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Activist Akram Akhtar was home in Shamli, Uttar Pradesh, when the clock struck 9 pm on 5 April, and the soundtrack of those responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a 9-minute lights-out echoed around him.

“There were loud shouts of Jai Shri Ram, firecrackers and the distinctive sounds of .315 calibre country-made pistols being fired. I heard the conch and prayer bells from the temple where loudspeakers played bhakti songs.” This continued for 45 minutes, he said.

In other parts of India too, Modi’s call to switch off lights and light a diya or shine a torch “to mark our fight against coronavirus” was interpreted by many Hindus as a show of majoritarian strength.

Worried that there might be communal tension, Akhtar got on his motorcycle and drove to some Muslim neighbourhoods. “It was dark and quiet. Unlike other days, not one person was on the road,” he added, attributing this to the fear fueled largely by the recent police violence against Muslim citizens protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Uttar Pradesh (UP).


Also read: ‘Thoughtless classification’ of Covid-19 data fuelling Islamophobia: Delhi minorities panel


Corona fuels Muslim hatred

Since December, police in India’s most populous state has targeted Muslims, detaining thousands, raiding homes and even opening fire on people protesting against new laws that will put Indian citizenship through a religious sieve.

A bald headline in Time magazine holds up a clear mirror to our recent selves: “It Was Already Dangerous to Be Muslim in India. Then Came the Coronavirus.”

After attendees at a Tablighi Jamaat meet — held in Delhi before Modi’s call for a national lockdown — tested positive, fake news about Muslims intentionally spreading the coronavirus went viral. As India trended #CoronaJihad, our Islamophobia was on show for the world to see.

An indication of how fast the hateful rumours spread was that even the UP Police was forced to turn fact-checker.

In Sahranpur, 62 km from Shamli, the police issued a statement denying that Jamaatis quarantined in Rampur “created a ruckus” because they didn’t get non-vegetarian food and had excreted in the open. “After going through news reports, news channels and social media posts we have found that these reports are completely wrong and untrue. Saharanpur Police refutes this projected news in its entirety,” the official police handle tweeted.

After this, there were many more instances of the UP Police correcting and warning or arresting people and media organisations for spreading fake news or attacks against Muslims. An article in the Hindustan newspaper dated 6 April said the Meerut police found to be untrue the report that a maulana had spat on and bitten a shopkeeper. The shopkeeper was angry after an altercation over money and had used a coin to create bite marks.


Also read: Pakistan’s Hazaras to India’s Muslims – people are finding Covid-19 scapegoats


Fake news and real damage

Religious organisation Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind moved the Supreme Court to stop the dissemination of fake news and act against a section of the media for spreading communal hatred and bigotry. The organisation said that the Tablighi Jamaat meeting was being used to demonise the entire Muslim community.

If 2018 and 2019 were the years India communalised rape and spent hours debating—on prime time television and on social media—the religion of the rapist and his victim in horrific cases of violence against young women and minors, 2020 will go down as the year this country viewed a global pandemic through a Hindu-Muslim lens.

The fake news was everywhere. “My parents have been buying groceries from a supermarket owned by a Malayali Muslim for many years…Yesterday my father received a WhatsApp forward asking him not to go to the shop as the owner was infected with Coronavirus and the goods in the shop were infected too,” someone posted on Facebook.


Also read: Covid an excuse to push Indian Muslims out of informal sector jobs. Apartheid the next step


Secularism is dead

Ideas of Indian syncretism and secularism feel increasingly dreamlike and distant in 2020. This latest blast of hateful bigotry came on the heels of the Delhi riots, where 19 mosques were damaged and burnt in targeted violence that lasted 48 hours in February in the city’s working-class neighbourhoods in the north-east.

When journalist and author Ajaz Ashraf began visiting these mosques, he was reminded of how the Taliban blew up two sixth-century statues of Gautam Buddha in Afghanistan and how the Islamic State destroyed archaeological sites as its soldiers barrelled through northern Iraq and Syria.

“These mosques do not have an ancient past, nor are they architectural marvels. Yet the fury the mobs vented on them was Taliban-esque in nature. They showed their extreme contempt for sacred spaces that were not theirs; made it clear, in fact that others’ places of worship belonged to the realm of the profane,” Ashraf wrote for news website NewsClick last month. He said he gave up after seeing the destruction in nine mosques.

Even sacred spaces that have always attracted both Hindu and Muslim followers in India face a shaky future.

When Nikhil Mandalaparthy, a reporting fellow at Pulitzer Center, began investigating the future of our Sufi dargahs, he found that prominent dargahs in Ajmer and Delhi were being increasingly targeted by Hindutva supporters and conservative Muslims. Incessant Islamophobic social media messaging (like the handle that tweeted that Hindu visitors to Sufi shrines “is akin to Jews worshipping the Nazis”) was making fewer Hindus visit these syncretic spaces in some parts of the country, he learnt.

Earlier this week a baby died in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, after a doctor refused to treat a pregnant Muslim woman because of her religion.

Islamophobia is everywhere you look in New India and already its impact is deadly.

So hunker down. It’s only April. There are still eight months to go in 2020.

Priya Ramani is a Bangalore-based columnist and on the editorial board of Article-14.com.Views are personal.

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47 Comments Share Your Views

47 COMMENTS

  1. Ms. Ramani:
    Your writing here exemplifies a psychological disorder called ‘Iskamophilic Hinduphobia’.
    People suffering from this disorder show:
    1. Faux outrage against any event where Muslims are held to account for ani-social/ anti-national behavior
    2. Tacitly support Islamist actions of India’s Muslims by turning a blind eye towards Muslim atrocities against their own even – e,g. Triple Talaq, opposition to a Uniform Civil Code
    3. Manufacture and spread false news like the story of a Muslim woman denied medical treatment due to her faith.
    Islamphilic Hines like you deserve all the credit for polarizing the public debate in India along religious lines.
    Spinning false narratives to gain publication space in publications that have their own agenda To divide India and Hindus is pathetic.
    It seems to me that this is what you are attempting – an objective professional piece assessing current affairs will likely not get published on a site like this one.
    Bash India, Hindus and build a career, Bravo!

  2. Get a life, Ms. Ramani.

    If you want to see everything from the lens of “Islamophobia”, that’s your opinion, but isn’t based on facts. And, the country doesn’t agree with you.
    Our country can’t have one set of rules, or “adjustments” for one community. Stop apologizing for Muslims, and making them victims of every situation.
    Yes, secularism is dead – the secularism as defined by some unknown colonial rulers (and their Indian descendants). What we will have is a secularism that’s defined by Indians, for India. And, yes, that means no appeasement to Muslims.

  3. Author has a biased view, she has convincingly
    ignored and commented on the violence committed by muslims in delhi violence and and damaging of public property and inconvenience caused during CAA protests. All the news about markaz are not fake news, there are FIR registered, no comments on stoning and threaten on Doctors, The Print is biased

  4. This is a hurriedly written article, may be tidbits gathered from some foreign newspapers. The author would do well to write articles urging Indian Muslims to feel Indian first and stop living in India and thinking of Arabia. Nothing stops them to integrate with the culture of the land they live in. You can’t have all the goodies and demand exclusivity in law and culture. They should have sense of responsibility to the nation and the society, the feeling “just because I am from a different faith I should be treated differently “ should be given up. Work for India with true feelings, people will automatically accept them in main stream

  5. Islamophobia will remain as long as Islamists dress and behave foreign and think they are Arabs.Muslim’s should start planning to move to where ever they want but not stay in Bharat.

  6. This brainless writer is communal. This country has supported harrased Jews, zorashtrians, amny tribes from all the parts of the world, the culture which believes in multiple paths leading to one God rather than saying Jesus or Allah is only one God rest are false gods is today communal. Then he’ll with so called d secularism we need to stick to our old culture which brings all the religions together maintaining the identity of the culture supporting those harassed religions and not these pseudo secularists (paid media). They don’t have long term vision are at playing in the hands of jehadis or enemies or countries like China , Saudi Arabia trying to proliferate wahabi/merkazi /talibani mentality money in front of these dogs.

  7. Don’t want education, Don’t believe in education, Want to go more than 1000 years back and establish a rule where non believers can be killed as passport to HEAVEN. Will protest legal legislation. Will protest non existent NRC. Will kill Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan if same not possible in INDIA. Will use college a cover for RIOTING. Then will say every body is against us innocent people.

  8. Everyone seems to agree that India is moving away from secularism to Hinduism. But who is responsible more? The advent of radical islam across the world, ISIS and the radical mindsets. So if the people of other sects also repent, don’t throw all the blame on them whether Malaysia or India or Srilanka.
    What about bomb blasts in churches in Srilanka recently. Take example of anywhere, as the number increases, the problem with local people and idea of eliminating them increases.
    Everyone wants to hold big gatherings of Namazis at the time when it prohibited, just to make the point that islam is above the law of land.
    Most temples, Churches, Gurudwaras are following the norms, but all the problem and thinking of sterilisation is with one sect.
    This happened with polio also.
    Juts wait, what these secularists will say when government comes with one child norm.

  9. If the whole Muslim population is placed under a restive “judgement” of mistrust, it is not the fault of the “other” but our own “private bomber” who believes that they are going to “paradise” if they blow up a cathedral or an opera house full of people. Nation dated 29/11/15

  10. What a sheer communal rant.
    The writer is brazenly communal.
    Has she not noticed hinduphobia since last so many decades around her??
    I believe, she is the person, who blamed, wrongly, our one secular and a muslim minister, in me too movement.

  11. The Islamophobia was limited to certain sections however the incident of Jamat ignited and propogated the whole incident and then came the incidents of spitting, running from quarantine and yes that did happen in Gwalior,Ahmedabad and UP. So I do feel this article is somewhat biased

  12. Thankyou ThePrint for publishing such an eye-opening article. India needs more rational-thinkers like you. India is full of biased media and fake news that is creating unprecedented Islamophobia in India. Please keep your good work up and publish great articles like this.

    • It’s funny to see that you found someone worth in this article.
      It’s crap.
      Why don’t you go fasting for few days so that your mind is cured secular sickness

  13. We all talk about Islamophobia. And it is absolutely wrong to discriminate against one religion. I see in my day to day life how things are reported. Just because Hindu’s are a majority here, it is assumed that Muslims are in Danger. Yes there are cases both ways. I don’t believe in religion or the idea of Gods. But when I as a normal person walk around a Hindu neighbourhood vs a Muslim neighbourhood, there is a stark difference. First of all I don’t realize its a “Hindu” neighbourhood per say as nobody tries to portray it. In contrast a Muslim neighborhood screams to be separate, maybe that’s how the religion is and there is really no harm. Regardless of Religion, humans can be good and bad. In Hindus we have people who are orthodox and people who don’t care. it’s mostly a choice. That’s why we see seculars who are technically just against Hindus just because it is in Majority. For the sake of discussion let’s turn the tables. Assume in India Muslims are in Majority and Hindus are a Minority and then frankly tell me how are things going to be? If people can really be fair, that’s a real topic of discussion. I am not demeaning any religion in particular but let’s face it, it’s not anybody’s fault.
    You don’t see any Muslim majority countries in the world who treat minorities properly and they never scream secularism. They just announce, we are an Islamic nation. But people are really okay with that. Apparently the new secularism is to support a minority religion and disgrace the major one. But some religions if we point out the atrocity it just becomes phobic. Yes, in India atrocities happen against both religions. But what comes is a very well defined narrative. We always make sure we mention the persons religion if Hindu so that it is known, but otherwise it will be mentioned as “Person” “Man” “Woman” and so on. So it totally depends on how we see it.
    This is my personal opinion and from what I have experienced and see. During current virus crisis I see both factions of the society do stupid things in the name of religion. One saying nothing will happen to us as “Allah will save us” and the other saying “Krishna” “Ram” will save us. What we need to be saved from is simply our ignorance. Please follow your religion but don’t make it your only agenda, which will essentially spoil the advancement of Human civilization.

    • Well no one would come here and yell at you friend because your lines truly expose the fallacy in the “copy pasted concept of Secularism”. In fact, the “modern day secularists” are the most communal because all they do is majority bashing. It is hilarious to note how very few Muslims have used the platform like the Print to actually criticise the Jamaat and drawing a line between Jamaat and Muslims. The authors of such “whitewashed” articles must remember the widespread backlash on Kanika Kapoor the singer. It was not a crtiicism of the singer fraternity or the entire celebrity fraternity but of an erring individual. It is not Islamophobia when you read about Jamaat members pooping and spitting on others. It is on the other hand a criminal act on the part of the perennial whitewashers to coat an issue with the trendy brush of secularism.

    • Dear gobar-bhakt brahmin!
      Your acid glands can be of great use to chemical companies. You can be a millionaire in no time. 😂 Your 1 rupee comments and tweets are not just unsubstantiated but are in poor taste. And I am sure that even if you slaughter a million Muslims under the cover of this lockdown, your attitude is not going to change. You and your ilk will turn the dead people into criminals. That’s the only reason why you took out rallies in support of Kathua and Unnao rapists, and for the sanghi lobby that was shielding Nirbhaya’s rapists. Punishing upper-caste Hindu criminals today is virtually an impossibility as long as the victims are non-hindus, dalits and tribals.

      • Oh look, who “communalised” a rape incident just now. Mr Swapnil belongs to the egalitarian brand of goon who spews english words laced with expletives that are somehow a sign of how knowledgeable one is. Atleast, thats what he believes . No wonder, words which have the potential to froth the mouth are being vomited here with no substance and lots of flame. The lockdown is hard and I would suggest you dial the helpline number and seek help.

  14. Islamophobia will remain as long as Islamists dress and behave foreign i.e. reject the dress and manners of local people.

    • They are as local as you and you Brahmin friends. Why don’t you push North-eastern tribals to wear a dhoti and drink gomutra straight from the source? Why don’t you yourself wear a dhoti? Why did you accept western clothes? Jeans is not Indian at all.

      • The Muslims of North-East India should dress and behave as other North-East Indians do. That’s the meaning of dressing and behaving like locals. From where the Brahmins entered into your head? Was my one line statement too hard to understand by an Islamist lover?

      • Now a days dressing with jeans doesn’t represent any particular religion or community except that it has western origin. Today people of all faith of the world wear jeans. In that sense jeans are no longer western. However, more and more Indian Muslims are now changing their dress and they wish to look like non-locals. This way they create a separate religious group identity but loose support from local people. They are free to make dress choice but have to ready to face the consequences of having foreign look.

    • Mr IT cell… Please stop spamming news articles with your shit comments. Just take a break today, Amit Malware won’t fire you. Don’t worry.

  15. Author calls news of Muslims spreading virus as fake news. But there were many, many videos that showed Muslims spitting on food produce, licking on fruits, spreading saliva on fruits and vegetables, licking on packages, spreading mucus on currency notes etc. So author is clearly lying in order to hide the reprehensible behaviour of Muslims and shifting the blame on Hindus. This is a typical Left-liberal approach. Muslims are mostly the aggressors, and then they play victim card. Left-liberals instead of exposing them, support them always. Hindus are left to fend for themselves.

    • Lol 😂 All those videos that are being circulated in WhatsApp university have been proven old and fake (check fact-checker websites like boom, alt-news etc). They have nothing to do with Corona. Brahminical fascists and neo-nazis have no right to play the victim card. Hindus have been more aware and safer than ever so hardliner retrogressive Brahmins have to fend for themselves.

  16. Please publish more and more of this
    Type of trash. Because if these types of pesudo secularism only communists were extinct in india. Congress is in the way. Now the time of presstitude

  17. The esteemed author(ess?) of this piece is harping on the death of secularism and rise of Islamophobia, while comfortable ensconced in her New York apartment, as far away from the ground realities in India, as she is from the truth of this situation.

    The incident she cites, about the woman dying in childbirth, was found to be fake, where no such discrimination happened, as has been investigated by a number of news agencies. In fact all the doctor there did was refer her to a bigger hospital, as her pregnancy was complicated, and they could not handle it at their hospital. It is understandable that the husband, who was aggrieved, made those allegations, which he has since withdrawn. What’s criminal about this situation is that an “eminent journalist” just spitting that story out here, without verifying a single gosh darned fact.. Therefore, by her own logic, isn’t the author(ess?) spreading her own brand of propaganda, fake news, and Hinduphobia in the world? Where, arguably, Hindus are a minority when compared to Muslims and Christians? Isn’t this a crime against a minority community?

    And what about all the news, which is being proven “NOT FAKE”, about people spitting on cops, beating healthcare workers, sexually intimidating healthcare workers? Will the esteemed author(ess?) of this piece care to comment on that? Or will she, like Dolores Umbridge, wave her wand and just utter the incantation “FALSUS NUNTIUM” and brand that to be fake, manufactured Islamophobia as well?

    See people like this journalist are the ones who tear apart the idea of our country.

  18. Here comes under the drama, firstly this is India not Arabia. We have nothing to do with Arabic religion. The Arabic religion should not be allowed here. This is not any phobia but simple logic. When we don’t have anything to do with Arabic religion, than how comes the issue of phobia. We are simply saying follow your Arabic religion in Arabia not India.

  19. Lets not dramatize. In Rajasthan it has already been cleared in multiple messages that the pregnant woman was diverted due to the complicated nature of her pregnancy and not because of her being a Muslim. This fact is their in public domain so could be refuted. For rest of the points to also be refuted one would need to verify the rest as well. Am sure many of these would be found false or in retaliation to similar acts by the community. The article is a clear case of trying to sensationalize. Please refrain from such acts

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