Bengaluru: Hate Campaign In The Face Of Coronavirus Outbreak Triggers Attack

The volunteers were allegedly attacked by members of a Hindutva organization in the course of three incidents where they faced harassment, in the latest one they were even hit with cricket bats.

India   |   13 April 2020 5:38 AM GMT / Updated : 2020-04-14T08:58:43+05:30
Bengaluru: Hate Campaign In The Face Of Coronavirus Outbreak Triggers Attack

As India fights the coronavirus, the virus of Islamophobia continues to haunt Indian Muslims and those helping them.

Communal hatred surrounding COVID-19 cases, especially since the Tablighi Jamaat incident came to light, has seen a steady rise. On WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even television news channels, fanaticism is bubbling all over.

In one such incidence, group of volunteers with Swaraj Abhiyan, who were distributing free dry rations among slum dwellers in northeast Bangalore, faced the wrath of Hindutva outfits.

Swaraj Abhiyan is a sociopolitical organization founded by social activist Yogendra Yadav and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan. When the COVID-19 outbreak struck India, the organization decided to help the migrants workers, daily wagers whose livelihoods have come to a screeching halt due to the sudden announcement of the lockdown.

Disregarding, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa's warning against maligning Muslims over the outbreak several BJP affiliates have been accusing Muslims of deliberately spreading COVID-19 as part of "corona jihad" and suggesting some Tablighi Jamaat members be shot.

On three occasions, the Hindutva organizations stopped Swaraj Abhiyan volunteers and were even attacked with cricket bats in the latest incident.

"You Are Here To Spread Corona"

While distributing food rations to the poor, a group of Swaraj Abhiyan volunteers in Mahadevpura, Bengaluru was stopped by several people whom the volunteers termed as members of RSS based on their "RSS attire": white shirts and khaki shorts.

Speaking to The Logical Indian, Zia Nomani, the organisation's youth president, said that on April 4, Swaraj Abhiyan along with some more volunteers from other NGOs had received a call for help from migrant workers hailing from Odisha and Assam. Zia with his colleagues reached the area with the required permission from the police to distribute food rations.

"We asked the person who called us why they did not ask the RSS members for help, to this they said that the RSS was only helping the local people and not them," Zia said.

"We told them that the situation's really bad and we all have to come together," he added.

Zia thinks he was "judged" as being Muslim because of his attire that day, a kurta. A video from the incident clearly shows Zia sitting in the driver's seat of his car, while two men in white shirts and khaki shorts question him.

According to him, the men told the volunteers that "not all Muslims are bad," and since the volunteers were "good Muslims", they were allowed to distribute relief material in that area.

"We told them, 'There's nothing like that and everyone is helping each other out. In fact, if the government helped us out, you and I wouldn't be here'," Zia said.

The man then told the volunteers they no longer looked like "good Muslims," they felt that the volunteers were there to 'spread coronavirus' and asked them to leave within two minutes.

According to him, the men told the volunteers that "not all Muslims are bad," and since the volunteers were "good Muslims", they were allowed to distribute relief material in that area.

"We told them, 'There's nothing like that and everyone is helping each other out. In fact, if the government helped us out, you and I wouldn't be here'," Zia said.

The man then told the volunteers they no longer looked like "good Muslims", they felt that the volunteers were there to 'spread coronavirus' and asked them to leave within two minutes.

According to Zia, the volunteers continued helping the people, then by the time they reached Mahadevapura police station at around 8.30 pm, the men were already there.

However, the police supported the volunteers and told them that the volunteers could approach the police if anything untoward happened.

"Rented House To Terrorist"

On the same day at 6.30 pm, a group of about 25 Bharatiya Janata Party workers arrived at the house of Zareen Taj, the general secretary of the Bengaluru arm of Swaraj Abhiyan. Led by BJP district president Venkatesh Naik, they even asked Zareen's landlord why he had rented out his house to a Muslim.

Speaking to The Logical Indian, Zareen said that she lives in Amruthahalli, Bengaluru, and has been participating in Swaraj Abhiyan's programme of distributing rations ever since the Lockdown.

"I was at home when the workers gathered and asked who had given the volunteers permission to distribute rations," Zareen said.

"They asked why my landlord had given his house to a terrorist. They threatened him and told him to vacate the house where I was living," she added.

Zareen stated that the BJP workers told her that Muslims had "no right" to distribute food to people and alleged that Zareen and the volunteers "had come from Nizamuddin and that they spit into the food to spread diseases".

"Warned Us Not To Feed Hindus"

Zareen and her family were allegedly attacked by Hindutva goons in the Dasarahalli slum, a short distance from her home, on April 6, while they were out distributing food rations to the poor.

According to Zareen, there were 15-20 men wearing white shirts and khaki shorts near her house.

"They told us we were not needed in that area. I told the boys that we would go a little further, so we could distribute rations someplace else," Zareen recalled.

"Muslims are poisoning the rations. You people don't deliver food here. You Muslims have to leave the slum and relocate somewhere else," the men told the volunteers.

Zareen claimed that the police have registered a case against unidentified attackers but no arrests have been made so far.

The attack has left her son Syed Tabrez, 23, with a cut on the head and several others with bruises.

The volunteers had worn visible signs of their religious identity.

"We told them we were only feeding the poor, but they attacked us and warned us not to feed Hindus," Zareen said.

"They accused us of attending the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi and said we were spitting in the food to infect everyone," she said while mentioning that the same group of about 10 men had harassed the social workers earlier also.

"When I told them (the men who confronted the volunteers) we were only trying to feed the poor who would otherwise starve, they asked us to feed people from our own community," Zareen said.

While Swaraj Abhiyan had sponsored the cooked meals, Zareen had raised funds for dry rations from her family members and friends, that they were distributing on April 6.

"Since the police had offered security, we went to the police station first. But unfortunately, a Kannada film actor had passed away the same day and most of the policemen (attached to the station) had gone there to prevent crowding," Zareen said.

The social workers were attacked "as soon as we started distribution."


Also Read: Corona Warrior: This 26-Yr-Old And His Team Is Feeding Hungry, Homeless Amid Lockdown In Tamil Nadu

Suggest a correction

    Help Us Correct

    To err is human, to help correct is humane
    Identified a factual or typographical error in this story? Kindly use this form to alert our editors
  • *
  • *
  • *
  • Form Submitted Successfully
    Error in submitting form. Try again later

Contributors

Aditi Chattopadhyay

Aditi Chattopadhyay

Fact Checker

"I like to read, cook my own food and note down witty lines. Fact checking reminds of the time when I was a kid and would go hunting for whatever caught my fancy in that moment."

Shubhendu Deshmukh

Shubhendu Deshmukh

Digital Editor

News junky, crazy about politics, love science and technology. Hindi, Urdu poem lover.

Aditi Chattopadhyay

Aditi Chattopadhyay

Fact Checker

"I like to read, cook my own food and note down witty lines. Fact checking reminds of the time when I was a kid and would go hunting for whatever caught my fancy in that moment."

Next Story