Uttar Pradesh’s BJP MLA Suresh Tiwari has defended his call to boycott Muslim vegetable sellers because of their faith amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The video of Tiwari urging his supporters to launch an economic boycott of Muslim vegetable sellers amidst COVID-19 pandemic had gone viral on social media platforms.
In the viral video, Tiwari was seen saying to his supporters, “You must bear one thing in mind. I am saying this openly. Nobody should buy vegetables from mian (slang for Muslims).” One person in the video was even reminding that a case was filed against someone making similar call to boycott Muslims in Delhi.
Faced with growing condemnation for promoting Islamophobia, Tiwari issued a clarification but defended his call for the boycott of Muslims. He told reporters, “I had visited my (Barhaj) constituency. I also visited the municipality, where there were 10-12 people. Some members of the public told me that mian log were spitting in vegetables. So I told them to not buy vegetables from Muslims. What else could I have said as a public representative?”
Ever since pro-government Indian TV channels, BJP politicians and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal began to indirectly hold members of the Tablighi Jamaat responsible for the spread of coronavirus, BJP’s IT Cell members wasted no time in circulating fake messages blaming Muslims for spitting on vegetables before selling them to people.
This led to Hindutva supporters launching a well-coordinated economic boycott of Muslim vegetable and fruit vendors in different parts of India particularly in the northern states such as Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Jharkhand.
The call for Muslims’ boycott by Tiwari, who’s a lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, the BJP, assumes significance in light of growing allegations of Islamophobia in India. Modi had issued a rare statement last week making it clear that the pandemic did not see ‘race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or border before striking.’
Modi’s call for communal harmony had come amidst growing outrage across the Gulf countries as prominent Arab citizens criticised India for rise in Islamophobia in the country even during a human tragedy.
Earlier, a fruit vendor was cornered and thrashed mercilessly in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri area. He was accused of spitting on the fruit. The police, which reports to the BJP government in the state, later reached the spot and issued a statement denying the allegations of spitting on watermelons.