A video has been widely shared on social media in which Suresh Tiwari, a BJP MLA from Deoria constituency, Uttar Pradesh, is caught warning people against buying vegetables from Muslim vendors during the lockdown.
74-year-old BJP leader said, "Keep one thing in mind, I am openly telling everyone there is no need to buy vegetables from 'Miyas' (Muslims)."
The minister faced a backlash for the video that was reportedly shot around April 17-18.
On Tuesday, April 27, when Tiwari was confronted about his remarks, he said there were complaints from people in his constituency against Muslim vendors who are selling vegetables after spitting on them, and he was merely addressing the complaints.
"I advised them if they had any doubt, do not purchase from them till they are not well, and after the situation gets normal then decide what they want. Did I say anything wrong? People are blowing it out of proportion. Why make such a big issue?" Tiwari said, as reported by Outlook India.
Tiwari also defended himself and said, "Owaisi (AIMIM Chief) says objectionable things about Hindus but no one bothers while an MLA just told people in his constituency something for their benefit and an issue is created."
The state BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi, responding to Tiwari remarks, said that the party does not endorse such statements and cognizance of the matter would be taken.
The MLA was slammed by many for his communal remarks. Samajwadi Party spokesperson, Anurag Bhadouria, said, "Even in such challenging times, BJP leaders are busy spreading hate in the society these people should be slapped with sedition charges and put in jail."
The actor turned politician, Nagma, who is a Congress leader, is also among those who slammed the BJP leader.
Only last week, Prime Minister Modi had addressed the nation to not make the pandemic communal and fight against it in unity and brotherhood.
He said that COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border before striking.
During the pandemic, many cases of communalising the issue across the country have been surfacing. Tweets having undertones of Islamophobia, the proliferation of fake videos and pictures wrongly accusing the Muslims have been used to spread hate against the community.
This comes after a spurt of corona positive cases were reported after the Tablighi Jamaat incident.
After this, several incidents of discrimination against the Muslim minority have been reported throughout the country.
A Muslim fruit vendor in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur was cornered and beaten up by a few people in the locality on the accusation of spitting on watermelon before selling them. Later the UP police declared the allegations to be false.
Doctors who studied previous epidemics warned that stigma and blame for a contagious disease weaken trust in marginalised communities, threatening decades-long efforts against illnesses like polio and TB by making people less likely to seek treatment, according to News 18.