The incidents come in light of an intense campaign of anti-Muslim hatred, in which India's Muslim minority has been blamed for deliberately 'spreading' the coronavirus in the country.
The Indian government reported a surge in coronavirus cases last week and the identified hotspot was a building housing a Muslim missionary group called the Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi, the capital city.
For India's mainstream media and right-wing parties, the outbreak offered an opportunity to demonise the country's Muslim minority. Twitter soon exploded with a vile hashtag 'coronajihad,' insinuating that the upsurge in Covid-19 positives was a Muslim conspiracy against majority-Hindu India. The impact of such a hostile campaign is now squandering the emergency measures the country is taking to battle the spread of the virus.
Reports about angry mobs attacking Muslim truckers, health professionals and emergency rescue workers, who are playing an essential role from transporting supplies to examining people suspected of contracting the virus, are emerging from different parts of the country.
In Arunachal Pradesh state, an official at the government-run Food and Civil Supply department wrote a letter to the police saying several Muslim truckers, who unloaded rice at a Koloriang district, were beaten up by a group of men on Saturday. As their trucks were also vandalised in the attack, they left their vehicles behind and fled to Assam, the letter said.
The incident drew criticism from various civil society groups and a handful of Muslim politicians, including Assaduddin Owaisi, who took to Twitter in condemnation.
Lies about Muslims & Covid19 is dangerous. An unplanned lockdown resulted in mass hunger, but Media’s focused on a fictional enemy. The mob took its cue. The truckers were doing an essential job, they needed additional security. Instead they got violence https://t.co/Q4Pz1bBSvD— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) April 6, 2020
According to Indian journalist Sudipto Mondal, the attack was allegedly carried out by the members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Suspected RSS terrorists attacked a volunteer in Bangalore for delivering rations and food to migrant labourers and Muslim ghettos near Mahadevpura a few hours ago— Sudipto Mondal (@mondalsudipto) April 6, 2020
Victim rushed to Bowring hospital
Said to be critical
In another incident, aid workers were targeted for being Muslim in Bangalore, India's IT hub. First a Hindu mob stopped and asked them for ID cards. Learning the aid workers were from Muslim faith, they accused them of 'spreading' the Covid-19, a politically-motivated impression circulated by Indian news TV channels. Then the public beating followed.
State sponsored hindutva goons must be stopped from terrorizing Muslims in India. It is high time international community take notice of continuous human rights violations against Muslims in India.@amnesty @UNHumanRights https://t.co/JJUg7b1mzn— Wasim Muhammad (@Maharaj4) April 7, 2020
The climate of hatred against Muslims has impacted fruit and vegetable vendors as well. Many Hindu-majority neighbourhoods have closed neighbourhood gates to keep Muslim business vendors out and make them exclusively accessible for Hindu vendors.
These Islamophobics ask Muslim fruit vendor in Uttrakhand to shut his shop- because (Muslims) are responsible for the Coronavirus in India. Hindu vendors will not be touched, they are advised to ensure no Muslim should open his shop in the area. Thanks to Godi media! pic.twitter.com/4N4KgtcrUH— Salman Nizami (@SalmanNizami_) April 7, 2020
For the past few days, newspapers, TV news channels and WhatsApp were used as the main mediums to spread deeply malicious content against Indian Muslims.
Some newspapers published an old video of a bearded fruit vendor, who was purportedly sucking his thumb standing behind his cart. This was spun as a fresh video and the vendor was accused of deliberately licking his thumb to infect the fruit cart with coronavirus so the buyers would contract the disease.
The Newslaundry, a Delhi based media watchdog, negated the news as fake, saying the video was shot in February, weeks before the first case of coronavirus was reported in India. Similarly, old random videos from different parts of India or the outside world in which people were shown spitting in public were presented as evidence of Muslims spreading the virus.