Covid19: Islamophobic Hatemongering in India

Mohamed Shaffeeq N

Covid19 is considered to be the deadliest pandemic of the century.  The extent of damage caused by Covid19 pandemic to humanity is yet to be assessed fully. Studies show that Muslim community in India is one of the worst affected communities in the world not by the pandemic but in the name of the pandemic, i.e. by the hatred propagated by Sangh Parivar against them.  Sangh Parivar and its think tanks have always been instrumental in converting any opportunity to propagate Islamophobic hatemongering or disinformation campaign against Muslims in India.  They made use of the Covid19 pandemic as well to ostracise the Muslim community.  Sangh Parivar led BJP Government even reported to United Nations that Covid19 was spread exclusively by the Muslim community. The hate campaign in India led the World Health Organization to caution “It is very important that we do not profile the cases on the basis of racial, religious and ethnic lines.”

It all started following the congregation of Tabligh Jamath in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin area in March 2020.  The authorities carried out a huge propaganda accusing the congregation as the super-spreaders of Covid19.  As a result, Muslims were brutally attacked in many parts of the country. Within days, a state of panic was created in the country by linking Covid19 positive cases and deaths to Tabligh. By early April, pro-Modi television channels had begun blaming that over 30 percent of the corona-positive cases had the “Tablighi Virus.” This targetted venomous propaganda with the full support of the pro-RSS visual media linking the pandemic to Tablighi Jamaat congregation achieved its goal of fomenting more hatred towards the entire Muslim population as the carriers of Corona virus. Thus, Covid19 suddenly got a tinge of religion. The hatemongers exploited the situation well and the leaders of the ruling Hindu right wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) started calling the Tablighi congregation a “Talibani Crime” and “Corona Terrorism.”

A recent study carried out by Empower India Foundation found that in India, Islamophobic online ‘cyber hubs’ were formed which linked Muslims to the spread of Covid19 by using anti-Muslim memes and sharing fake news stories. The upsurge of false news and the spread on social media led to an increase in the already existing lies produced by the Sangh Parivar. While the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, hatemongering related to the virus in India is spreading online almost as fast as the virus itself.

The EIF study reveals that, the hatemongering has resulted in 126 brutal attacks against Muslims during the period of April 2020 to September 2020.  Uttar Pradesh stands top in the brutality with 29 cases followed by the national capital New Delhi with 16 cases. Haryana reported 9 cases, Karnataka 8 cases, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh 7 cases each. 6 cases each were reported in Bihar and Jammu Kashmir. West Bengal had 5 cases and Rajasthan and Kerala 4 cases each. In Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Telangana 3 cases each were reported. During these six months, April witnessed the greatest number of attacks – 45 cases.

Analysis shows that Muslims in India went through all forms of discrimination and suppression during this tough period which included physical assault, police harassment, attacks on mosques, boycotting of Muslim traders and sellers, denial of hospital treatment to Muslims, social media hate campaign, falsehoods accusing Muslims of spreading the virus deliberately, gangrape and even denial of drinking water. A news channel in India shamelessly ventured to project the higher number of Muslims passing out the UPSC exam as UPSC Jihad mentioning it as a hidden agenda.

Attacks against Muslims during April-September 2020Numbers
Physical assault37
Police harassment18
Attack on mosques8
Boycott of Muslim traders and sellers16
Teasing and forced chanting of Jai Sree Ram12
Boycott of Muslims in different villages6
Forced conversions2
False Covid19-spread news7
Social media hate campaign7
Denial of hospital treatment5
Denial of drinking water1
Suicide due to taunting1
State Wise analysis of Covid-age Islamophobic atrocities No of Incidents
Uttar Pradesh29
New Delhi16
Madhya Pradesh7
Uthara khand1
Jammu and Kashmir6
Himachal Pradesh3
Arunachal Pradesh1
West Bengal5
Tamil Nadu3

These are the cases resulted from the Islamophobic campaign related to Covid19 only.

Today, as the world battles coronavirus which has already claimed myriads of lives, India is battling another vitriolic virus too – the Islamophobic hatemongering Sangh Parivar.