Two vegetable vendors in Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh were allegedly misbehaved with and stopped from selling their goods by a group of people who accused them of being members of the Tablighi Jamaat and of spreading the coronavirus, PTI reported. The sect is linked to a religious congregation held in Nizamuddin in Delhi last month, which later emerged as an infection hotspot.
In a written complaint, the vendors said they had gone to small villages to sell vegetables on Saturday, when a group of men urged people to stop purchasing anything from them because they are Muslims.
“Two vegetables sellers came to me and gave a complaint, alleging that they had gone to sell vegetables when villagers misbehaved, terming them [as members of the] Tablighi Jamaat,” Additional District Magistrate Ram Suresh Verma told PTI. However, a report by NDTV said five vegetable vendors were involved in the incident.
Meanwhile, Superintendent of Police Manilal Patidar, said he was “not aware” of the matter.
“Over 100 people came to buy [the vegetables] in the 15 minutes we were there,” Mohammad Shamim, one of the vendors, told NDTV. “About 10-15 people had already bought from us. Then some other people came and said: ‘these people are Muslims don’t buy from them’.”
Shamim said the men accused him and other vendors of having links with the Tablighi Jamaat. “The vegetables we had sold were returned to us. For two days we have not stepped out,” he added.
Ram Suresh Verma, a senior official of the Uttar Pradesh government posted in the district met the vendors and promised swift action. “There people have shared their concerns,” he told NDTV. “I have asked the sub-divisional magistrate to conduct a probe. No one will face any issues. whatever needs to be done, we will ensure it is done.”
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Ever since news broke that the convention held by the Tablighi Jamaat was a Covid-19 hotspot, rumours about the spread of the coronavirus have taken on a communal hue. Videos circulating on social media platforms appeared to show Muslim men spitting on food, licking plates and sneezing in unison to spread the virus – all of these have been debunked as fake news. Even certain television channels and organisations like the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT Cell blamed Muslims for the spread of the pandemic.
In several places, this had also translated into violence. On April 7, rumours about Muslim men intentionally spitting to spread the virus reportedly led to group clashes in Jharkhand’s Gumla district. It began with an attack on a young man, who was seriously injured. Another person died in the ensuing clashes.
Three separate incidents took place in the National Capital Region on April 5, the same day that Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked everyone to light candles in the darkness for nine minutes in a show of solidarity for India’s fight against the coronavirus. A 22-year-old who had reportedly returned from a Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Bhopal was assaulted in Harewali village.
A Muslim family in Gurgaon was allegedly attacked for taking videos of a procession that took to the streets to carry out Modi’s instructions. A mosque in Gurugram was shot at and those arrested told the police they had fired to “check if anyone infected with the coronavirus was hiding inside”. Instances of violence or hostility have emerged from other states as well.