BJP lawmaker warns against buying vegetables from Muslims

DM Monitoring

NEW DELHI: A lawmaker from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Suresh Tiwari from Uttar Pradesh, has asked people of his constituency not to buy vegetables from Muslim vendors to protect themselves from the coronavirus, Indian media reported on Tuesday.
In a widely circulated video on Indian social media, Tiwari can be seen telling people to “keep one thing in mind […] do not buy vegetables from miyan (Muslims)”.
Talking to Indian publication The Wire, Tiwari later confirmed he had made those remarks “around April 17-18”, and defended his statement by saying he had heard reports from people in his constituency that Muslim vendors were “spitting on vegetables before selling them”. He said he “advised the people to [not buy vegetables from them] so they could protect themselves from the coronavirus”.
Referring to himself as a “legislator who was listening to a complaint”, Tiwari questioned what was wrong in his statement.
While talking to The Indian Express Tiwari referred to a congregation of the Tableeghi Jamaat in Delhi last month, which was linked to dozens of infections and several deaths, and said: “Everyone can see what Jamaat members have done in the country”.
State BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said the party did “not endorse such statements” and would question the legislator over his remarks.
The Wire quoted BJP national president JP Nadda as saying that Tiwari’s statement was “irresponsible and will not be tolerated by the party”.
All India Radio News in a post on Twitter said the BJP issued a show cause notice to the legislator over his remarks “targeting a particular community”.
The coronavirus has exacerbated festering divisions between the country’s majority Hindu population and its sizeable Muslim minority in a country already reeling from communal violence triggered by the BJP-led government’s contentious citizenship law that fast-tracks citizenship for newcomers who belong to six religions, but excludes Muslims.
Since the virus outbreak hampered lives in the Indian capital, many Muslim vendors have seen their livelihoods threatened by the establishment of quarantine zones in densely packed areas like New Delhi’s Dharavi.
Many Muslims feel unfairly blamed for spreading the disease after a cluster emerged at a gathering of Tableeghi Jamaat in New Delhi last month.
Sensational news coverage about the event, fanned by some Hindu nationalist politicians, helped spur the trending topic “Coronajihad” on Indian social media earlier in April.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government has since faced criticism from several quarters for fanning the religious divide after the head of the Tableeghi Jamaat was charged with culpable homicide earlier this month for the coronavirus surge in the country.
Yesterday, in a strongly worded statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmooq Qureshi urged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and its member countries to condemn vilification of Indian Muslims for allegedly spreading the coronavirus.
The same day, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that India be declared a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom – a designation used against a nation guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom under the US International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.
The panel noted that this was the first time since 2004 that India was being designated on the religious freedom blacklist.