Next to the flare of xenophobia around the world as a result of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the virus has brewed a new wave of Muslim hatred in India.
Visions of the crackdown of Kashmir and the advent of the citizenship law discriminating against Muslims come to mind when one thinks about the millions of Muslims residing in Hindu-dominated India under a Hindu-nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his anti-Muslim policies.
On April 12th, when the Tablighi Jamaat – a Muslim missionary movement – held a congregation in March, the Indian government sent police officials to track down Muslims in order to contain them had they been infected with the virus.
The government’s containment procedures sparked fears of beating and lynching as Muslims recalled bloodied scenes of assault on streets back in February.
The New York Times quotes a Muslim milk stall owner saying, “Fear is staring at us, from everywhere,” amid the lockdown. “People need only a small reason to beat us or to lynch us. Because of corona,” he said.
According to the report, Muslim men were distributing food to the poor when they were met with continuous thrashing. Loudspeakers in Sikh temples announced messages cautioning people of not buying milk from Muslim milkmen because it might be infected with coronavirus. Muslim women are being denied of basic supplies.
Leaders keep pointing fingers at each other. Trump terms it the “Chinese” virus and calls WHO Chinese-centric, reinforcing the many traces of xenophobia around the world.
Meanwhile in India, the blame game knows no end. The government increasingly blames the Muslims for starting the pandemic, speaking of them as “human bombs” and phrasing the crisis as a “corona jihad.”
In villages across the country, Muslim traders cannot enter the vicinity because of their faith.
In another display of religious segregation in India, a hospital in Ahmedabad was recently reported to be dividing patients of coronavirus based on their faith.
Terming the act as an “apartheid” during a pandemic, Al Jazeera reports that the hospital has claimed the order has come from the government.
“Generally, there are separate wards for male and female patients. But here, we have made separate wards for Hindu and Muslim patients. It is a decision of the government and you can ask them,” Dr Gunvant H Rathod, the medical superintendent of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, told The Indian Express newspaper in its report on Wednesday.
According to the news source, the state’s health department called the reports “baseless.” On the contrary, the Indian Express report quoted a patient saying, “On Sunday night, the names of 28 men admitted in the first ward (A-4) were called out. We were then shifted to another ward (C-4).”
“While we were not told why we were being shifted, all the names that were called out belonged to one community. We spoke to one staff member in our ward and he said this had been done for ‘the comfort of both communities’.”Al Jazeera
An Ahmedabad-based sociologist affirmed the report saying “It is a very obvious kind of thing. The fake news propaganda around Muslims spreading the virus is probably rampant across India. But I can see it is visible in Gujarat.”
Which dovetails into the rise of Islamphobia ’caused’ by the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in March.
WHO’s emergency programme director Mike Ryan cautioned religious profiling of coronavirus patients by leaders around the world.
“Having COVID-19 is not anybody’s fault. Every case is a victim. It is very important that we do not profile the cases on the basis of racial, religious and ethnic lines,” WHO’s emergency programme director Mike Ryan had said.
But Muslim abhorrence continues to hammer the lives of Indian Muslims and seems to grow more intense as crises strike the nation. Although the pandemic inspires people to act in unison, for Indian Muslims, as bleak as their present appears, the virus has only further divided them.