A 51-year-old man from Mumbai was arrested on Wednesday for refusing to accept groceries from a Muslim delivery agent, The Times of India reported.
The incident took place in Mumbai’s Mira Road suburb on Tuesday. The 23-year-old delivery person told the newspaper that he reached the man’s address at 9.40 pm and asked him to come and collect his order. The delivery person added that he was wearing a protective mask and gloves.
The delivery person said that the man and his wife came to collect their order at the gate of their housing complex. He added that the couple accepted the package at first. The man then asked the delivery person his name. On learning that he belonged to the Muslim community, he asked his wife to return the order.
“I have been risking my life and delivering essential goods to homes,” the delivery agent told The Times of India. “It is shocking and saddening that in tough times too, people want to focus on religion.”
The police identified the accused as Gajanan Chaturvedi, a resident of Jaya Park in Mira Road, according to The Hindu. An unidentified police officer told the newspaper that man had ordered groceries from a store in his locality on Tuesday and the delivery person had been sent within an hour.
The police said that the delivery person had tried to reason with the customer but he remained adamant. The delivery person then approached the police.
“We recorded the complainant’s statement and immediately registered an FIR [first information report],” Inspector Sanjay Hajare told The Hindu. “Mr Chaturvedi was arrested the same day and produced in court. He has been remanded in judicial custody.”
There have been several instances of Muslims being targeted in India amid the coronavirus pandemic. These began after a conference by Tablighi Jamaat in March emerged as a hotspot. Thousands of Indians and hundreds of foreigners had attended the event. Many also fanned out across the country to recruit people after this, raising concerns about the scale of the potential spread of infection at the conference.
On April 5, the health ministry said the religious gathering had pushed up the doubling rate of cases in India to 4.1 days from the estimated 7.4 days. On April 18, the Centre said that nearly 30% of the then 14,378 cases of Covid-19 reported in India were related to a “single source” – the event held in Nizamuddin in Delhi. Over 25,000 Tablighi Jamaat members and their contacts were quarantined in the country after the Centre and the states launched a massive operation to trace them.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation had on Sunday urged the Narendra Modi government to take urgent steps to protect Muslims who are being “negatively profiled” and facing “discrimination and violence” in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that “unity and brotherhood” must be the response to the coronavirus, which does not see “race, religion, caste before striking”. On Tuesday, Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said India is heaven for Muslims and that their social, economic and religious rights are secure in the country.