Minority communities in India have to deal with the added stress of the hate directed towards them
Although the Coronavirus pandemic that’s sweeping the globe doesn’t discriminate between its victims, it hasn’t stopped Indians from using the spread of the disease to single out and victimize minority groups in our country.
As the origins of the coronavirus lie in Wuhan, China, there is an increased hostility against people from the Northeast. They have been called “Chinese”, “Chinki” and “Corona” and there have been several instances of discrimination, harassment and abuse directed towards them. Recently two people from India’s Northeast were denied entry to a supermarket. In another incident in Bangalore, a woman who was returning home after purchasing groceries was called corona and spat at. There are also reports of people from the north east being forcibly put in quarantine, despite not showing any symptoms of coronavirus, on the basis of their appearance.
As Ngurang Reena, a human rights and political activist from Arunachal Pradesh shared on Twitter, “As the world is gripped with fear and uncertainty over Covid19, some of us in India also have to deal with bigotry and indignity because of our race.” Many Northeast Indians have also been threatened with eviction. Alana Golmei, a north eastern lawyer based in Delhi also shared on Twitter, “The situation is bad for Northeast youth in metro cities as house owners are telling them to vacate. They can’t go anywhere in the present situation.”
As a result of the racist incidents against people from the north east, the Ministry of Home Affairs had issued a statement saying, “There have been cases where people of Northeast including athletes have been harassed by linking them to Covid-19. This is racially discriminatory. It’s requested that all law enforcing agencies in states and UT may (be sensitised) to take appropriate action in these cases.”
But the government has not said anything to placate the fears of the Muslim community which has found itself in a similar situation. After news broke out that a religious convention held by Tablighi Jamaat was a hotspot for Covid19, rumours of a communal nature began to spread across social media. Videos were circulated on social media platforms which showed that Muslim men were spitting on food, sneezing in groups to spread coronavirus. Although these videos were later proven to be false, they have led to incidents where Muslims were harassed and even physically attacked. The ruling party BJP’s IT cell also pushed the narrative that Muslims were responsible for spreading the pandemic and several television news channels furthered this idea.
The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath himself attended a religious gathering despite the lockdown hardly seems to matter to anyone. While organizing the event was irresponsible on part of the Tablighi Jamaat, the authorities are also at fault, as they failed to prevent it from occurring.
Salman Nizami, a columnist, and Congress politician shared on Twitter, “Muslims across the country are being abused, beaten over Coronavirus, thanks to the Media & BJP IT Cell. They are divided on the basis of religion to hide their failures.”
A teacher from West Bengal Nadira Begum says, “A lot of media houses are playing a big role in propaganda and spreading rumours. A gathering also happened in Vaishnodevi, but the media is portraying those participants as people who got stuck due to lockdown. Whereas, in the case of Tablighi Jamaat, they’re saying the participants are “hiding”. Why are two similar gatherings being presented differently?”
The spread of coronavirus has already created anxiety in the minds of the people. As Shahid Siddiqui, a retired political science professor from Delhi University shared on Twitter, “Indian Muslims are going through a double trauma of Coronavirus & hate virus. Most of them have reached a breaking point watching the onslaught of hate & propaganda against them on almost every news channel. The government while fighting coronavirus must also take steps to fight hate virus.”
An atmosphere of distrust was already created with the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the talk of a National Register of Citizens. Reports suggest that members of the community are apprehensive of officials making enquiries related to the disease. The hateful rhetoric against the community makes India’s fight against Coronavirus even more difficult as cooperation is essential during times like these.