India’s anti-virus measures take on sectarian hue

India’s anti-virus measures take on sectarian hue
India’s anti-virus measures take on sectarian hue

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - NEW DELHI: Vegetable vendor Imran Siddiq has been scared to enter the Shastri Nagar colony in east Delhi since he was warned by some residents not to go there.
“They told me very clearly Muslims are not allowed here,” Siddiq told Arab News on Monday.
Siddiq’s friend, Mushtaq, shared a similar experience and has stopped going to the residential complex.
When he does, he makes sure not to take his ID card along “lest my identity is revealed.”
“On Saturday, when I went to the Shashtri Nagar area, they asked me my name, and I gave a Hindu name just to avoid my Muslim identity,” Mushtaq, who prior to the incident had sold seasonal fruits there for the past 12 years, told Arab News. “They asked me to come with my identity card next time. I will not go in this area again,” he said.
Siddiq and Mushtaq’s stories are not unusual.
Since the rapid increase in the number of people testing positive for coronavirus — with some tracing it to a congregation of an Islamic missionary group, the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), in the Nizamuddin area of New Delhi — India is seeing a new surge in anti-Muslim sentiment.
The government said that 2,300 people had been evacuated from the center where the congregation took place, with 1,800 others placed under quarantine.
According to media reports, however, more than 25,000 people related to the missionary group have been quarantined across India.
The government alleges that the TJ — which is more than a century old and promotes Islamic teachings — hosted the gathering of thousands of people from across India and abroad despite the threat of coronavirus.
In the first week of March, hundreds of people from the missionary group went back to their native states and allegedly infected several people.
More than 1,000 coronavirus cases are said to have a TJ link, while 30 infected persons who died have also been linked to the group, leading to the government terming them a “super spreader.”
“More than a 30 percent surge in coronavirus cases in India took place because of the Tablighi Jamaat,” Lav Agrawal, India’s health secretary, told the media on Sunday.
The TJ group, however, refutes the allegations. “Anybody aware of the activities of the Tablighi would know that it is a missionary organization where activities keep on happening throughout the year without a break. People come and go, and there was nothing new this time,” Shahid Alvi, advocate and the spokesperson of the group, told Arab News.
“Those who came from abroad were given visas by the government. Had New Delhi wanted they could have stopped the people at the airport or tested them properly. Why should we be blamed for the fault of the government?“ Alvi said.
However, after the raid on the building of the Islamic organization, a Hindu right-wing group along with a section of the pro-government media started using divisive tactics with headlines such as “Save the country from Corona Jihad” and “Who is the villain of Nizamuddin?” A minister from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, referred to a “Talibani crime.”
Spokesperson for the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Sudesh Verma, told Arab News: “The entire country felt cheated by the activities of the Tablighi Jamaat that had its congregation from March 1 to 15 despite there being a prohibitory order in place.
“The message that came from the Jamaat and the activities of those who participated raised many eyebrows. They acted against the national interest by endangering the lives of many people,” Verma said.
Meanwhile, Chief of the Delhi Minority Commission Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan said: “Muslims are being made a scapegoat of the government’s casual management of the pandemic.”
“In the recent Delhi violence against Muslims, the BJP regime turned the Muslim victims through the help of the state machinery into perpetrators of violence. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Muslims are being made a scapegoat for the government’s failure and mismanagement,” he said.
“Why is the government not getting hyper when hundreds of people have been gathering at the different Hindu festivals when the prohibitory order was in place?” Islam asked.
Hyderabad-based Dr. Afroz Alam, of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, called the turn of events “dangerous.”
“The othering of Muslims is the most dangerous idea that we have ever evolved. Irrationalities are not the sole possession of any specific community. It’s a universal trait,” Alam told Arab News.
Delhi-based political analyst, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, said that “the negligence of the government” could not be ignored.
“Modi might be fighting the coronavirus, but his primary concern is to secure the BJP’s political permanence beyond the coronavirus episode. Religious communalism is the BJP’s home ground, and it is the turf on which the party plays quite well. This turf has been delivering electoral successes to the BJP, ” Mukhopadhyay said.

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