New Delhi, April 8 : The exposure of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in the national capital and some social media videos have spread a myth in society and a message is being circulated that "don't receive money from Muslims" to avoid transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Such rumours, which call for immediate action from the administration, have introduced new issues in society as many wagers of the "Islamic community" have to hide their identity while selling some essential items like vegetables and fruits.
These vegetable and fruit vendors have adopted this method after people from different sections stopped buying items from them after knowing about their community, resulting in bread and butter issues for some innocent people from the community.
The message has not only affected the service class educated wing of the society but also middle class people and below residing in small towns and villages across Delhi, National Capital Region (NCR) and its nearby states like Haryana and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.
Greater Noida's Shahberi area is among these colonies on the outskirts of the national capital and near to Uttar Pradesh's factory hub Ghaziabad which came into the limelight in July 2018 after a twin building collapse leading to the death of nine people.
While talking to IANS, many vegetable and fruit vendors, who have been selling these items since they lost their jobs due to the 21-day lockdown, said they "don't know why people have been treating us as we don't have any link with Tablighi Jamaat or any such other organisations".
"Why will I try to harm myself and my family? I am also following the same precautions as you. First of all this thing should be thought of by people who believe in such rumours that we (Islamic community) can spread corona. I am born and brought up here. People from each and every community residing here are like my own family," a 71-year-old vegetable vendor, requesting anonymity told IANS.
The septuagenarian said "many people refused to buy vegetables from me, very few buy but they don't accept return currency and try to purchase items against the currency they give me. The problem suddenly occcurred because Tablighis have spread across the country and they are trying to spread corona." A 29-year-old electrician, Arpit (name changed) echoed the same. "I was working in a private school. I lost my job after the lockdown. I have been selling fruits since then. Everything was normal till four-five days ago. Suddenly, customers started asking my name before buying fruits. I had to hide my identity when several customers did not buy after knowing my real name." He requested IANS to hide his identity as it may affect his business. "I have a family of six. I am the sole earner and this "thela" (cart) is the only way to earn. It is necessary to speak lies to meet the daily needs of my family members." The owner of a butcher shop in Sector-70 in Noida, requesting anonymity, told IANS: "I have to go to sell vegetables in other sectors in Noida as my shop is closed since the lockdown and people stopped buying vegetables from me in my colony as they know me. As outsiders do not know me they buy. I have stopped wearing a skull cap and started wearing a turban." Similar rumours are being spread in various towns in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and even in Maharashtra which heads the list of states and Union Territories in COVID-19 deaths and confirmed cases which are respectively reported as 64 and 1,078 by the government so far.
According to poultry industry insiders in Pune in Maharashtra, since the Tablighi Jamaat and the cases linked to it started making news, they have started facing resistance from farmers who have refused to allow drivers, many of whom are Muslims, to come to their fields. As per a report, some similar incidents took place in Nashik, Ahmednagar, talukas of Indapur and Junnar region of Pune district.
Over the last one week, the number of COVID-19 cases has increased across India and hundreds of them have been linked to a congregation of religious group Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi's Nizamuddin, which has emerged as a hotspot for the disease. More than 2,000 people from different states and countries had attended the congregation held from March 13-15.
The Centre along with the states has launched a massive operation to identify people who had attended the gathering in mid-March, to test them for the virus. Over 22,500 Tablighi workers and their contacts have been identified but many more are still out of reach. Some social media videos tried to mislead the public that these people are sneezing and coughing purposefully to spread novel coronavirus and they are using currency notes to spread it.
Many people are still believing the misleading information even as the government has been asking the public not to believe such rumours and come forward to help in checking the spread of the deadly virus.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)