The Madhya Pradesh Police on Wednesday suspended a sub-inspector in Betul district for telling a lawyer that he was allegedly beaten up by the police as they mistook him for a Muslim, PTI reported.

The lawyer, Deepak Bundele, claimed that he was stopped by the police when he was going to the district hospital in Betul on March 23, after restrictions were imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Bundele alleged that he was thrashed mercilessly by the police after he informed about his visit to the hospital for treatment.

However, Bundele managed to reach the hospital after telling the policemen that he was a lawyer and could complain to their seniors, The Quint reported. Later, he filed complaints with several authorities, seeking registration of a first information report against the policemen who attacked him. Bundele also filed a Right to Information application to retrieve the CCTV footage of the incident. However, two months later, he was neither given the CCTV footage nor was an FIR filed.

Investigating officer BS Patel visited Bundele’s house on May 17 to record his statement. “The cops mistook you as a member of the minority community due to your beard,” Patel allegedly told Bundele. Subsequently, Bundele shared an audio clip of the conversation with the local media. Superintendent of Police DS Bhadoriya suspended Patel after the clip was shared widely on social media.

“He allegedly made a comment which should not have been part of the police investigation,” Additional Superintendent of Police Shraddha Joshi told PTI.

Muslims have been the target of hate crimes ever since a meeting of a group known as the Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi in March resulted in a huge number of coronavirus cases around the country.

Fake videos on social media platforms have claimed to show Muslim men spitting on food, licking plates and sneezing in unison to spread the virus. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT Cell has blamed Muslims for spreading the pandemic.

In several places, this has resulted in 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.

Media Scanner, a fact-checking platform, compiled a list of at least 69 fake videos against Muslims and listed at least 28 attacks prompted by online abuse, until April 21.