While the world is at the crossroads of dealing with a pandemic, certain communities are bearing the brunt of the lockdown which is deadly amalgamated with hatred. This kicked off with hostility against Asians, Chinese in particular when people began protesting against their entry into other countries. This quickly turned into a call to curtail a travel-ban on China. Justified as it was, the decision did not really take anyone by surprise. But when New York became the first hotspot in the US, samples proved that most of the affected residents fell ill due to European contagion, not Asian. (Italy and Spain were the first hotspots outside China.)
Evidently, the clear lines between ‘germophobia’ and ‘xenophobia’ have often been blurred at the behest of politics. Pakistan is blaming its marginalized Shia community for spreading the virus from Iran, thus escalating the communal tensions. South-east Asia is also witnessing a rising trend in prejudices along religious lines and an increase in online hate speech.
As India gears up for the 5th week of lockdown, there have been frequent instances of strained relationships between the germophobes and Muslims across the country. The headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin, Delhi organized a convergence on the site called Markaz where devotees ate, prayed and discussed their work. When the virus eventually spread in the country, over 4300 cases were linked so far to the Jamaat according to a report in The Hindu.
Being portrayed as an insidious threat to the health of Indian citizens, #CoronaJihad and #TablighiVirus has trended on social media. A hospital in Meerut refused to treat Muslims if they were tested positive for the virus. A policeman Sahimuddin was driving on a rural road about 50 miles off Delhi when a mob of Hindu farmers attacked him and severely crushed his windpipe.
Another marginalized community that is also facing the burst of bigotry is the Dalits. Already having been considered on the lowest rung of the ladder of Hinduism’s social hierarchy throughout history, they have been further severed from society. In an incident in South India, the residents dug five feet deep trench outside their houses to prevent them from adulterating others while believing them to be suspected carriers of the virus. This comes also at a particular time when the poor are facing hardships due to the lockdown and daily wagers are unable to earn their livelihood.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has called for fraternity among all the sections of the country.
But the greater part of the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the educated strata of the world to not fall prey to such blatant prejudices and abide by the government-enforced regulations to check the spread of the deadly virus.
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