COVID-19: Muslims and Muslim volunteers heckled, harassed in Karnataka

On Monday, a video emerged of three Muslim men being heckled by villagers in Bagalakote, accusing the community of spreading coronavirus.
COVID-19: Muslims and Muslim volunteers heckled, harassed in Karnataka
COVID-19: Muslims and Muslim volunteers heckled, harassed in Karnataka

Ever since the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in New Delhi resulted in a rise of COVID-19 cases in the country, several Muslims have been heckled and harassed in Karnataka. On Monday, residents of a village in Bagalakote humiliated members of the Muslim community, who had gone to the banks of the Krishna river to fish. 

A video of the incident went viral on social media on Monday. Around 10 to 15 residents of Bidari village in Rabkavi Banahatti taluk in Bagalakote can be seen holding wooden sticks and iron rods, while heckling three Muslim men. 

The three men can be seen folding their hands and begging for mercy, while the village residents kick them and shoo them away with the wooden sticks. “Don’t touch them. They are the ones spreading the disease,” one of the men can be heard saying. 

One of them makes the men kneel in front of them and apologise for coming outside. “You people (referring to members of the Muslim community) are the ones who are spreading the disease. Why are you coming to our village? Do you know how many people have died?” one of the men can be heard saying. 

When TNM contacted the Mudhol Police, under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred, they said that no complaint had been filed due to which an FIR was not registered. 

Attacks in Belagavi

On Sunday night, a mob of men allegedly attacked two mosques in Belagavi district. Two separate cases have been registered in the district in connection with the attacks. Belagavi police say that the mosques were attacked by miscreants as the lights were on at 9 pm. 

Nine people were arrested by the Yamkanmardi Police. The men allegedly barged into the mosque and heckled the imam, who was cleaning up the space. “These men attacked the mosque and tried to shut it down. They kept saying that the whole country is switching off the lights and lighting candles and that members in the mosque too must follow the same. They have been arrested now,” the Yamkanmardi Police said. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked people of the country to shut off their lights for nine minutes at 9 pm on Sunday and light candles instead. 

Meanwhile, the Sadalaga Police arrested 13 people for allegedly attacking another mosque in the area. The men allegedly barged into the mosque and demanded that the lights be turned off. 

All 22 men in connection with the two cases have been booked under sections 153A (Acts prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different groups), 295A (malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings) of the IPC. 

More incidents in Bengaluru

In Bengaluru, more than one incident of activists arranging and delivering food for migrant worker communities being harassed allegedly by BJP/ RSS activists has come to light.  

Zeerin, an activist working in Amruthahalli area in north Bengaluru said she was surrounded by more than 20 RSS workers on Saturday evening.

“They said ‘who gave you permission to give food? You are a Muslim, you guys mix poison and spit on food before distributing. Have you guys come from Nizamuddin and want to spread the disease to everyone?’ They also went to meet my landlord and asked him why he rented us a room knowing that we are Muslims. They said ‘Go to Shivajinagar or RK Hegde Nagar, we don’t need help from Muslims, thank god we have enough’,” she said.

She continued, “Then they called the police after arguing with us for two hours and demanded the police arrest us. But the police came and supported us and only said we should maintain social distancing.”  

In another incident, Roselin Gomes, a volunteer who was supplying food in Devi Nagar, also in north Bengaluru was stopped by BJP activists. 

“I had put up a video on social media stating that I was going to pick up some food packets from Indira Canteen and these are the things that I want to collect. Then I got a call from Jai Shankar (a BJP worker) saying ‘why are you picking up food? For people like you there is a shortage of food.’ So I replied that I am only giving to the needy people and asked them if they can arrange food for them, then I need not move,” she said.

Both of them are volunteers of Swaraj Abhiyan, a socio-political organisation founded by psephologist Yogendra Yadav and senior advocate Prashanth Bhushan. At least two other incidents of Swaraj Abhiyan members being harassed came to light on Saturday.

Following these incidents, Swaraj Abhiyan leaders from Bengaluru met with senior police officials to complain about the developments.

“We went today and met DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police) North and he was very supportive. In fact, he condemned it and said especially in this time such kind of racial and communal attacks should not take place and people need to help each other,” Zia Nomani, Youth President of the outfit, said.

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has repeatedly said that the disease should not be communalised and had even met Muslim legislators to ensure that those who attended the jamaath declared themselves. 

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