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Fears of pogroms in India as Muslims blamed for Covid-19 outbreak

Fears have been raised over a return to faith-based pogroms in India after a rise in Islamophobic rhetoric seeking to blame the coronavirus outbreak on Muslims.

More than 300 cases of Covid-19 have been linked to a recent week-long Islamic gathering in Delhi, which attracted thousands from India and overseas, and officials are trying to contact attendees and their secondary contacts.

But the news has led to fears of a repeat of the communal violence seen in recent months following the introduction of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

Islamophobic hashtags have been trending on Twitter, while Indian television news has fuelled hatred with headlines including “Save the country from corona jihad.”

Islamophobia has also been inflamed by parliamentarians, with government minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), branding the Covid-19 outbreak a "Talibani crime." 

The former chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir said that while Tablighi Jamaat, the event’s organisers, had been “irresponsible,” such gatherings were not unique.

“Now the Tablighi Jamaat will become a convenient excuse for some to vilify Muslims everywhere as if we created and spread Covid-19 around the world,” he said.

Police have been criticised for allowing the event to continue after the government had banned gatherings of more than 200 people.

Organisers claimed it had followed instructions but some devotees were unable to leave after India stopped all flights and other forms of transport.

Earlier this month Uttar Pradesh state chief minister Yogi Adityanath attended a busy Hindu celebration which went ahead the day after India was placed on lockdown.

And, as reported in the Morning Star, 40,000 people were placed in quarantine in Punjab after a Sikh preacher who returned from Italy refused to self-isolate.

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