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Indian Muslims Under Further Threat Amid Coronavirus Surge In The Country

Indian Muslims Under Further Threat Amid Coronavirus Surge In The Country

As cases of Covid-19 rise in India, the finger is being pointed to a convention held by a Muslim sect in mid-March that supposedly started the initial outburst. After their worst communal violence in decades, this has only worsened the situation for Muslims in the country.

In the past 24 hours India has reported a 386 case increase of coronavirus, contributing to over 1700 cases confirmed in the country. Although this is still relatively low compared to Europe and the US, considering this is a country of over 1.3 billion people, doubts over India’s low levels of testing and poor access to healthcare across the country have led to disputes over the actual figure. 

However, despite the controversies of the government’s reporting of cases, the jump in figures have been reportedly traced back to an event held in Delhi by the Muslim sect, Tablighi Jamaat, of which sparked multiple clusters of the virus across India. At least 3500 people attended their annual 2-day convention from March 13th  to March 15th when Indian police had already advised against large gatherings. 

The sect have followers from 80 different countries across the globe. 250 attendees chose to stay after the convention but were then stranded in the country following Prime Minister Modi’s announcement of a lockdown on March 24th, which was implemented just hours afterwards. It is now understood that 24 attendees of the event became infected with the virus and 10 have already died. There are now efforts to trace and test the other people at the event to stop the further spread of the virus. 

Delhi’s government have already taken steps in asking police to file a criminal case against the group for flouting the guidelines and breaking social distancing rules. The group have responded by stating that they had no choice but to accommodate the overseas visitors because they became immediately stranded by Modi’s quick implementation of a national lockdown, which also saw thousands of migrating workers stranded in cities and therefore having to walk thousands of miles back to their homes. 

What’s more, the blaming of the virus’ spread around India at the feet of a Muslim sect has done nothing but inflamed religious tensions that were already at their highest for decades in India. On Twitter, #CoronaJihad instantly began trending following the report of the event, and images and videos of police attacking groups of Muslims began circulating. 

However, reports of other events held by non-Muslims across India show that the breaking of social distancing rules isn’t unique to just one community or people. On the first day of the lockdown even, there was a Ram Navami event held in Ayodhya, attended by the Uttar Pradesh chief minister. On March 10th  there was a Sikh fair in Punjab, attended by a 70-year old preacher who was infected with Covid-19. Last week he died and over 40,000 of the attendees are now in isolation. Furthermore, on March 15th after the state ban on mass gatherings, hundreds of people attended the wedding of a state legislator’s daughter, putting everyone at risk. These are just a few of the cases. 

The BJP government having pointed fingers at one case – a Muslim event – suggests that their Hindu-nationalist agenda has not loosened its grip on the community even in this crisis. 

The communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in February devasted Muslim homes and businesses, with many victims in New Delhi having to seek refuge in displaced persons camps. The riots and mob violence came after Muslim protests against Prime Minister Modi’s amendment of the citizenship bill which could leave millions of Muslims stateless. The Delhi Minorities Commission described the violence as “one-sided” which led to the “damage of homes and shops”, leaving some without a source of livelihood.  

Furthermore, when Modi announced the lockdown at the end of March, families in the camps were asked to leave the next morning, having nowhere to go but their damaged and looted homes which they originally fled from. 

It seems that the coronavirus spreading around India has exposed further their sectarian problems and the cracks in the BJP government’s handling of the crisis. Some have already claimed that the Tablighi incident was used as a diversion from the migrant crisis that came from Modi’s rash lockdown implementation. For India’s Muslim community, it seems that they are now being squashed by two different issues: Hindu-nationalism, as well as a virus which will add to further devastation. 

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