COVID times: Communal outfits disrupt supply of food relief

M. A. Siraj

Even as the 21-day Lockdown has disrupted the entire civic life, some right wing Hindutva elements are out to obstruct the relief help-lines operating in Karnataka. They are mainly targeting the Muslim NGOs and individual Muslim volunteers reaching out to the distressed souls in City’s slums and impoverished neighbourhoods. But Chief Minister B. S. Yeddiyurappa and the administration has declared that all such elements who try to disrupt relief work and voluntary workers will be dealt with sternly.

On Monday (April 6), a team of volunteers led by Zareen Taj, which works with NGO Swaraj Abhiyan, was physically attacked. Four of its volunteers were injured by the right wing activists in Dasarahalli area of the city. Zareen told police that she had been threatened three days ago by these activists who had alleged that Muslims were mixing poison with the food items and spreading the virus deliberately. On Saturday, Zareen had complained to the police who had lauded the work and promised that they would take action against the anti-social elements.

On Monday, they informed the police while proceeding for the distribution of ration kits, but the police could not provide them any escort due to paucity of staff. Once they reached the spot, they were surrounded by 20 RSS men who wielded cricket bats against the five youth who accompanied her. Zareen who spoke to this scribe said, three of them Syed Tabrez, Kiran and Junaid were hit on the head, hands and legs and had to be taken to hospital. Zareen who is wife of a furniture businessman, said she had been working with Swaraj Abhiyan for the last two years and has been helping those who needed financial assistance for education and sickness.

Muslim residents of mohallas felicitating municipal workers for their services during the covid-19 crisis and handing over food and ration packets.

Manohar Elavarthy, the leader of the Hum Bharat ke Log (part of Swaraj Abhiyan of Yogendra Yadav in Delhi) tweeted this morning (April 7) and asked the Police to immediately arrest and prosecute the communal goons and protect communal harmony in the State.

Talking to this scribe Manohar said Zareen was distributing food packets mainly among the stranded labour from Uttar Pradesh in the northern outskirts of Bangalore. He said while the ration kits were sourced from the Muslim NGOs, the recipients were preponderantly Hindu workers. He said several such incidents have not come to light although the Hindutva fascist elements have been on the prowl disturbing the lifeline for the distressed.

Most of the activists opine that the RSS elements are perturbed at the extraordinary activism on the part of the minorities and feel that it will neutralize the malicious propaganda being dished out by several mainstream TV channels and sabotage the polarizing campaign to the detriment of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

However, the minorities on their part have taken the complaints with regard to the harassment to the highest authorities. A meeting of Muslim leaders with Chief Minister Yeddyurappa on Saturday promised to help track the returnees from the Tablighi Markaz. The CM also thanked the Muslims for cooperating with the authorities in keeping the mosques closed during the lockdown period. He asked the police to initiate action against all those who single out and stigmatise Muslims with reference to spread of Covid-19.

At another level, several Muslim organizations have appealed to Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao to take strict action against those who indulge in anti-Muslim tweets, videos and posters in the social media on the basis of fake content. Rao attended a meeting with Muslim leaders at the Madrassa Sabeelur Rashad in the city on Monday. Mr. Bheemashankar Guled, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North), has also warned the communal elements against spreading hate and has said the police is pursuing zero tolerance policy with regard to disrupting peace. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Mr. H. D. Devegowda also condemned villainous campaign against Muslims in a section of the social media.

Mercy Mission and several Muslim individuals and NGOs have come out in the field to distribute food packs and ration kits. During the last 15 days of Lockdown, the Mercy Mission has distributed around one lakh ration kits with basic grocery items like rice, wheat flour, tour dal, sugar, oil, vermicelli and some spices. Besides, it provides food packets to nearly 5,000 people in the city regardless of community and religion. Mohammed Yunus, a drapery merchant told this scribe that his group has distributed one thousand such kits on behalf of Cambridge Road Mosque in Ulsoor area on Monday and in Mulbagarl taluk, 70 kms north east of Bangalore. Several other Muslim, Christian and Jain NGOs have also joined the fray to feed the hungry and provide the ration kits to the needy. Mercy Mission has now three operational kitchens in the city which are packing food for the distressed even as requests from stranded labour groups keep pouring at its offices in four regions of the city.