A Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Uttar Pradesh told people in Deoria district not to purchase vegetables from Muslim vendors amid the Covid-19 pandemic, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday. Suresh Tiwari, a legislator from the district’s Barhaj constituency, was heard making the remark on a video that has gone viral on social media.
“Keep one thing in mind, I am telling everyone openly, no one should purchase vegetables from miyas [Muslims],” he reportedly told people, including government officials, in the video. When contacted, Tiwari admitted that he made the remark.
Tiwari said he made the comment during his visit to the office of the Barhaj Nagar Palika last week. “After hearing the complaints that people of a community were selling vegetables after contaminating them with saliva in an attempt to spread coronavirus, I advised them if they have any doubt don’t purchase from them till they are not well,” Tiwari said. “After the situation gets normal then decide what they want.”
Tiwari said everyone knows what the members of the Tablighi Jamaat group have done. He was referring to a Tablighi Jamaat congregation in New Delhi in March, attended by thousands, which led to a large number of infections.
Uttar Pradesh BJP Spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said the party does not endorse Tiwari’s remarks. He said the BJP will question Tiwari about the circumstances in which he made the remarks.
Uttar Pradesh has so far reported 1,955 cases of the coronavirus, including 31 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
On April 14, a group of people in Uttar Pradesh’s Mahoba district had allegedly misbehaved with some Muslim vegetable vendors and stopped them from selling their goods. The mob claimed that the Muslims were members of the Tablighi Jamaat.
Videos circulating on social media platforms in the recent past have 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 have 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. A youth was beaten to death and two others were injured in the incident.