Statement condemning discrimination against Muslim vendors during the COVID-19 lock-down

We are alarmed and disheartened to learn that hawkers continue to be intimidated and physically attacked in various parts of the country. We have come across several news reports document-ing such incidents as well as received first-hand complaints from many members of our organisation/association/union/collective. They are being profiled and surveilled, stopped and har-assed, and heckled and beaten up by vigilante groups who are acting with complete impunity.

These incidents seem to have been spurred by a maelstrom of disinformation and propaganda campaigns being run by motivated agents and spread amongst people through social media like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and WhatsApp. The rumours and hoaxes particularly seem to be targeting those belonging to the Muslim community. Cursory examination of the sampled vide-os, images, and text messages, which are being widely circulated suggests that Muslim hawkers are being blamed for the spread of the Coronavirus, resulting in their stigmatisation.

It bears remembering that the Emergency Programme Director of the World Health Organisation, recently reminded the global political leadership that countries should not profile novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in terms of religion or any other criteria and cautioned against profiling the “the cases on the basis of racial, religious and ethnic lines” on 6 April 2020. We have to remember that the virus does not care where someone was born, their status, the colour of their skin, nor the gods they worship.

In the middle of the nationwide lockdown, when curtailed movement and access to basic necessities is proving to be challenge for all of us, these hawkers are our veritable lifelines. To target and attack them is not only a violation of their dignity and most basic rights but also an unconscionable act on the part of our citizenry. It is extremely unfortunate that a section of our society, whose livelihood is completely dependent on their daily earnings, are being subjected to humiliation and violence in the middle of one of the most unprecedented and challenging public health crisis facing the country.

They are a key part of our supply chains who play a crucial role in improving last-mile access for millions of people every day. It is to their credit that they are continuing to their jobs in face of enormous personal risks, something that we all should be grateful about.

The protection of these hardworking people is of paramount concern. We owe it to these hard-working people, now more than ever, that they are allowed to carry out their small businesses without any fear or hinderance.


DEMANDS:

  • Public campaign raising awareness on non discrimination of vendors: The Government, Union and State, should come out with strong messages that do not condone religion based discrimination especially in the time of a health and economic crisis in the country. There should be constant progressive notifications and orders being released by the Government to facilitate essential service provision to all people through fruit and vegetable street vendors/hawkers with all the safety and health precautions

  • Emphasising the valuable contribution of fruit and vegetable vendors during the COVID lockdown: Street vendors hawking fruits and vegetables along with other essential goods are absolutely essential to the depleted food economy as of now, as not every home has access to a departmental grocery store. In this unprecedented scenario, to discriminate against Muslim vendors is an act of ignorance which should be punishable by law.

  • Guiding the media to not propagate anti-Muslim rhetoric: The government should try and ensure the minimising of anti-muslim and communal reporting of the COVID crisis through most media outlets and should stop using one incident to demonise an entire community, espe-cially those members of society which are essential service providers.


We therefore call upon the political leadership to send out a strong message among the people to cease hostility against hawkers and offer them due courtesy and cooperation.

We call upon the law enforcement forces to proactively put a stop to incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence and take exemplary action against those who break the law.

We call upon the mainstream media, a key stakeholder in all crisis communication, to play a positive role by working in the interest of the most vulnerable and marginalised.

Finally, we call upon our fellow citizens to realise the gravity of the situation and play a constructive role in helping the country tide over this crisis.

We urge everyone to keep track of government advisories and strictly follow the prescribed safety protocols to protect themselves and others from the pandemic.


Sincerely, Undersigned

Saktiman Ghosh


President:- Advocate Colin Gonsalves Delhi 09810615811 Working President Mir Inayath Ali Baqri Telangana 9347477747 General Secretary Saktiman Ghosh West Bengal 09748585961 Dy. General Secretary Mecanzy Dabre Maharashtra 9665006429 Ghazala Jamil, Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University Faiz Ullah, Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Contemporary Culture , School of Media and Cultural Studies Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Additional G.S Anita Das Jharkhand 09396993265 Additional G.S Jayanta Das Odisha 094371600099 National Secretary, Youth Sandeep Verma Jharkhand 07992456034 President R. Sevvilam Parithi Tamil Nadu 09486 353338 State Secretary Kshetri Tama Devi Manipur 08794157110 State Secretary Md. Basheer Kerala 08606871622 State Secretary Asit Saha West Bengal 09830392189 State Secretary Murad Hussain West Bengal 09163148329 State Secretary Kirtiman Ghosh West Bengal 09674654933 State Secretary Jabbir Khan Gujarat 09377435273 Aravind Unni National Coalition for Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanisation New Delhi +91 9987580014 Adrian Dcruz National Coalition for Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanisation New Delhi +91 9711433296 Evita Das National Coalition for Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanisation New Delhi +91 9867220679


RECENT NEWS ARTICLES DETAILING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST MUSLIM VENDORS

‘How fake news, rumours are driving calls for ban on Muslim vendors in NW Delhi’, 8 April, 2020; Asiaville News, Print; available at https://www.asiavillenews.com/article/how-fake-news-rumours-are-driving-call-for-ban-on-muslim-vendors-in-nw-delhi-shastri-nagar-38855 ‘Covid an excuse to push Indian Muslims out of informal sector jobs. Apartheid the next step’ 9 April, 2020; The Print, E-News, available at https://theprint.in/opinion/covid-an-excuse-to-push-indian-muslims-out-of-informal-sector-jobs-apartheid-the-next-step/398236/ ‘Muslims Spitting on Food, Hiding in Mosques to Spread Coronavirus? Beware of These 8 Fake News Stories’, 6 April 2020; News 18, Print; available at https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/muslims-spitting-on-food-hiding-in-mosques-to-spread-coronavirus-beware-of-these-8-fake-news-stories-2565483.html ‘The Coronavirus Has Morphed Into an Anti-Muslim Virus’, 13 April, 2020; The Wire, Print, available at https://thewire.in/communalism/coronavirus-anti-muslim-propaganda-india ‘A Lockdown Is a Solution. In India, a Lockdown Is Also Its Own Crisis’, 11 April, 2020;The Wire, Print, available at https://thewire.in/rights/coronavirus-lockdown-authoritarianism-physical-distancing-rights-elite ‘Muslims as scapegoats’, 13 April, 2020; Qantara News, Print, available at https://en.qantara.de/content/coronavirus-in-india-muslims-as-scapegoats

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