut their shops after a group of locals raided the market and asked them to wind their business. The locals reportedly alleged that if Muslims were allowed to sell fruits, it could lead to the spread of coronavirus in India.
A video clip showing a person approaching a fruit vendor to close his business was widely shared on the internet. The vendor, who is a Muslim, meekly agrees to the demand. The local police, according to reports, registered a case and claimed to have nabbed six men for harassing Muslim shopkeepers.
In Delhi, street fruit and vegetable sellers informed that customers are demanding to know their religious identity. Muslims vendors are routinely facing violence, verbal abuse and discrimination.
A recent video showed residents of a gated society in Delhi’s Shastri Nagar holding a meeting in which they decided to shut its doors on Muslim vendors. One man was heard saying that the meeting had decides not to allow Muslim vendors into the locality because they may make situation worse.
The video also shows some vendors moving in the lane are being told to carry their ID cards. The narrator in the video says that a Muslim vendor was caught faking his identity as Hindu.
The police, according to media reports, have lodged a FIR into the matter and initiated probe. The police have also started making announcements appealing people to refrain from making such discriminatory decisions.
In early April, Hindu neighbours attacked a Muslim family alleging that they did not switch off their lights at 9 pm on April 5 in compliance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to do so in gratitude of the health workers. Reports said the family members received head injuries in the attack.
The police booked four people alleged to have been involved in the attack even as the villagers showed no remorse for the violent act.
Similarly, Hindu customers refused to buy milk from Muslim milk sellers of Gujjar community in Jammu citing rumours that the Muslims are spreading coronavirus.
Some elements in Jammu want to hurt us financially by running a campaign that all Muslims, especially Gujjars, are corona virus carriers. Many people stopped buying milk from us,” says Jameel Choudhary, a community leader told economic times.
The local police have reportedly assured help to the milk sellers. But the discrimination is going on unabated.
Some milk selling Gujjar Muslims were even thrashed by Hindu men in villages of Hoshiarpur district in Punjab.
A Muslim milk seller in Himachal Pradesh killed himself after he faced social and economic boycott from locals.
Even as authorities filed cases against the culprits the worries of the vendors have only compounded. There are reports that suggest that Muslim vendors have stopped venturing for fear of being attacked.
Civil Society groups have condemned the discrimination at a time when the country and the world is battling a pandamic.
A statement put out by a group of activists including Harsh Mander, Ghazala Jamil, Snita Dhar, Advocate Colin Gonsalves urged the law enforcement agencies to proactively put a stop to incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence and take exemplary action against those who break the law.
While highlighting the gravity of the situation, they urged the people to “play a constructive role in helping the country tide over this crisis”.