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#CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India

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Abstract and Figures

On March 25th, India imposed one of the largest lockdowns in history, confining its 1.3 billion citizens for over a month to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). By the end of the first week of the lockdown, starting March 29th reports started to emerge that there was a common link among a large number of the new cases detected in different parts of the country: many had attended a large religious gathering of Muslims in Delhi. In no time, Hindu nationalist groups began to see the virus not as an entity spreading organically throughout India, but as a sinister plot by Indian Muslims to purposefully infect the population. This report tracks anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence in India related to COVID-19, as well as the ongoing impact on social cohesion in the country.
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#CoronaJihad
COVID-19, Misinformation, and
Anti-Muslim Violence in India
Shweta Desai and Amarnath Amarasingam
Abstract
On March 25th, India imposed one of the largest
lockdowns in history, conning its 1.3 billion
citizens for over a month to contain the spread of
the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). By the end of
the rst week of the lockdown, starting March 29th
reports started to emerge that there was a common
link among a large number of the new cases
detected in dierent parts of the country: many had
attended a large religious gathering of Muslims in
Delhi. In no time, Hindu nationalist groups began to
see the virus not as an entity spreading organically
throughout India, but as a sinister plot by Indian
Muslims to purposefully infect the population. This
report tracks anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence in
India related to COVID-19, as well as the ongoing
impact on social cohesion in the country.
About the authors
Shweta Desai is an independent researcher and
journalist based between India and France. She is
interested in terrorism, jihadism, religious extremism
and armed conicts.
Amarnath Amarasingam is an Assistant Professor in
the School of Religion at Queen’s University in Ontario,
Canada. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the
Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an Associate Fellow at
the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation,
and an Associate Fellow at the Global Network on
Extremism and Technology. His research interests
are in radicalization, terrorism, diaspora politics, post-
war reconstruction, and the sociology of religion. He
is the author of Pain, Pride, and Politics: Sri Lankan
Tamil Activism in Canada (2015), and the co-editor of
Sri Lanka: The Struggle for Peace in the Aermath of
War (2016). He has also written several peer-reviewed
articles and book chapters, has presented papers at over
100 national and international conferences, and has
written for The New York Times, The Washington Post,
CNN, Politico, The Atlantic, and Foreign Aairs.
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part of this document without prior written approval from ISD is
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3#CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
Introduction
On March 25th, India imposed one of the
largest lockdowns in history,1 conning
its 1.3 billion citizens for over a month
to contain the spread of the novel
coronavirus (COVID-19).2 By the end of
the rst week of the lockdown, starting
March 29th reports started to emerge
that there was a common link among a
large number of the new cases detected
in dierent parts of the country: many
had attended a large religious gathering
of Muslims in Delhi. In no time, Hindu
nationalist groups began to see the virus
not as an entity spreading organically
throughout India, but as a sinister plot
by Indian Muslims to purposefully infect
the population. #CoronaJihad thus began
trending on Twitter. Even as the Indian
government struggled to provide food
and transport for millions of stranded
migrant labourers,3 failed to address
access to clean water and healthcare in
densely populated slums, and tried to
respond to the virus without adequate
testing kits, ventilators, or personal
protective equipment,4 large parts of the
country still maintained that the true
drivers of the health crisis were a shady
cabal of extremist Muslims.
From March 13th to 15th, the Tablighi
Jamaat, an Islamic reformist movement
founded in 1927 whose followers travel
around the world on proselytizing
missions, held a large gathering for
preachers from over 40 countries at its
mosque headquarters in Delhi, known
as the Nizamuddin Markaz. The mosque
is situated in a densely populated
neighbourhood near the famous Su
shrine, Nizamuddin Auliya. According to
media reports, this gathering became
a “hotspot” for dozens of new cases in
India, as attendees le the gathering
and returned to their respective homes
in India: areas from the northernmost
Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand;
Gujarat and Maharashtra in Uttar Pradesh;
West Bengal in the East; Assam in the
Northeast; the southern states of Andhra
Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala;
and even the remote islands of Andaman
and Nicobar.5 Subsequently, the Indian
government declared the mosque to be
an infection hotspot, and Delhi police
Figure 1 Caricature posted on Twitter showing before
and aer version of Muslim terrorist, replacing suicide
vest with covid virus
4#CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
led a rst information report under the Epidemic Diseases Act and sections of the
Indian Penal Code against members of the Tablighi Jamaat for disobeying government
lockdown orders.6 The Ministry of Home Aairs revoked the visas and blacklisted
foreign Islamic preachers who attended the event, and the health ministry traced
several cases of the virus in India back to the
gathering.7
Hindu nationalists and pro-government news
channels in India latched on to components
of the story and used it to feed a variety of
anti-Muslim narratives. Unsurprisingly, this
has led to an increase in incendiary hate
speech, false claims, and vicious rumors
intended to encourage violence and
ostracize the Indian Muslim community.
The steady ood of anti-Muslim content in
WhatsApp groups, Tik-Tok and Facebook
videos, Twitter posts, panel discussions
on news media, and ocial government
briengs has been astonishing.
It should be noted that since the start of the
pandemic, religious gatherings around the
world became sites of contestation, as many
experts worried that they would inevitably
become hotspots for virus transmission. In
eastern France, a meeting at an evangelical
church in Mulhouse in February became
one of the main sources of infection which spread the virus across the country.8
Pakistan contracted its rst positive cases from pilgrims who travelled from the
Iranian city of Qom.9 A 16,000 strong gathering at the Sri Petaling Mosque near Kuala
Lumpur became responsible for a surge in cases in Malaysia, as well as transmitting
the infection to neighbouring countries of Brunei, Singapore, and Cambodia.10 In the
UK, the ISKON temple shut down aer it came under criticism as a potential hotspot
following a funeral in March with 1,000 mourners.11
The Tablighi Jamaat congregation was also not the only religious gathering to
occur in India during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Days aer the
Tabligh meeting, devotees across India continued to throng temples, gurudwaras,
churches, and mosques in large numbers. Hours aer Prime Minister Modi’s
lockdown announcement closing all places of worship and prohibiting all religious
Figure 2 Twitter post accompanied with a news
report on positive cases and deaths linked to the
Nizamuddin meeting in Delhi
5#CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
congregations,12 Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath partook in a ceremony
with 100 others to temporarily relocate the statue of Lord Rama, sanctioning the
construction of the new Hindu temple on the site of the demolished Babri mosque.13
Ram Navami festivities on April 2nd, which celebrate the birth of Lord Rama, saw mass
religious gatherings at temples in Kolkata in West Bengal, Shirdi in Maharashtra, and in
Telangana, defying strict orders of social distancing.14 Needless to say, other religious
communities have not been similarly demonized, or suspected of purposefully
infecting the Indian population, as have the Muslims.
This report thus examines the evolution of anti-Muslim rhetoric related to coronavirus
and examines how the global pandemic has been integrated into ongoing hate
speech, conspiracy theories, and communalism in India. As a highly mediatized
group through government, news media, and social media responses, we suggest
the Tablighi Jamaat functioned as a high-prole symbol of Indian Muslims broadly.
Islamophobic rhetoric levelled against members aer the gathering generally
construed in four, related ways: 1) as contaminated/contaminating, 2) as ‘uncivilized,’
3) as deceptive, and 4) as anti-national jihadists or terrorists. These criticisms of the
Tablighi Jamaat then became generalized to all Indian Muslims in media coverage,
and eventually, in-person altercations. Frequently, aggressors explicitly linked
Muslim targets to the Tablighi Jamaat (oen without any evidence) while invoking
one of these four qualities. The promulgation of such narratives has spilled over into
discrimination against Muslims as physical violence and social/economic boycotts,
while also impeding India’s COVID-19 response eorts.
6#CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
‘The Enemy Within’: the Roots of Anti-Muslim Hatred
The current narrative that Muslims are plotting to spread coronavirus and participating in ‘corona jihad’
is a mere continuation of anti-Muslim propaganda, which has steadily developed on social media and
crystallized in anti-Muslim violence since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power
in 2014. Journalist Jency Jacob, a fact-checker with BoomLive, noted a trend aer every major social and
political event in India: the Uri terror attack and the subsequent surgical strikes in Pakistan in September
2016, the Pulwama attack on armed forces and the resultant Balakot airstrike into Pakistan in February and
March 2019, the abrogation of article 370 in Kashmir and bifurcation of the only Muslim-dominated state
of Jammu & Kashmir in August 2019, the Supreme Court judgement transferring disputed Ayodhya land
to a government trust for the Hindu temple of Lord Ram in November 2019, protests against the National
Population Register (NPR), the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the passing of the Citizenship
Amendment Act (CAA) in December 2019. Aer each case, Jacob suggests, a surge of anti-Muslim
propaganda and discourse has appeared.
Recently, right-wing Hindu radicals have shied the focus of anti-Muslim narratives from the external
enemy Pakistan, to the internal enemy of Indian Muslims living in the country ‘the enemy within.’ Anti-
Muslim propaganda was formerly reserved predominantly for Kashmiri nationals for having aspirations to
secede from India. Indians supporting the Kashmir cause were called the ‘tukde tukde gang’ the gang
that wants to divide India. With the revocation of article 370 guaranteeing Kashmir’s special status, the
distant possibility of holding a referendum for independence from India now stands nullied. Consequently,
right-wing Hindu radicals have turned their attention to the larger Indian Muslim community within India.
A shi in access to social media in recent years has also radically altered the information ecosystem in the
country.
India Pre-COVID: Mounting Communalist Tensions
This shi from Pakistan to Muslims internally became pertinent in the wake of widespread December
protests by Muslims from various social locations students, housewives and elderly ladies in hijab,
religious gures, working-class men, activists, and artists to the controversial CAA, which critics argued
would make Indian Muslims into second-class citizens, and the NRC, which many Muslims fear may be used
by the Modi government to revoke citizenship status and render them stateless or remove non-citizen
Muslims.15 The sight of Muslim women leading protests in India for constitutional rights (not just religious)
was especially rare. Many protesters deemed the CAA to be against India’s constitution, which guarantees
equal citizenship for people regardless of their religion. Critics of the protests labelled those opposing the
citizenship law anti-national and anti-Hindu.16 The BJP and its supporting ecosystem that has fervently
stoked in Hindu nationalism, were among the critics of the protests, choosing to term those criticising Modi
and his policies as anti-nationals. Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah strongly defended the citizenship
law17 and took a dig at the mostly Muslim protestors, suggesting violent protestors could be identied by
their clothes and should instead protest Pakistan’s ‘atrocities’ against religious minorities.18 The branding
of protestors as anti-national was later picked up by others within the BJP, giving rise to calls to “shoot the
traitors” desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalo ko.19 The equation of CAA protestors with Muslim anti-
nationals and the enemy of Hindus thus evinces a shi towards explicit anti-Muslim sentiment directed not
only towards Pakistan but Indian Muslims.
It is in this context that the Tablighi Jamaat gathering should be seen. Barely two weeks before the
gathering, clashes between pro- and anti- CAA protestors resulted in the most horric communal violence
in Delhi in recent decades, with the targeted killings of Muslims and widespread destruction of Muslim
7#CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
property.20 The February riots created intense public reactions of anger and hate, thus exacerbating
existing Hindu-Muslim tensions just before the Tablighi Jamaat retreat occupied news media attention.21
Muslims were already living under fear before the COVID-19 crisis hit India, but since the Jamaat case,
this fear has multiplied exponentially. Social media posts about COVID-19, which had primarily centered
around social distancing, handwashing, and sanitisation, lit up overnight with posts communalising the
virus. The Tablighi Jamaat gathering, as well as reports of Muslims who had contracted COVID-19, provided
a tailor-made opportunity for the Hindu right-wing. “Every hate needs an impetus, and for the Indian right-
wingers, it came in the form of the Tablighi Jamaat,” Jacob observed.22 Further, this sentiment that Muslims
are anti-national or ‘the enemy within’ emerges again and again in Hindu nationalist attacks against the
Tablighi Jamaat aer the mid-March gathering, and later, Muslims across India, as we will see. In turn, fears
amongst Indian Muslims of the government, made sharper by the CAA, NRC, and NPR, have impeded the
government’s COVID-19 response.
Social Media Access in India: A Shiing Landscape
To appreciate the Tablighi Jamaat case more fully, it is necessary to appreciate the rapidly changing
social media landscape in India. Whatsapp, the Facebook-owned instant messaging app with 2 billion
users worldwide and over 400 million users in India23 the biggest market of WhatsApp users is the
largest source of COVID-19 misinformation in the form of images, videos, memes and posts, followed by
Facebook and Twitter. Pratik Sinha, co-founder of the digital fact-checking platform, AltNews, has recorded
a tremendous increase in the scope of misinformation, false claims, incendiary fake news and rumours
circulating in India through these social media channels over the last four years.24 The entry of Reliance-
owned Jio Mobiles, who provides free calls and unlimited data, into the Indian telecom market in 2016 led
to a restructuring of the telecom market, pressuring competitors to give cheaper data and increasing
the penetration of wireless infrastructure in rural areas at an unprecedented pace.25 This proved to be the
biggest game-changer in broadening the access of Indians, especially rural Indians, to social media and
instant messaging. If earlier rumours were limited to urban and wealthier areas with access to the internet
and social media, the availability of free data and the widespread penetration of WhatsApp into the
market has enabled their elevation to provincial, regional, and even national levels, leading to pervasive
misinformation and in the present instance, hate-mongering. Such claims are further supported by poor
reporting and journalistic sensationalism, as well as targeted campaigns by certain news agencies on the
regional and national levels.
With a national lockdown seeing millions of people conned to their homes, social media and WhatsApp
have especially become a go-to source of information.26 As people try to make sense of the global crisis
and panic surrounding them, the consumption and spread of fake news, conspiracy theories, unveried
claims, and extremist narratives have seen an upsurge. This paper draws on such misinformation circulated
on popular Indian social media WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and the relatively-new platform, TikTok. The
COVID-19 crisis has provided an apt opportunity for right-wing and Hindu radical groups to exploit the
fears of the majority community to incite hatred and violence against Muslims using these platforms.
Sinha argues the social media barrage of hate propaganda against Muslims during the pandemic is not
unexpected: “We have not reached this stage of polarisation overnight; it’s been built up from the last many
years.”27
The Evolution of Anti-Muslim Rhetoric in the Pandemic
Social media misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic was supported by a prevailing sense
of fear, panic, and anxiety around the virus, driven by a limited availability of facts on the origin of the
8#CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
pathogen, its transmission, and ways to contain it. As
an emergent pathogen, little was known about the
disease when it arrived in India, except that it is highly
contagious and sometimes fatal, especially for elderly and
immunocompromised persons.28 In the Indian context,
social media trends show the evolution of Indian sentiment
towards the virus as the pandemic progressed, transforming
from initial phases of generalized paranoia, fear, and
panic to the current phase of irrational, anti-Muslim hate-
mongering. Below we present a general periodization
of social media misinformation across the pandemic,
recognizing that this periodization captures broader trends
rather than minutiae and that these are exible timepoints
across various social media platforms rather than strict
ones.
Phase 1 (January)
When the virus was oshore and limited to China, many
videos circulating false information about China went viral
on Indian social media: Chinese police were thought to
be shooting infected patients in the streets, 29 footage of
an Indonesian wet-market was circulated as footage of the Wuhan wet-market at the epicenter of the
outbreak,30 and videos of people, supposedly in Wuhan under lockdown, were shown screaming and crying
for help.31 At this stage, the bulk of the misinformation circulating on social media was directed at China.
Phase 2 (February to early March)
When the rst COVID-19 cases emerged in India at the end of
January and the start of February, there was a ood of health-
related misinformation advising people to drink warm beverages,
eat certain kinds of food to raise immunity and keep the virus
away.32 The ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy,
Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) was severely criticised by the
medical community for promoting bunkum in advising the use
of homeopathy and unani medicines to prevent coronavirus
infections.33
Phase 3 (early March to the present)
As the number of positive cases began rising in India and the
number of dead increased in Europe, there was a growing
clamour to hold China responsible for spreading the virus
around the world. Indian social media accounts started labeling
COVID-19 as #ChineseVirus #WuhanVirus in early March.34
Photos and videos of mass graves and bodies dumped in pits
were passed o as victims of coronavirus and warning of the
forthcoming doom that people in India would have to face. 35
Figure 3 Twitter post showing a caricature of
a Tablighi member as a suicide bomber using
covid virus as explosives
Figure 4 Caricature shared by a Twitter
user accusing China as a producer of
the virus and Jamaat members as its
distributors
9#CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
As the total number of conrmed cases surged following the
Jamaat gathering from March 13 to 15th, social media posts
shied from the threat China poses to India, to the threat
Jamaat poses to India. Posts and hashtags began labelling
Jamaat members as Jaahil (uncouth or uncivilised) Markaz pigs,
and Nizamuddin Idiots, and the virus as the Tablighi Jamat (sic)
Virus. On March 31st, the hashtag #CoronaJihad trended in
second place on Twitter in India.36 Images combining conspiracy
theories about China and the Tablighi Jamaat also began to
circulate, and by the start of April, images blatantly comparing
the Tablighi Jamaat (or Indian Muslims generally) to terrorists or
venomous snakes became widespread on social media. As we
later describe, it is in early April when a wave of Islamophobic
attacks began across the country.
Common Themes in Social Media Response to
COV ID-19
In this section, we describe common themes in social
media commentary on COVID-19 and the Tablighi Jamaat
gathering. As is clear, some videos ostensibly created
by members of the Muslim community were woven into
broader Hindu nationalist rhetoric about Muslims.
Theme 1: Muslims Believe they are Immune to
COV ID-19
At the start of the pandemic, some Muslims apparently
took to social media claiming that they have no fear of
COVID-19 as it could not aect Muslim believers. One video
from TikTok (see gure 6), shared on Facebook on April 3rd
(with 15k likes), shows a masked man asking another with
a skull cap, “where is he going?” The man with the skullcap
replies, “to the mosque,” to which the interlocutor asks,
“aren’t you scared of coronavirus?” The man with the skullcap responds, “we only fear Allah, not anyone’s
father. And coronavirus is not worthy enough to attack Namazis [people who pray].’’37 Along similar lines,
another TikTok video (see gure 7) from March 21st by @snocial (3 million views) shows one man trying to
shake hands with his three friends on the street. When one of them refuses, “no brother I will get corona... I
will die,’’ the man in the black shirt expresses surprise, saying, “out of fear of death, we should leave Sunnat
today and Islam tomorrow?’’ The reluctant friend, enlightened by his friend’s Islamic commentary proceeds
to hug him as the man in the black shirt claims, “we are Muslims and therefore we are not afraid to die.”38
Both of the aforementioned TikTok videos received condemnation, with one commentator calling them
“vile creatures.”39
In a video clip of anti-CAA protests in Shaheen Bagh, Delhi, from March 20th, a protestor opines, “there is
no corona here at Shaheen Bagh. We know that. They might be afraid of the corona. Corona emerged from
the Quran. What is Corona? Deadlier diseases that corona will come. God willing, we will remain unscathed
Figure 5 Photoshopped image of a snake
wearing skull cap releasing virus droplets.
The user on Twitter shared with a post,
``These types of snakes are found in Tablighi
Jamaat...very poisonous spit corona from 2
meter away.
Figure 6 Screengrab of Tik Tok video
10 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
from those diseases. However, it is a matter of concern
for them. They should be worried.”40 This video received
much media coverage and commentary on social media.
In another compilation of video clips from Shaheen Bagh
under the heading, “Coronavirus Jihad: Muslims in India defy
lockdown threaten unbelievers and CAA supporters,’’ rst
shared by Amy Mek, an American Trump supporter and anti-
Muslim propagandist on March 25th, several women at the
anti-CAA protest sites praised the virus. One woman says, “it
is written in the Quran that a virus would come; that virus’s
name is corona. We are always ready and strong. If you think
you can scare us by using corona, death will come anyway;
don’t try to scare us in the guise of this disease.’’41
Further, an unveried audio clip attributed to Muhammad
Saad Kandhlavi, a Jamaat preacher and the organizer of
the Nizamuddin congregation, allegedly shows him calling
Muslims to reject social distancing and continue to gather at
mosques. Saad apparently opines, “they say that the infection
will spread if you gather at a mosque, this is false...If you
die by coming to the mosque, then this is the best place to
die.”42 Though not explicitly rejecting outright the lethality of
COVID-19 for Muslims, it appears Kandhlavi does downplay
the possibility of transmission at mosques and advises against observing social distancing guidelines.
Together, these videos, mostly from the end of March, produced the impression that Muslims need not be
afraid of COVID-19, stoking claims that Muslims were either ignorantly or willingly transmitting the virus at
protest sites and elsewhere.
Theme 2: Muslims Believe COVID-19 is Divine Punishment
A second wave of videos, allegedly by Muslim Indians,
claimed that COVID-19 was a gi from Allah to punish the
enemies of Islam and those who support the National
Registration of Citizens exercise feared to render millions
of Muslim citizens stateless. A 14-second TikTok clip that
circulated widely on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp
around April 2nd showed three Muslim men taking turns
to say, “Welcome to India, coronavirus. To the ones
who were for our NRC, my God (Allah)’s NRC is now
being implemented. Now only He will decide who will
stay and who will go.”43 A video from April 2nd that also
caused outrage and spread panic, uploaded to TikTok by @
sayyedjameel48 (see gure 9), called the coronavirus divine
punishment while licking and wiping his nose with currency notes. “There is no treatment for a disease like
corona. It is a greeting by Allah, for you people.” The creator was later arrested by the Maharashtra police.44
Such content gave fuel to right-wing extremists, who took these videos as proof that Indian Muslims are
intentionally driving the COVID-19 pandemic. Karen Rebelo, deputy editor at BoomLive, observed that
Figure 7 Screengrab of Tik Tok video showing
friends on the street refusing to shake hands
Figure 8 Screengrab of video shared by Amy Mek
of RAIR Foundation, USA
11 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
the narrative by the Indian right-wing is that, “Muslims will always follow
Islamic laws over the rule of law, which means that they won’t follow
instructions for their own good or the good of the community….[and] that
Islam wants to punish kars [nonbelievers] and actively spreading the
virus would get rid of them.45
Sinha, editor-in-chief of AltNews, also claimed in an interview that
the creators of misinformation, doctored content, false claims, and
rumours do so to set a larger anti-Islam narrative to which new content
is constantly added to sustain it: “when certain narratives against a
community or a group of people click, then there is an attempt to push
that narrative harder. In India, along with the surge in online hate speech,
there is an increase in the narrative that Muslims are enemies of this
country.”46 Thus, the Hindu right-wing ecosystem latched onto the factual
elements of the Jamaat case that the congregation of Tablighi Jamaat
members contributed to an outbreak of COVID-19 infections to spread
misinformation about a grand Islamic conspiracy where Indian Muslims
were deliberately defying the government-imposed lockdown to spread
the virus. Muslims were to be seen as enemies of Hindus and India, thus
justifying arguments that Muslims do not deserve to exist in India.
Theme 3: Muslims are Deliberately Spreading
Coronavirus
A ve-minute video compilation heavily circulated on
WhatsApp and Telegram groups starts with the questions,
“Why are Muslims Spreading Coronavirus? Why Muslims of
India are threatening to spread the virus.” It is followed by
a recorded voice that declares, “we Muslims of India have
taken a vow and are united to bring coronavirus in India
have decided to spread it around. Look at our ghettos,
no one is following social distancing, we will not sit at
home.” Next, the disembodied voice claims that Muslims
were incited to spread the virus, as the Tablighi Jamaat
congregation did. It ends with more clips of Muslims
licking fruits and currency notes and the message, “India
right now stands at 3000 corona cases, with 647 linked to
Muslims from Tablighi Jamaat. In just 2 days. Rise above
this hatred for Hindus and Hindustan.”
Another category of popular videos that used the tags
#CoronaJihad and #BioJihad depicted alleged members
of the Tablighi Jamaat physically attacking and throwing
stones on health workers, sanitation workers,47 and
police.48 One of these videos showed an altercation in
Indore, Madhya Pradesh (see gure 10), between locals
and a team of doctors (611k views),49 that emerged aer
rumours circulated that health workers were picking up
Figure 9 Screengrab showing a
man licking currency notes
Figure 10 Screengrab from video in Madhya
Pradesh showing Muslims attacking health
workers, as shared on Twitter
12 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
healthy Muslims and injecting
them with the virus.50 These
doctors were seeking to trace
patients who may had come
in contact with coronavirus.
However, these videos circulated
on Twitter and Facebook out of
context and were misappropriated
to advance a narrative that Tablighi
Jamaat members (and Indian
Muslims by extension) are an
existential threat to the Indian
people and healthcare workers
who are working to protect them.
This incident thus became more
‘evidence’ of Jamaat members
engaging in ‘jihad,’ despite the
fact the locals portrayed had no
conrmed link to the Tablighi
Jamaat. With this event and other similar reports, stoning became an image associated with the Tablighi
Jamaat and Indian Muslims. Further, news media reports and social media commentary framed this event
in light of other alleged altercations by the Tablighi Jamaat, where members were sneezing and spitting on
others, licking utensils and spitting on food, or urinating, and defecating in public.51 Ultimately, this incident
became incorporated into a broader narrative that the Tablighi Jamaat (and by extension, Indian Muslims)
were uncivilised and a threat to the wellbeing of the Indian people in their ‘jihad,’ their (supposed) violent
attempts to destroy India clear.
As we have described, the narratives of Muslims as a threat to the Hindu majority are not new to the
COVID-19 pandemic. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram, have been
ooded in the last ve years with anti-Muslim propaganda, memes, fake or doctored videos, all portraying
the Muslim community in India as anti-Hindu.52 These include discourses that Muslims are (1) terrorists,
anti-nationals, and cow-killers, (2) engaged in ‘population jihad’ by having multiple children in polygamous
marriages with the intention of eventually becoming the majority population in India, (3) are engaged
in ‘love jihad’ by luring Hindu women into marriage and forced conversion, and (4) are engaged in ‘land
jihad’ as they are trying to take over Hindu neighbourhoods by buying up Hindu-owned property.53 In each
narrative, Hindu nationalists construe Muslims as a threat to the Hindu majority – biologically, socially,
religiously, nationally, and economically.
Anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, commenting on the hostile anti-Muslim sentiments in India during the
pandemic, writes, “one of the key features of anti-Muslim sentiment in India for quite a while has been
the idea that Muslims themselves are a kind of infection in the body politic… so there’s a kind of anity
between this long-standing image and the new anxieties surrounding coronavirus.”54 It seems that the
charge of ‘corona jihad’ against the Tablighi Jamaat is the continuation of these anti-Muslim sentiments, a
convergence of prevalent conceptions of other forms of ‘jihad.’
Following sensational reports that Tablighi Jamaat members have been sneezing, spitting, and urinating
to spread the virus, several videos began circulating allegedly showing Indian Muslims spitting on other
people or food to intentionally spread COVID-19. Unlike the videos described above, which were explicitly
Figure 11 Caricature depicting Muslims pushing various forms of Jihad, and
Hindus ignoring them under the facade of secularism
13 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
attributed to the Tablighi Jamaat, these videos generally were
not (though some commentators still made a link to Jamaat
members). A video, actually depicting a situation in Thailand,
went viral on Twitter on April 3rd, supposedly portraying
an infected Indian Muslim spitting on a healthy man at a
railway station.55 In a since-deleted tweet, the account @
TheShaktiRoopa posted the video (with 65k views) with the
caption “Is this not #CoronaJihad !!!?”56 Another old video from
2019 showing a Muslim man at a fast-food stall57 deliberately
blowing in food containers before delivering them, which had
already gone viral in UAE, Singapore, and Malaysia, was shared
in Indian social media circles with claims that an Indian Muslim
delivery man was spitting on the food.58 Roop Darak, a BJP Youth
leader and spokesperson from Telangana, posted the video
(with 21.6k views) appealing to people to avoid purchasing from
“such shops,” that is, Muslim shops.59 There are at least a dozen
such videos with false claims. While these videos circulated
in the wake of the Tablighi Jamaat gathering and were sometimes hashtagged with related phrases
(e.g., #NizamuddinIdiots), many videos and posts circulated misinformation about Indian Muslims more
generally.
While on balance, fact-checkers in India and law-enforcement
agencies were able to disprove much of the false information
spread in Hindu nationalist social media spheres for being
incidents from before the pandemic or from foreign countries,
the pernicious vilication of Indian Muslims had taken root.
It also appears that much of the content from Theme 1 and
Theme 2, discussed above, could also be misinformation.
Voyager Infosec, a Delhi-based cybersecurity and data
analytics rm, investigated more than 30,000 clips on
TikTok that were disseminated the week of April 3rd, nding
a coordinated disinformation campaign aimed at the Indian
Muslim community.60 It appears that some of these videos,
which recommend that Indian Muslims out social distancing
guidelines, are of foreign origin and are then dubbed in
Hindi or Urdu. While Voyager Infosec rightly points out the
consequences that such coordinated misinformation may
spread misinformation amongst Muslims, there has heretofore
been little attention paid to how these videos, as we have
shown, then circulate in Hindu nationalist circles as evidence
of ‘corona jihad,’ stoking anti-Muslim sentiments. Moreover,
Voyager Infosec estimates that over 10 million users had watched the viral misinformation clips it surveyed,
evidencing the importance of TikTok as a source of misinformation in India’s social media ecosystem.
The Islamophobic commentary on the Tablighi Jamaat, has four, interconnected dimensions: 1) they are
contaminated/contaminating, 2) they are ‘uncivilised,’ 3) they are deceptive, and 4) they are anti-national.
The rst derives, in part, from the simple fact of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Tabligh mid-March gathering.
Figure 13 Screengrab of a video from
Thailand of a Muslim man spitting on a
commuter passed o as a scene in India.
Figure 12 Screengrab of an old video of
a vendor licking fruits on his cart was
shared as Muslims deliberately spreading
the virus
14 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
However, it also seems particularly exacerbated by a popular sense of Muslims as a quasi-infection in
the body of the Indian people, as Appadurai suggests. The sensational, mostly false reports, of Jamaat
members spitting, licking, urinating, defecating, and sneezing seems to draw on the notion of Muslims as
being of particular risk of contaminating India widely shared cartoons of Tablighi Jamaat members with
coronavirus particles as heads makes this discourse apparent visually. The second, that the Tablighi Jamaat
are ‘uncivilised’ or ‘Jaahil,’ similarly emerges through stories of contaminating bodily functions, but also
through viral stories of Jamaat members stoning health care workers, where Jamaat members are accused
of violently attacking benevolent state employees. Images of the Tablighi Jamaat as venomous animals,
oen snakes, reinforces this discourse that their members are animal-like, not-human, wild and untamed,
by virtue of their (supposed) agrant and continued violation of social distancing. The third criticism
levelled at the Tablighi Jamaat is that they are deceptive, covertly contaminating food or passing the virus
to others on banknotes. The government’s diculty with tracing attendees of the Jamaat gathering also
fostered these claims of deception, that members were concealing themselves from the authorities. Finally,
these claims converge in the charge that Jamaat members are anti-national terrorists, secretly using
COVID-19 to destroy Hindu India.
These four features of the anti-Tablighi Jamaat discourse became transposed onto broader Islamophobic
discourse and discrimination. The Modi government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to which
we now turn our attention, has largely failed to dismantle such Islamophobic discourses. In fact, many
government members themselves promulgated anti-Muslim narratives drawing on the same tropes.
Government Response to Anti-Muslim Sentiment Related to Coronavirus
It is not unusual for particular communities to experience stigmatisation when epidemics strike.61 It
becomes imperative, then, for governments to intervene early to neutralise stigma, build cross-community
trust, and eradicate unjustiable fears while they manage health emergencies. The World Health
Organization argues that failure to address community stigmatization can result in harmful stereotypes
Figure 14 Screeshot shared by factchecking news site AltNews of all the articles on old and doctored vidoes falsely
claimed as those of Jamaat members.
15 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
and present major barriers to seeking health care, thereby reducing early detection and treatment and
exacerbating the spread of disease.62 Immediately following the Tablighi Jamaat gathering, the Modi
government did almost the exact opposite, promoting the idea that members were to blame for India’s
COVID-19 outbreak. Aer a rash of Islamophobic attacks in early April, the government then began to try to
calm extreme communal tensions, albeit ineectively.
Stoking Islamophobia: The BJP’s Anti-Muslim Social Media Posts
The misinformation campaign and the vilication of the Indian Muslim community on social media over the
Jamaat gathering has been duly aided and amplied from the top levels of the Indian government, starting
from the union government, its state arms and other ocial agencies, elected representatives of the ruling
BJP party, down to its ‘IT Cell’ and radical right-wing supporters.
As the stigmatising narrative that Muslims are
carriers of COVID-19 spread following the Tablighi
Jamaat incident, both central and Delhi government
began to highlight the positive cases tied to the
congregation in its press conferences and releases,
instead of issuing statements to reduce anti-Muslim
sentiment.63 Health journalist Vidya Krishnan noted
that since late March, the Tablighi Jamaat gathering
altered the nature of India’s COVID-19 briengs, with
discussions of the gathering receiving more time in
briengs than any other topic raised by reporters,
such as questions about personal protective
equipment, testing strategies, and community
transmission.64
The daily briengs by the Health Ministry, which represent
the only source of ocial data related to COVID-19 for
news media, featured detailed statistics on “cases whose
epidemiological linkage can be traced to the Tablighi
Jamaat cluster.”65 Ocials laid the blame for the surge
in the number of positive cases on the congregation
and their travel across the country. Lav Agarwal, joint
secretary in India’s Ministry of Health, noted that “our
doubling rate is 4.1 days at present. But if additional
cases reported due to the Tablighi Jamaat had not
happened, then the doubling rate would have been 7.4
days,” emphasising rmly the better position the country
would have been had the gathering not occurred. 66 The
government also pointed out that nearly a third67 of
the total cases in India are linked to the Tablighi Jamaat
congregation, “one particular place where we could not
sort of understand it and manage it.”68
The incendiary hashtags on social media circulating
aer the Jamaat gathering (e.g., #CoronaJihad,
Figure 15 BJP Delhi leader Kapil Mishra’s tweet
on April 1st, reads ``Tablighi Jamaat people
have started to spit on workers and doctors in
quarantine centers. It is clear, their intention is to
kill maximum people. They should be treated like
terrorists
Figure 16 Twitter post shared by BJP’s West
Bengal Youth Wing with #CoronaJihad
16 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
#NizamuddinTerrorists, #NizamuddinIdiots, #MarkazTerrorists) also mirrors the language used by the top
rung of the ruling BJP. A report in Time magazine claimed that between March 28th, and April 3rd, tweets
with #CoronaJihad appeared almost 300,000 times and were seen by approximately 165 million people on
Twitter.69 In this period and the days following, BJP ocials and social media accounts propagated similar
rhetoric online that linked Indian Muslims to terrorism or ‘corona jihad.’ On April 1st, BJP legislator Sangeet
Singh Som, popular for his hardline anti-beef stance and tacit support for the lynching of Muslims over
allegations of beef eating,70 told a national Hindi news channel that the Tablighi Jamaat gathering was akin
to terrorism: “you will call it corona terrorism.”71 This interview was also posted to Som’s Facebook page.72
Another BJP leader from Delhi, Kapil Mishra (see gure 15), responding to reports of Tablighi Jamaat leaders
spitting on healthcare workers, wrote, these are terrorists and they should be treated like terrorists.”73
In the same vein, Mukthar Abbas Naqvi, Minister of Minority Aairs and the party’s only Muslim minister,
described the meeting held by Jamaat as a “Talibani crime.”74 And perhaps most disturbingly, the youth
wing of the BJP in West Bengal tweeted an image showing two Muslims, whose heads had been drawn
as coronavirus particles, entering a mosque from one door. All the people exiting from the other door
were drawn with coronavirus heads, visually reproducing a narrative that Indian Muslims, by their very
constitution, are a contamination threat. The tweet begins “Due to #NizamuddinMarkaz,” followed by a
regional tally of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and the claim that “#CoronaJihad is started (sic) to ruin India.”75
Finally, BJP legislator from Karnataka, Anant Kumar Hegde, posted a long rant in Kannada on Facebook
titled, “The secret organisation for disinfecting nationwide Inside Tablighi Jamaat,’ explicitly oating
the notion that the Islamic reformist organisation was spreading the pandemic as a part of its strategy to
Islamise the world.76
Besides linking the Jamaat members with terrorism,
BJP members also propagated false claims on social
media that Jamaat members refused to cooperate
in quarantine and assaulted hospital sta, adding to
contested social media reports that Jamaat members
defecated openly and threw bottles of urine around the
isolation wards.77 In this vein, Shobha Karandlaje, a BJP
legislator from Karnataka, tweeted a video supposedly
showing quarantined Tablighi Jamaat members
misbehaving with health workers, dancing and spitting
everywhere.78 Moreover, the head of BJP’s IT Cell, Amit
Malviya, tweeted on April 5th a graph showing a steep
rise in the cases due to Tablighi Jamaat and claimed,
“instead of spitting and stoning our frontline health
workers, they [the Tablighi Jamaat] need to apologise
and o (sic) course start behaving responsibly.”79
Here, Malviya reproduced rumours of Tablighi Jamaat
members intentionally spreading COVID-19 by spitting,
reinforced the claim that their actions were a key
driver of the national pandemic, and invoked reports of
‘stoning’ to imply their actions have been both violent
and ‘uncivilised.’
Although the BJP’s national president, Jagat Prakash
Nadda, tried to rein in party leaders, calling on them
to avoid communalising the pandemic, the narrative that
Tablighi Jamaat members (and by extension, other Indian
Figure 17 Twitter post shared by BJP chief of
Information Cell Amit Malviya accompanied by
a graph showing upward trend in cases due to
Jamaat members
17 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
Muslims) were deliberately spreading the infection had already escalated out of control.80 On March 31,
#CoronaJihad was trending on Twitter aer news broke that 24 members of Tablighi Jamaat had tested
positive for COVID-19. In the days following, as we have shown, BJP leadership actively participated in
sharing the hashtag and its sentiments.81 Aer March 31, there emerged a ood of fake videos, memes
and posts began ooding Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram (described above) supposedly
portraying Muslim men trying to infect others with coronavirus by dropping currency notes on the ground,
contaminating vegetables at a market, spitting on food at restaurants, spitting at police ocers, and licking
plates and utensils, and intentionally sneezing at a mosque.82
A Muslim researcher in India told us that the hatred spewed on news channels and social media is so vile
that Muslims across the spectrum elites, writers, journalists, movie stars, artists, teachers, doctors,
service personnel, poor and the common man feel targeted. “The Jamaat is orthodox and like all people
of faith don’t care about death. They denitely acted stupidly, and it is a grave mistake, but accusing them
and the entire community of terrorism and of plotting to spread the infection is taking it too far.”83 Their
assessment of the sentiment towards Indian Muslims reects the palpable fear experienced by the minority
community due to growing resentment and polarisation emerging out of the Tablighi Jamaat gathering.
Warning Against Community Polarisation
Governments at the state and national levels have been
somewhat slow to respond to the increase in Islamophobic
rhetoric. In Delhi, where the Jamaat congregation took
place, the local government’s daily health bulletin on
COVID-19 initially marked a select category of infections:
‘positive cases Markazz Masjid.’84 Khalid Rasheed, the
chairman of the Islamic Center of India, characterized the
government’s handling of the crisis as playing a “blame
game” with Muslims, adding that “if you present the cases
based on somebody’s religion in your media briengs…
it creates a big divide.”85 This was eventually changed to
positive cases ‘under special operation’ in mid-May,86 aer
the Delhi Minorities Commission reportedly objected to it
because it could stoke anti-Muslim sentiments.87
In Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat, authorities at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital decided to
segregate COVID-19 Hindu patients in dierent wards from Muslim patients for “the comfort of both
communities,” no doubt contributing to further polarisation.88 In comparison, the response in states not
governed by the BJP, like Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh, was almost the
opposite. Chief ministers advised citizens to avoid communalising the crisis and to stay vigilant for rumours
and misinformation blaming the Muslim community. When referring to infections related to the Jamaat
gathering in press briefs, ocials referred to the congregation as a ‘single source event.’ These states
adopted a more empathetic tone and sought to build trust with residents, working with Jamaat leaders to
trace the attendees of the congregation instead of condemning them.89
It was only aer the WHO90 and UN representative in India raised concerns and emphasized the need to
ght “stigmatisation of certain sects of people” on April 7th that the Central government began to act
against the targeting of the Muslim community.91 The next day, the Health Ministry issued an advisory
warning about the potential of social stigmatisation in pandemics and the hostility and social disruptions
Figure 18 PM Modi’s tweet urging Indians
to maintain unity and brotherhood, in the
aermath of the controversy
18 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
it may produce, though it did not explicitly address the stigmatisation of Tablighi Jamaat or Muslims more
broadly.92 The central government also wrote to all the state governments expressing serious concern over
the “polarising public opinion on religious lines” and the perception among non-Muslims that a “particular
community” was not taking the pandemic seriously. They also advised states to take “strict action against
fake/provocative posts.”93 However, India’s representative to the UNESCO Executive Board later rejected
the UN’s comments as “highly objectionable” and characterized them as undue “interference,” claiming
“such matters are being looked aer by the government, enlightened citizens, and the civil society in the
country.”94
While the BJP has reprimanded some legislators who have made Islamophobic comments on social media
related to COVID-19, it has apparently not provided a strong enough disincentive, as such comments have
continued throughout April. More recently, BJP Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has also broken rank
with his BJP counterparts from other states, explicitly arguing that it is unfair to blame the COVID-19 crisis
on the Tablighi Jamaat.95 This is relatively exceptional for the party, rather than the norm.
On April 19th, within an hour aer the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation96 (OIC), a collective of 57 Muslim
countries, posted tweets criticising the “unrelenting vicious #Islamophobic campaign in #India maligning
Muslims,’’ Prime Minister Modi nally broke his silence (see gure 18) on the widespread anti-Muslim
sentiment exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, taking to Twitter to call for “unity and brotherhood” as
“COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or borders.”97 However, he has not
clearly condemned the specically anti-Muslim vitriol circulating throughout India. Without a coordinated,
centralized response to this deeply entrenched Islamophobia, it does not appear as if the situation will
improve, though state and local governments also play a role in shaping public perception of the crisis
on the ground. We next turn to an analysis of news media coverage during the crisis that also contributed
signicantly to public perception of the Tablighi Jamaat
gathering and circulating social media narratives.
News Media’s Dog-Whistle Coverage
News media organisations, through TV broadcasts, social
media posts, and newspapers, have also played a signicant
role in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment during the pandemic.
For example, some stations represented ocial government
statements and data without context to project that the Tablighi
Jamaat gathering is the chief source of infections in India.98
Some reports made dubious claims that as many as 60 percent
of the new cases are attributed to the Jamaat gathering, and
the editor-in-chief of Zee News tweeted that the gathering had
“singlehandedly derailed India’s containment eort.”99 A graphic
posted by India Today, of government COVID-19 statistics
around a oating head with a skull cap, represents a similar line
of thinking. The graphic claims that nearly 60% of COVID-19
cases are linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, though it was later
removed for erroneous representation of the data.100
Unsurprisingly, it was later reported that sampling bias resulted
in the disproportionate numbers of coronavirus cases being
attributed to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering. As testing elsewhere
in the country is infrequent, many cases go unrecorded.101
Figure 19 Graphic released by India Today
news channel showing a skull capped and
masked gure, was called out for being
Islamophobic
19 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
As such, the government’s aggressive testing of
Tablighi attendees gave the impression that the
gathering was somehow responsible for a higher
percentage of the total cases in India102 A coalition
of Indian scientists who organized to provide
accurate information and challenge misinformation,
The Indian Scientists’ Response to Covid-19 (ISRC),
dismissed government and media speculation that
the Jamaat convention is primarily responsible for
the continued growth of positive cases. Similar to
the report pointing out the issue of sampling bias,
the ISRC claimed that the government had not
released data on how many tests were conducted
among the attendees of this event and their
contacts, and as such, “we do not know how the
fraction of tests that were found to be positive
in this case compares to testing on the general
population.” Consequently, they called on the
government to release updated COVID-19 data
and rejected “any attempt to communalise the
pandemic.”103
Not only did some news media organizations
encourage speculation about Jamaat-
linked cases by taking government data
out of context, but they also circulated
sensationalised or fabricated reports of
inappropriate behaviour by Jamaat members,
reinforcing the notion that most cases are
linked to the gathering. On April 4th, the Hindi
paper Amar Ujala published a report from
Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, under the headline
‘Jamaatis admitted in the quarantine ward
ask for non-vegetarian food, throw the food,
defecate in the open,’ giving credit to social
media misinformation.104 The Saharanpur
police debunked the report, but the article
remains on the Amar Ujala Facebook page, where it has been shared over 5,000 times.105 Four days later, a
leading news wire agency, ANI, quoted local ocials claiming that residents in Noida believed to have been
in contact with Tablighi Jamaat members have been quarantined. Local ocials responded that residents in
contact with positive COVID-19 cases had been quarantined, rather than just those in contact with Jamaat
members, and accused ANI of “misquoting and spreading fake news.” The agency subsequently corrected
its report.106
An analysis of India’s most-read Hindi daily paper, Dainik Jagran, also evinces a pattern of Islamophobic
coverage of the Tablighi Jamaat incident. Between March 28th and April 11th, the Indian Journalism Review
found that 171 stories, editorials, opinion columns had headlines that contained the keywords Tablighi
Jamaat, Jamaat, Jamaati, Markaz, and Nizamuddin. As they incisively note, this is “more than 10 reminders
a day, on average, of the six key words. A sample of these headlines also belies the unfavourable framing of
Figure 20 Noida police calling out misinformation by ANI
news agency which mentioned quarantining of people
who came in contact with Jamaat members
Figure 21 Republic TV panel discussion demanding authorities
to crackdown on unruly Jamaat members in quarantine
20 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
the group by the paper: ‘Call for Jamaat
patients to be housed in jails,’ Jamaatis
distributed sweets on bus,’ ‘Jamaat’s
mistake costs the society,’ ‘Tablighi
Jamaat had made Varanasi its `base
camp,’ ‘Big negligence,’ ‘Anti-national
negligence.’107
On Hindi and English language
television channels, special
investigation reports, panel discussions,
and debates during primetime further
reproduced the vilication of the
Jamaat and Muslims. On April 7th, Republic TV held a panel discussion titled ‘#CrackdownOnTablighis,’
demanding action against Jamaat members for allegedly spitting, urinating, and defecating in quarantine
centers, despite these reports being found false. One panelist went so far to opine, “I don’t think they
[Tablighi Jamaat members] are part of civil society. I don’t think they are human beings. No human being will
behaving in this uncivil manner.”108 In another debate titled ‘#TablighGoesOGrid,’ hosted by TimesNow
on April 8th in its Newshour program, anchor Navika Kumar informed viewers that “India is not just ghting
coronavirus, it is also racing against a ticking Tablighi timebomb… thanks to the Tabligh, 2 lakh [200,000]
people could be at risk of getting coronavirus for no fault of theirs.” She also oated the idea of ling
murder charges against some 500 Tablighs who are ‘hiding like criminals.’109 News18India also ran a similar
discussion on its show, AarPaar, called Dharm ke naam pan Jaanleva Adharm (‘threatening life in the name
of religion’), and ABP News aired a segment called ‘Nizamuddin increases the risk of coronavirus. Who is the
villain?’110
Other special reports took aim at Muslims
generally, rather than the Tablighi Jamaat in
particular. In its evening show DNA Analysis,
on April 10th, Zee News ran a program in
Hindi investigating people violating lockdown
orders in the ‘name of religion,’ showing
only examples of Muslims attending namaz
prayers in large numbers in mosques in West
Bengal’s Murshidabad district and Madhya
Pradesh’s Chhindwara.111 The report, drawing
on the language of war, polemically claims
“this is the 17th day of the lockdown, but
even today, there is a big section [of the
country] which is not ready to abide by the
lockdown. These people want India to lose
the battle against coronavirus. We therefore
prefer to call such people enemies of
lockdown.”112 Anchor Sudhir Chaudhary also
invited viewers to tweet and comment under
the hashtag #LockdownKeDushman, or ‘enemies of lockdown.’ The hashtag subsequently went viral with
over 22,000 tweets.113
On the same day, India Today aired a special investigation in English on its primetime show Newstrack,
Figure 22 Times Now discussion labelling Jamaat members as
timebomb
Figure 23 India Today’s news coverage on Madrasa hotspots
21 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
exposing “Madrasa Hotspots.” The sting operation on three madrasas in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh claimed
that teachers were underreporting the number of kids in each class and cramming them into small rooms,
thus defying social distancing guidelines.114 However, many of these kids belonged to low-income families
from outside Delhi and were sheltered in the school premises, as they were unable to travel home under
the lockdown condition, a fact concealed in the investigation. Delhi police ocials also conrmed that the
reports of two madrasas ‘hiding’ children was incorrect. These madrasas also had no link to the Tablighi
Jamaat, contrary to the initial report in the Newstrack special.115 The investigation was quickly called
out for inciting anti-Muslim sentiments and for inappropriately applying a religious lens to the victims
of coronavirus, thus diverting attention from pressing issues such as rampant unemployment and a
nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment.116
Taken together, the various news programs, reports, and debates aired during the pandemic repeated
unveried claims and misinformation circulated on social media, reinforcing narratives that Jamaat
members were spitting, defecating radicals who, aer defying government orders to hold religious
congregations, went into hiding, abused health workers in quarantine centers, and are now putting the
rest of the country at risk with their unruly behaviour. Continuous coverage like this certainly contributed
to the communalisation of the public health emergency, diracting threats of the coronavirus through an
Islamophobic lens that construed the Tablighi Jamaat, and Indian Muslims more broadly, as contaminated/
contaminating, ‘uncivilised,’ deceptive, and anti-national. The government, social media narratives, and
news media organisations thus constituted a dynamic ecosystem of information where such constructions
became entrenched and carried over into in-person interactions.
The Fallout from Anti-Muslim Sentiment
The demonisation of the Muslim community through the widespread circulation of misinformation, fake or
sensational videos, and the implication of Muslims as human bombs, national enemies, or terrorists in the
coverage of the COVID-19 health emergency has had two critical consequences. First, this noxious anti-
Muslim rhetoric has spilled over into discrimination against Muslims. For example, a spree of anti-Muslim
attacks broke out across the country in early April, with many of the aggressors justifying their actions
with reference to ‘corona jihad.’117 In addition to anti-Muslim violence, there has been a general escalation
of discrimination against Muslims in the form of economic boycotts and social ostracization. Further, the
widespread anti-Muslim rhetoric has heightened fear and anxiety amongst Muslims of the government,
and frontline workers doctors, nurses, police, and health workers on the ground have experienced physical
attacks as a result. Such attacks, in turn, led to widespread anger amongst the majority community, who
took the attacks as evidence that Muslims were undeserving of medical treatment, and the stigmatisation
of Muslims has deterred individuals with potential COVID-19 infections from coming forward.
Physical Violence against Muslims
The rumours that Muslims are deliberately spreading COVID-19 has been associated with an increased
number of violent attacks on Muslims. In Central India’s Jharkhand district, rumours circulating on
WhatsApp among villagers that a group of Muslim men travelling between villages and spitting on others
led to clashes that resulted in the death of one youth and injuries to two others.118 In the capital city of
Delhi, a youth who returned from a Tablighi Jamaat congregation in another state was attacked by a mob
who accused him of trying to spread COVID-19 like the Jamaat attendees at Nizamuddin. In the city of
Gurgaon, a Muslim family was attacked aer lming videos of the national candlelight event, ‘diya jalao,’
which was supposed to be an expression of solidarity in the health crisis. A group of men red shots at
22 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
a mosque aer hearing there might be infected individuals hiding inside. All three incidents took place
around April 7th.119
Two days earlier, several Muslim truck-drivers carrying essential food supplies were assaulted in Arunachal
Pradesh, allegedly by members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindutva paramilitary
organisation.120 Multiple incidents across the state of Karnataka were also reported, with mobs attacking
Muslims or mosques for allegedly spreading COVID-19.121 On April 4th and 6th, Muslim volunteers of the
NGO Swaraj Abhiyan were assaulted by local BJP members while distributing food packets among stranded
migrant workers in Bangalore. One volunteer recalls the aggressors saying, “you are not allowed to give
out rations you are Muslims, so you all are terrorists spreading the disease. We know you are spitting in
the rations and have come from Tablighi Jamaat to spread the virus.”122 From a survey of these attacks, it
becomes clear that several of the images of Muslims circulated by governmental ocials, news media, and
social media Muslims as contaminating and ‘uncivilised’ spitters, as deceptive terrorists hiding infected
people in mosques, as waging an anti-Hindu ‘corona jihad’ led by the Tablighi Jamaat had penetrated the
consciousness of many Indians and motivated physical violence.123
Calls for Economic and Social Boycott of
Muslims
While the prejudice directed around Muslims
during the pandemic has erupted into physical
violence, it has also manifested on the ground in
the form of economic and social ostracisation.
Such calls have persisted on social media for
some time. However, during the pandemic,
several cases have come to light where
Muslims have been discriminated against and
barred from running their business out of fears
they might pass along COVID-19. In Punjab’s
Jalandhar district, the Muslim Gujjar community,
involved in rearing cattle and supplying milk,
complained that they were not allowed to
supply milk or buy groceries in the village due
to a rumour that they were linked with the
Tablighi Jamaat.124 A village in Madhya Pradesh put up a poster (see gure 20) in Hindi at the entry point
stating, “vyapar ke liye is gaon me Musalmano ka aana pratibandhit hai” (the entry of Muslims for business
purpose is prohibited in this village), though it appears the poster was dated from earlier in the pandemic.125
Similar posters in Kannada have been found on telephone poles in many parts of the Kolya neighbourhood
in Mangalore, Karnataka, reading “in the interest of 2nd Kolya residents, no Muslim trader is allowed in our
village till the Coronavirus issue settles down completely.”126
Several videos have also emerged on social media, bearing witness to altercations between Hindu
vigilantes and Muslim vendors. At least three videos on social media show men asking for IDs of fruits and
vegetable vendors in Uttarakhand, threatening to report and shut down Muslim shops following coverage
of more positive Jamaati cases.127 Another viral video from Shastri Nagar, Delhi, appears to show residents
claiming that Muslims will not be allowed entry to sell any goods, as “these people have spread lth.”128
While the video has not been veried, some residents armed support for a ban on Muslim entry into the
neighbourhood. A third video from Badarpur, Delhi, shows a man asking a masked vegetable vendor for his
Figure 24 Poster outside a village in Madhya Pradesh
prohibiting entry to Muslims
23 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
ID card. When he responds that he did not have one, and he did not know he was supposed to carry one,
the man angrily asks for the vendor’s name. Upon hearing his reply, ‘Mohammad Saleem,’ he takes up a
baton and starts beating him, yelling, “Motherfucker, Mohammed, are you watching TV every day. Leave
from here, don’t enter again without an ID. You fuckers have caused a jihad.”129
NDTV News reported that in Uttar Pradesh’s Mahoba district, vegetable vendors were abused and stopped
from selling their goods by a group of locals who accused them of being a part of the Tablighi Jamaat. In
their complaint to the police, the vendors recalled how some men came and told shoppers that “we were
Muslims and had images of the crescent moon (Islamic symbol) on our vehicles. They also claimed we
were members of the Jamaat and were spreading coronavirus.”130 More recently, a video of a BJP legislator,
Suresh Tiwari, went viral on Twitter on April 28th depicting him advising against buying vegetables from
Muslim vendors, later justifying his remarks by pointing out a surge of COVID-19 cases aer the Tablighi
Jamaat gathering.131 Despite the BJP formally censuring Tiwari for his comments, another BJP legislator,
Brijbushan Rajput, was recorded in a video that went viral the next day harassing a Muslim vegetable
vendor, as he allegedly believed there was a high incidence of COVID-19 among vegetable vendors in the
area.132
With many Muslims in India employed in the informal sector, such as selling vegetables, Islamophobic
news coverage and social media rumours of the Tablighi Jamaat gathering, and Muslims more generally,
has not only produced physical violence but also challenges for working and earning a living. Economic
and social isolation of Muslims seems to be a response to a fear that Muslims are especially contagious,
and that they seek to wage ‘corona jihad’ against India in marketplaces. The emphasis on identifying
Muslims in these stories (asking for government ID, asking for a name) points to the construction of
Muslims as deceptive, as ‘the enemy within’ that must be actively identied to protect other unsuspecting
Hindus.
Impacts on India’s Public Health Response
The religious proling and stigmatisation of the Indian Muslim community has created an atmosphere
of fear, deterring self-reporting and making contact tracing of infected individuals dicult.133 The
hounding of Tablighi Jamaat attendees, exacerbated by the actions of the government, police, news
media, and social media commentators is, in fact, posing a barrier against detection and treatment,
thereby increasing the susceptibility of those in the immediate contact and surroundings. According to
an NDTV report, police are tracing the attendees of the Jamaat gathering through cellphone location data,
following up with all those whose GPS location in March signalled presence near the Nizamuddin Markaz
Mosque for several days.134 In the communally-sensitive state of Uttar Pradesh, police declared a reward
of 5,000 rupees for informing the police about Jamaat members in hiding. While police claimed no actions
would be taken against Jamaat members if they came forward voluntarily, they noted, “if the information
about them comes to us through another source, strict action will be initiated against them.”135 The
threat of legal action for failing to self-report, negligence, non-cooperation, or deliberate outing of
lockdown guidelines, has created an impediment for Jamaat members to come forward and disclose their
identities.136 The fear of being labelled as a terrorist or criminal has overshadowed genuine appeals to the
attendees to come forward and report themselves, and law enforcement agencies have launched search
operations in mosques to locate more attendees.137 Authorities fear delay in identifying and treating
positive cases of Jamaat members could further spread the virus in the vicinity and infect others in their
contact. As of April 13th, more than 27,000 Jamaat members and their contacts across 15 states had been
quarantined, but some remain untraced.138 It is presently unclear how eorts to trace Tablighi Jamaat
attendees are progressing.
24 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
Fear amongst Indian Muslims over the National Population Register (NPR) exercise, which would provide a
database of all usual residents of the country, has taken a new shape in the COVID-19 crisis. The population
census survey and NPR, conducted once every ten years, involves enumerators visiting every household
in the country collecting data on multiple parameters. Considered to be the precursor for the NRC that
could potentially disenfranchise millions of Muslims and land them in detention centers, fear of the NPR
has merged with the fear generated from the anti-Muslim tenor of the response to COVID-19. While the
Modi government reiterated several times this year that it would carry out the NPR exercise, slated to being
April 1st despite opposition from several states, it has since been postponed indenitely in light of a now-
extended lockdown.139 But the fear that the government is covertly collecting data under the pretense of
COVID-19 tracing is so prevalent among Muslims in places like Delhi and Maharashtra that health workers
sent for door-to-door surveys to identify symptomatic cases have been harassed and attacked.140 Residents
said they feared that surveyors were gathering demographic-related data that would eventually be used in
the NPR to detain and disenfranchise them. These videos of locals throwing stones at healthcare workers
then circulated on social media as supposed evidence of Tablighi Jamaat’s or Muslims’ backwardness and
proclivity for violence against the state and its representatives.
Conclusion
Anti-Muslim propaganda in India continues to be relentlessly shared by BJP members and aliated right-
wing networks, both on television and through social media channels. In recent months, starting from the
top of the government with Prime Minister Modi, his right-hand Amit Shah, and close ally Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister Adityanath Yogi, to state legislators, and down to individual party supporters, have injected
tremendous amounts of vitriol into public discourse against the Tablighi Jamaat, fostering a hostile
environment where violent outbursts and overt discrimination against Muslims becomes normalized and
justied. With the Tablighi Jamaat acting as a high prole symbol of Muslims in India, the Indian Muslim
community has been singled out, vilied, and accused of being contaminating/contaminated, ‘uncivilised,
deceptive, and anti-national terrorists seeking to violently convert Hindu India to a Muslim nation.
Particularly concerning are the calls by government ocials and supporters to commit acts of violence
against Muslims, and the claim that Tablighi Jamaat or Muslims are not-human and outside of civil society,
which seem to lay the foundation for violation of human rights and large-scale violence.
At a 2018 party rally, Shah remarked that BJP supporters are so powerful that they can make any message
go viral on social media, regardless of its truthfulness. “They can send any message among the masses
that we want, be it sweet or bitter, real or fake. This is possible because we made a WhatsApp group of 32
lakh [3.2 million] subscribers.”141 Here, then, is the party’s acknowledgment of the tremendous power of
the BJP’s WhatsApp groups and social media volunteers to alter India’s information landscape. In this crisis,
however, WhatsApp and other social media channels have also been rmly implicated in an organised
misinformation campaign to stoke Islamophobia. The BJP and Hindu nationals are also supported by
pro-government news channels and alt-right digital media in sensationalising these claims, producing a
veritable ecosystem of anti-Muslim propaganda. The extreme communalisation of COVID-19, initiated
with the symbolic case of the Tablighi Jamaat, has polarised India’s social fabric and will likely have serious
implications for the internal security of India. Without a drastic reversal of course, it appears that this
pernicious anti-Muslim rhetoric will only develop further, perhaps justifying larger-scale violence against
Muslims in the future. Even if India wins the ‘battle’ against the coronavirus, presently, it seems impossible
for it to overcome its Islamophobia problem.
25 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
Endnotes
1 Blame it on the virus, it’s the largest lockdown in history https://www.livemint.com/news/india/blame-it-on-the-virus-it-s-
the-largest-lockdown-in-history-11585159348758.html
2 Coronavirus puts over 1 billion people in India on 21-day lockdown to combat spread
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/26/coronavirus-puts-over-1-billion-people-in-india-on-21-day-lockdown-to-combat-spread.
html
3 Indian Migrants Walk Hundreds Of Miles To Return Home Amid COVID-19 Lockdown
https://www.hupost.com/entry/indian-migrants-coronavirus-walk-lockdown_n_5e843f87c5b65dd0c5d68b49
4 Mumbai washes its hands of lakhs, do’s & don’ts don’t matter here.
https://indianexpress.com/article/coronavirus/mumbai-slums-coronavirus-6321068/; India Finds Itself At The Back of The
Line For Virus Test Kits
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-02/india-nds-itself-at-the-back-of-the-line-for-virus-test-kits;
Ventilator shortage threatens to cripple India’s coronavirus response
https://www..com/content/b53066d1-bf31-4b-9666-09e7a548228e; Coronavirus: Shortage of masks, gloves worsened by
slow policymaking
https://www.livemint.com/news/india/coronavirus-shortage-of-masks-gloves-worsened-by-slow-
po licyma k ing-11585510974016 . html
5 A religious congregation in Delhi could be the coronavirus hotspot India was trying to escape
https://qz.com/india/1828919/delhis-tablighi-jamaat-event-becomes-indias-coronavirus-hotspot/
6 Nizamuddin congregation: Delhi Police registers FIR against Maulana Saad, others
https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/delhi/2020/mar/31/nizamuddin-congregation-delhi-police-registers-r-against-
maulana-saad-others-2124002.html. Additionally, Mumbai police later registered an FIR against Tablighi Jamaat members. See
Mumbai Police registers FIR against 150 members of Tablighi Jamaat who attended Nizamuddin event http://www.catchnews.
com/india-news/mumbai-police-registers-r-against-150-members-of-tablighi-jamaat-who-had-attended-nizamuddin-
event-187861.html.
7 Home Ministry asked States to identify 824 foreign Tablighi members
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/home-ministry-to-blacklist-800-tablighi-preachers-from-indonesia-for-violation-
of-visa-rules/article31214048.ece. Interestingly, the preachers had their visas revoked not for violation of the government
restrictions on gatherings, but for violating Indian visa restrictions on “preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in
religious places, [and] distribution of audio-visual display or pamphlets pertaining to religious ideologies.” See Coroanvirus:
Foreign Islamic preachers who attended ‘Tablighi Jamaat’ event in Niza muddin violated visa rules, Home Ministry may blacklist
800 of them, https://www.opindia.com/2020/03/tablighi-jamaat-800-foreign-muslims-blacklist-home-ministry-visa-rules/.
8 How a prayer meetiing at a French megachurch may have led to scores of corona virus deaths https://www.
washingtonpost.com/world/europe/how-a-prayer-meeting-at-a-french-megachurch-may-have-led-to-scores-of-coronavirus-
deaths/2020/04/01/fe478ca0-7396-11ea-ad9b-254ec99993bc_story.html
9 Virus alert https://www.thenews.com.pk/tns/detail/621158-virus-alert
10 How a 16,000-Strong Religious Gathering Led Malaysia to Lockdown https://www.bloomberg.com/news/
articles/2020-03-17/how-a-16-000-strong-religious-gathering-led-malaysia-to-lockdown
11 ISKON reports 5 COVID cases, 19 deaths in the UK aer 1000 gathered for a funeral https://theprint.in/health/iskcon-
reports-5-covid-19-deaths-in-uk-aer-1000-gathered-for-a-funeral/396942/
12 Ministry of Home Aairs guidelines https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/les/Guidelines_0.pdf
13 Ram Lalla idol shied, Yogi faces ak over social distancing https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/ram-lalla-idol-shied-
yogi-faces-ak-over-social-distancing-1659655-2020-03-25
14 Twitter ANI: Telangana State Ministers Allola Indrakaran Reddy and Puvvada Ajay Kumar participated in Rama
26 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
Navami celebrations held today at Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy Temple in Bhadrachalam https://twitter.com/ANI/
status/1245628633667923969, From Kolkata to Shirdi, Temple-Goes Flout Social Distancing Norms on Ram Navami, https://
thewire.in/religion/kolkata-shirdi-ram-navami-social-distancing.
15 Indian American Muslim Council condemns police brutality during anti-CAA protests in India https://www.sabrangindia.
in/article/indian-american-muslim-council-condemns-police-brutality-during-anti-caa-protests-india, Why Shaheen Bagh
protests are an important moment in India’s history, https://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/asia/2020/02/shaheen-bagh-
important-moment-india-history-200203055724548.html, From anti-CAA protests, to JNU and Jamia, why women are leading
the ght https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/in-depth/from-anti-caa-protests-to-jnu-and-jamia-why-women-are-leading-the-
ght/ar-BBZ6gNo.
16 We are Anti-CAA, Not Anti-national’: Protests Against Citizenship Law Continue at Jamia Millia Islamia
https://www.news18.com/news/india/we-are-anti-caa-not-anti-national-protests-against-citizenship-law-continue-at-
jamia-millia-islamia-2428835.html, It is a huge mistake to dismiss the opposition to CAA as anti-national, anti-Hindu or anti-
democratic https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/dont-call-them-anti-national-caa-protest-6218560/, ‘CAA not
anti-Muslim but anti-CAA protests are anti-Hindu,’ Tejasvi Surya dissects and destroys anti-CAA protests https://tpost.com/2020/03/caa-
not-anti-muslim-but-anti-caa-protests-are-anti-hindu-tejasvi-surya-dissects-and-destroys-anti-caa-protests/
17 Protest as you like but CAA will stay, asserts Amit Shah
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/caa-wont-go-asserts-amit-shah/article30614769.ece
18 ‘Look at Their Clothes’: Modi Plays Communal Card On CAA, Targets Muslim Protestors
https://thewire.in/communalism/narendra-modi-citizenship-amendment-act-protests-clothes, Narendra Modi asks CAA
opponents to protest against ‘atrocities’ of Pakistan
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/protest-against-pakistans-atrocities-on-minorities-modi-tells-anti-caa-protesters/
article30459714.ece
19 Minister Anurag Thakur chants desh ke gaddaron ko, poll rally crowd completes goli maaro
https://indianexpress.com/article/india/anurag-thakur-slogan-rithala-rally-6238566/
20 Delhi riots: City tense aer clashes leave 27 dead. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-51639856
21 ‘Hate is Being Preached Openly Against Us’: Aer Delhi Riots, Muslims in India Fear What’s Next https://time.
com/5794354/delhi-riots-muslims-india/. Anger towards ‘other side’ echoes in Hindu-dominated areas of riot-hit Northeast
Delhi https://theprint.in/india/anger-towards-other-side-echoes-in-hindu-dominated-areas-of-riot-hit-northeast-
delhi/372502/
22 Jency Jacob (fact-checker with BoomLive), in discussion with the authors, 8 April
23 WhatsApp announces 2 billion users worldwide
https://www.livemint.com/technology/tech-news/whatsapp-announces-2-billion-users-worldwide-11581516342061.html,
WhatsApp reaches 400 million users in India, its biggest market https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/26/whatsapp-india-users-
400-million/
24 Pratik Sinha (cofounder and editor of AltNews), in discussion with the authors, 12 April
25 Shakuntala Banaji and Ram Bhat, WhatsApp Vigilantes: An exploration of citizen reception and circulation of WhatsApp
misinformation linked to mob violence in India (London:London School of Economics, 2019), 12. http://www.lse.ac.uk/media-
and-communications/assets/documents/research/projects/WhatsApp-Misinformation-Report.pdf
26 Coronavirus: 87% increase in social media usage amid lockdown; Indians spend 4 hours on Facebook, WhatsApp
https://www.businesstoday.in/technology/news/coronavirus-87-percent-increase-in-social-media-usage-amid-lockdown-
indians-spend-4-hours-on-facebook-whatsapp/story/399571.html
27 Jency Jacob (fact-checker with BoomLive), in discussion with the authors, 12 April
28 Why Covid-19 is worse than the u, in one chart https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2020/3/18/21184992/
coronavirus-covid-19-u-comparison-chart
27 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
29 Chinese police ‘shooting down’ coronavirus patients? Manufactured clip viral
https://www.altnews.in/chinese-police-shooting-down-coronavirus-patients-manufactured-clip-viral/
30 Video of Indonesian meat market viral as epicentre of coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China
https://www.altnews.in/video-of-indonesian-meat-market-viral-as-epicenter-of-coronavirus-outbreak-in-wuhan-china/
31 No, this video doesn’t show people infected with Coronavirus in China screaming for help https://www.altnews.in/no-this-
video-doesnt-show-people-infected-with-coronavirus-china-screaming-for-help/
32 The Hidden Epidemic Behind COVID-19: Rise of Myths and Misinformation https://newssense.in/2020/02/22/the-hidden-
epidemic-behind-covid-19-rise-of-myths-and-misinformation/ Fighting the coronavirus misinformation epidemic https://
www.natureasia.com/en/nindia/article/10.1038/nindia.2020.36, Fighting With Boomers About Coronavirus Misinformation
on WhatsApp Won’t Make Any Of Us Less Afraid https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/nishitajha/coronavirus-india-
whatsapp-rumors, Fact Check: Weed kills coronavirus? Vivek Agnihotri shares scientic misinformation via meme. https://
www.deccanherald.com/national/fact-check-weed-kills-coronavirus-vivek-agnihotri-shares-scientic-misinformation-via-
meme-803236.html
33 Coronavirus outbreak: Ayush pushes ‘traditional cure’, med council backs modern drugs
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/ayush-pushes-traditional-cure-med-council-backs-modern-
drugs/articleshow/74680699.cms?utm_source=contentonterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst, Ayush advisory
for Coronavirus https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1600895
34 GetDayTrends India, https://getdaytrends.com/india/trend/%23wuhanvirus/
35 Scene from 2007 sci- miniseries viral as mass graves of coronavirus victims in Italy
https://www.altnews.in/scene-from-2007-sci--miniseries-viral-as-mass-graves-of-coronavirus-victims-in-italy/,
36 GetDayTrends India, https://getdaytrends.com/india/trend/%23CoronaJihad/
37 Anshul Saxena Facebook post https://m.facebook.com/watch/?v=881489805607324&_rdr
38 Salman Norman TikTok post https://www.tiktok.com/@snocials/video/6805890005077134593
39 Sonam Mahajan Twitter post https://twitter.com/AsYouNotWish/status/1241248613839163392
40 Corona emerged from Quran, nothing will happen to us: Shaheen Bagh protestor. https://www.opindia.com/2020/03/
shaheen-bagh-quran-corona-covid-19-anti-caa/
41 Coronavirus Jihad: Muslims in India defy lockdown--threaten unbelievers and CAA supporters https://rairfoundation.com/
coronavirus-jihad-muslims-in-india-defy-lockdown-threaten-unbelievers-and-caa-supporters/
42 It’s time to stay in mosques, Allah will save us: Tablighi Jamaat chief told followers in leaked audio https://www.
indiatoday.in/india/story/it-s-time-to-stay-in-mosques-allah-will-save-us-tablighi-jamaat-chief-told-followers-in-leaked-
au dio-1662297-2020- 0 4 - 01
43 Islamists on TikTok refer to coronavirus as NRC of ‘God,’ ‘welcome’ the contagion to India https://www.opindia.
com/2020/04/tiktok-islamists-coronavirus-tablighi-jamaat-maulana-saad-nrc-of-god/
44 Nashik man arrested aer TikTok video of him licking notes goes viral https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/coronavirus-
nashik-man-arrested-aer-tiktok-video-of-him-licking-notes-goes-viral-2205845. Jameel did not explicitly invoke the NRC in his
video, but given the context of similar positions on TikTok and other social media, it seems plausible that his claim that the virus
was divine punishment was in reference to the NRC.
45 A Cluster Of Coronavirus Cases Can Be Traced Back To A Single Mosque And Now 200 Million Muslims Are Being Vilied
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/nishitajha/coronavirus-india-muslims-tablighi-jamaat
46 Pratik Sinha (cofounder and editor of AltNews), in discussion with the authors, 12 April
28 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
47 Friend of RSS Twitter post https://twitter.com/friendsofrss/status/1245410965337718784
48 Sushil Jumar Twitter post https://twitter.com/rajsushil99/status/1245711198139617283
49 Asian News International Twitter post https://twitter.com/ANI/status/1245475658798596105
50 Video verication: Locals in Indore’s Tatpatti Bakhal area pelt stones at health workers https://www.altnews.in/video-
verication-locals-in-indores-tatpatti-bakhal-area-pelt-stones-at-health-workers/
51 Misbehaving with Hospital Sta and Pelting Stones; What Tablighi Jamaat Are Up To https://www.indiatimes.com/news/
india/misbehaving-with-hospital-sta-and-pelting-stones-what-tablighi-jamaat-attendees-are-up-to-509869.html Zee Media
caught spreading fake news on stone-pelting by Tablighi Jamaat members, forced to delete tweet aer warning from Firozabad
Police in Uttar Pradesh http://www.jantakareporter.com/entertainment/zee-news-caught-spreading-fake-news-on-stone-
pelting-by-tablighi-jamaat-members-forced-to-delete-tweet-aer-warning-from-rozabad-police-in-uttar-pradesh/286910/
SHOCKING! Cops looking for Tablighi Markaz attendees attacked in Bihar, Gujarat; stones pelted and shots red
https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/shocking-cops-looking-for-tablighi-markaz-attendees-attacked-in-bihar-
gujarat-stones-pelted-and-shots-red/572537 Muslims Spitting on Food, Hiding in Mosques to Spread Coronavirus? Beware of
These 8 Fake News Stories
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. For an updated compilation of related misinformation regarding Muslims and COVID-19,
see Fake Alert: Long List of Islamophobic fake news which is going viral during Coronavirus Pandemic https://mediascanner.in/
fake-alert-long-list-of-islamophobic-fake-news-which-is-going-viral-during-coronavirus-pandemic/
52 Manufacturing Islamophobia on WhatsApp in India. https://thediplomat.com/2019/05/manufacturing-islamophobia-on-
whatsapp-in-india/
53 As The Right Wing Pushes Its Land Jihad Conspiracy Theory, A Hindu Property Agent Struggles to Help His Muslim Client
https://www.hungtonpost.in/2018/02/04/as-the-right-wing-pushes-its-land-jihad-conspiracy-theory-a-hindu-property-
agent-struggles-to-help-his-muslim-client_a_23352596/
54 See note 42.
55 Here is the truth about the viral video of a Muslim man infected with Coronavirus spitting on a man standing in front of him
https://www.opindia.com/2020/04/viral-video-coronavirus-positive-spit-on-person-die-train-thailand/
56 See note 68.
57 Video link https://youtu.be/vnkAFqj41DA
58 Fact Check: Old Video of Muslim Man Spitting on Food Goes Falsely Viral
https://thewire.in/media/fact-check-old-video-muslim-man-spitting-on-food-goes-falsely-viral-covid-19
59 Roop Darak Twitter post https://twitter.com/iRupND/status/1240667565799567360
60 Surge in TikTok videos aimed at misleading Indian Muslims over coronavirus precautions
https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/surge-in-tiktok-videos-aimed-at-misleading-indian-muslims-over-coronavirus-
precautions-1662930-2020-04-03
61 See Trevor Hoppe, “‘Spanish Flu’: When Infectious Disease Names Blur Origins and Stigmatize Those Infected,” American
Journal of Public Health; Washington 108, no. 11 (November 2018): 1462–64, for a discussion of the Spanish u and stigma and
other examples of communities stigmatized by infectious disease.
62 WHO Situation Report https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200224-sitrep-35-
covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=1ac4218d_2
63 Delhi Government Health Bulletin mentioning positive cases: Markaz Masjid, 1 April h t t p: //
health.delhigov t.nic.in/wps/wcm/connect/068e55804dc352723cf7982ee7a5c7/HB01A.
pdf?MOD=AJPERES&lmod=908572962&CACHEID=068e55804dc352723cf7982ee7a5c7
29 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
64 Centre places restrictions on media in COVID press briengs; shis focus to Tablighi Jamaat
https://caravanmagazine.in/health/centre-places-restrictions-media-covid-press-briengs-shis-focus-to-tablighi-jamaat
65 400 COVID-19 cases with linkage to Tablighi Jamaat found: Health Ministry
https://timesondia.indiatimes.com/india/400-covid-19-cases-with-linkage-to-tablighi-jamaat-found-health-ministry/
articleshow/74951562.cms
66 Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Press Brieng on the actions taken, preparedness and updates on COVID-19, Date:
05.04.2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQDqY5zpkbA
67 Half of India’s Covid-19 cases below the age of 40, a third linked to Tablighi Jamaat: Govt
https://theprint.in/india/half-of-indias-covid-19-cases-below-the-age-of-40-a-third-linked-to-tablighi-jamaat-govt/395404/
68 1,023 Covid-19 positive cases with links to Tablighi Jamaat reported from 17 states: Health Ministry
https://timesondia.indiatimes.com/india/1023-covid-19-positive-cases-with-links-to-tablighi-jamaat-reported-from-17-
states-health-ministry/articleshow/74982959.cms
69 It Was Already Dangerous to Be Muslim in India. Then Came the Coronavirus https://time.com/5815264/coronavirus-india-
islamophobia-coronajihad/
70 BJP Lynch Bites: Akhlaq and Family are ‘Cow Killers’, Muslims are Being ‘Appeasedhttps://thewire.in/communalism/bjp-
lynch-bites-akhlaq-and-family-are-cow-killers-muslims-are-being-appeased
71 ‘This is corona terrorism’, says BJP’s Sangeet Som over Nizamuddin Markaz
https://news.abplive.com/videos/news/india-this-is-corona-terrorism-says-bjps-sangeet-som-over-nizamuddin-markaz-
1186833?clid=IwAR32_ak4nz5VhdD_3xRx2Ddgmmj4I8xMheKMHphXqCnt4U0XV5HLc642E7Y
72 Legislator Sangeet Som Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sangeetsinghsom/videos/633434400580782/ .
73 Kapil Mishra Twitter account https://twitter.com/KapilMishra_IND/status/1245359875598594051
74 A Talibani crime’: Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tablighi Jammat’s Nizamuddin congregation
https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/a-talibani-crime-union-minister-mukhtar-abbas-naqvi-on-tablighi-jammat-s-
nizamuddin-congregation/story-ayp8shadVRIAmPb6XZlOcN.html
75 Bhartiya Janata Yuva Manch, West Bengal Ocial Twitter account https://twitter.com/BJYMinWB/
status/1244917375339835394
76 BJP Minister Anant Kumar Hegde Facebook post https://www.facebook.com/anantkumarhegde/
posts/3168433083181502?__tn__=K-R
77 See note 46, News on Tablighi Jamaat Patient Misbehaving, Spitting on Doctors is Fake: AIIMS Raipur https://
thelogicalindian.com/news/tablighi-jamaat-member-spitting-on-doctor-20494. Tablighi Jamaat Members Did Not Defecate
in Open Aer Being Refused Non-Veg Food https://thewire.in/media/media-misreports-tablighi-jamaat-members. While
the claims that Jamaat members threw bottles of urine around in isolation wards had been neither conrmed nor denied, it is
reasonable to conclude they are untrue given that the other bizarre rumours circulating about the Tablighi Jamaat have been
disproved.
78 Fact check: BJP MP’s claim that Jamaat attendees spat at Belagavi hospital sta is fake
https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/fact-check-bjp-mp-s-claim-jamaat-attendees-spit-belagavi-hospital-sta-
fake-122031
79 Amit Malviya Ocial Twitter Account https://twitter.com/amitmalviya/status/1246690147724169227
80 BJP chief Nadda cautions party leaders: Don’t give coronavirus a communal twist https://indianexpress.com/article/india/
coronavirus-outbreak-j-p-nadda-communal-colour-tablighi-jamaat-nizamuddin-6346539/
30 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
81 Why is Corona Jihad trending on Twitter https://www.freepressjournal.in/viral/why-is-coronajihad-trending-on-twitter
82 Video viral with false claim that Muslims scatter notes on the road to spread coronavirus https://www.altnews.in/video-
viral-with-false-claim-that-muslims-scattered-notes-on-the-road-to-spread-coronavirus/ Video of Muslim vendor’s unhygienic
handling of fruits falsely linked to spreading coronavirus https://www.altnews.in/viral-video-of-muslim-vendor-licking-fruits-
is-from-mps-raisen-falsely-linked-with-spreading-coronavirus/ Old video falsely viral Muslim man spitting on food at Indian
restaurant in the backdrop of coronavirus pandemic https://www.altnews.in/old-video-falsely-viral-as-muslim-man-spitting-
on-food-at-indian-restaurant-in-the-backdrop-of-coronavirus-pandemic/ Coronavirus: Video of an undertrial in Mumbai falsely
viral as Nizamuddin markaz attendee spitting at cop https://www.altnews.in/coronavirus-video-of-an-undertrial-in-mumbai-
falsely-viral-as-nizamuddin-markaz-attendee-spitting-at-cop/ Old, unrelated video shared as Muslims licking utensils to spread
coronavirus infection https://www.altnews.in/old-unrelated-video-shared-as-muslims-licking-utensils-to-spread-coronavirus-
infection/ Video of Su ritual falsely viral as mass sneezing in Nizamuddin mosque to spread coronavirus infection
83 Anonymous, in discussion with the authors, 2 April
84 Delhi State Health Bulletin, 1 April http://health.delhigovt.nic.in/
wps/wcm/connect/9d02ef004dc29ba8b146f7982ee7a5c7/HB31.
pdf?MOD=AJPERES&lmod=888394453&CACHEID=9d02ef004dc29ba8b146f7982ee7a5c7
85 In India, Coronavirus Fans Religious Hatred
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/12/world/asia/india-coronavirus-muslims-bigotry.html
86 Delhi State Health Bulletin, 12 April http://health.delhigovt.nic.in/
wps/wcm/connect/2f6c64804de8a8f7a8c6ebd194e333e1/HB12A.
pdf?MOD=AJPERES&lmod=1959478472&CACHEID=2f6c64804de8a8f7a8c6ebd194e333e1
87 As Tablighi Jamaat-linked cases rise, Delhi govt gives them a dierent name. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-
news/as-tablighi-jamaat-linked-cases-rise-delhi-govt-gives-them-a-dierent-name/story-ucrd0RKQl71dy177t3CL.html
88 Hospital in Ahmedabad splits COVID wards on faith, says govt decision
https://indianexpress.com/article/coronavirus/ahmedabad-covid-19-coronavirus-hospital-ward-6363040/
89 How empathy instead of hate helped south states trace Jamaat attendees
https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/how-empathy-instead-hate-helped-south-states-trace-jamaat-attendees-122221
90 No one’s fault, don’t prole COVID-19 along religious lines:WHO https://www.siasat.com/no-ones-fault-dont-prole-covid-
19-along-religious-lineswho-1871048/
91 UN ags concern to Govt Covid group: Need to ght targeting of certain sects
https://indianexpress.com/article/india/un-india-coronavirus-tablighi-jamaat-nizamuddin-6355696/
92 Addressing Social Stigma Associated with COVID-19, Ministry of Heath and Family Welfare https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/
AddressingSocialStigmaAssociatedwithCOVID19.pdf
93 Coronavirus: Centre concerned over polarisation on religious lines https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/centre-
concerned-over-polarisation-on-religious-lines/article31292287.ece
94 India says UN remarks on ‘stigmatization’ during COVID-19 are ‘highly objectionable’ https://indianexpress.com/article/
coronavirus/india-united-nations-niti-aayog-covid-19-coronavirus-stigmatization-6357642/
95 Unfair to pin COVID-19 blame on Tablighi Jamaat: Kejriwal at E-Agenda Aaj Tak https://www.indiatoday.in/coronavirus-
outbreak/story/unfair-to-pin-covid-19-blame-on-tablighi-jamaat-kejriwal-at-e-agenda-aaj-tak-1673716-2020-05-02
96 OIC Twitter Post https://twitter.com/OIC_IPHRC/status/1251826155939926017?s=20
97 India Prime Minister’s Oce Twitter post https://twitter.com/PMOIndia/status/1251839308085915649
98 Covid-19 in India: Nearly 65% of 544 new all-India cases linked to Tablighi Jamaat’s event in the city https://timesondia.
indiatimes.com/india/covid-19-in-india-nearly-65-of-544-new-all-india-cases-linked-to-tablighi-jamaats-event-in-city/
articleshow/74958094.cms
31 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
99 India Today accused of sharing ‘Islamophobic’ graphic on coronavirus and Tablighi Jamaat event. https://www.
freepressjournal.in/india/india-today-deletes-islamophobic-graphic-on-coronavirus-and-tablighi-jamaat-event. Sudhir
Chaudhary Twitter post https://twitter.com/sudhirchaudhary/status/1245331649216147456?s=20
100 India Today accused of sharing ‘Islamophobic’ graphic on coronavirus and Tablighi Jamaat https://www.freepressjournal.
in/india/india-today-deletes-islamophobic-graphic-on-coronavirus-and-tablighi-jamaat-event
101 Explained: Sampling bias drove sensationalist reporting around Tablighi coronavirus cases
https://scroll.in/article/958392/explained-sampling-bias-drove-sensationalist-reporting-around-tablighi-coronavirus-cases
102 Explained: Sampling bias drove sensationalist reporting around Tablighi coronavirus cases
https://scroll.in/article/958392/explained-sampling-bias-drove-sensationalist-reporting-around-tablighi-coronavirus-cases
103 No basis yet to blame Tablighi: Scientists
https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/coronavirus-outbreak-no-basis-yet-to-blame-tablighi-says-scientists/cid/1764004
104 Tablighi Jamaat Members Did Not Defecate in Open Aer Being Refused Non-Veg Food
https://thewire.in/media/media-misreports-tablighi-jamaat-members
105 Amar Ujala Facebook post https://www.facebook.com/Amarujala/posts/3441239339273130. The article itself has been
removed from the Amar Ujala website, but it can still be liked, commented on, and shared on Facebook.
106 Noida police accuse ANI of ‘fake news’ for adding Tablighi Jamaat angle to Covid-19 quarantine exercise
https://www.newslaundry.com/2020/04/08/noida-police-accuses-ani-of-fake-news-for-adding-a-tablighi-jamaat-angle-to-a-
routine-quarantine-procedure
107 156 stories, eight editorials, and ve cartoons over 15 days: how ‘Dainik Jagran’ kept up the constant Islamophobic
dog-whistling on ‘Tabhlighi Jamaat’, as if India would be free from #Coronavirus ifonly…https://indianjournalismreview.
com/2020/04/11/156-stories-eight-editorials-and-ve-cartoons-over-15-days-how-dainik-jagran-kept-up-the-constant-
islamophobic-dog-whistling-on-tabhlighi-jamaat-as-if-india-would-be-free-from-coronaviru/
108 Republic TV Twitter post https://twitter.com/republic/status/1247556691350016000
109 Times Now Twitter post https://twitter.com/TimesNow/status/1247922379814133760
110 News18India Facebook post https://www.facebook.com/News18India/videos/1923644701113579/. ABP News Facebook
post https://www.facebook.com/abpnews/videos/200980661199553/?v=200980661199553
111 Some people violating lockdown in the name of religion https://zeenews.india.com/hindi/india/dna-analysis-some-
people-violating-lockdown-in-the-name-of-religion/666134
112 Some people violating lockdown in the name of religion.
113 Twitter trends in India https://getdaytrends.com/india/2020-04-10/20/
114 Madrasas Hotspots: India Today Investigation Exposes Madrasas Violating Lockdown Rules https://newsx.tv/2020/04/10/
madrasas-hotspots-india-today-investigation-exposes-madrasas-violating-lockdown-rules-newstrack/
115 Anatomy of an ‘investigation’: How India Today’s madrasa sting misled its viewers
https://www.newslaundry.com/2020/04/15/anatomy-of-an-investigation-how-india-todays-madrasa-sting-misled-its-viewers
116 Kavita Krishnan Twitter post https://twitter.com/kavita_krishnan/status/1248926376758935552
117 In India, Coronavirus Fans Religious Hatred https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/12/world/asia/india-coronavirus-
muslims-bigotry.html
118 Jharkhand one dead aer clashes over rumours of Muslim men spitting to spread coronavirus https://scroll.in/
latest/958611/jharkhand-one-dead-aer-clashes-over-rumours-of-muslim-men-spitting-to-spread-coronavirus, The other
virus: Hate crimes against India’s Muslims are spreading with Covid-19 https://scroll.in/article/958543/the-other-virus-hate-
32 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
crimes-against-indias-muslims-are-spreading-with-covid-19
119 COVID-19 rumours linked to 3 attacks in Delhi, Gurgaon
https://indianexpress.com/article/coronavirus/covid-19-rumours-linked-to-3-attacks-in-delhi-gurgaon-6350696/
120 Muslim Truckers ‘Beaten Up’ in Arunachal, Concern Over Supplies of Essential Items
https://www.news18.com/news/india/muslim-truckers-beaten-up-in-arunachal-concern-over-supplies-of-essential-
items-2565619.html?__twitter_impression=true, Why India’s Muslim truckers and aid workers ghting Covid-19 face attacks,
https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/why-india-s-muslim-truckers-and-aid-workers-ghting-covid-19-face-attacks-35204
121 Attacks on Muslims in the Name of Covid-19 Surge Across India https://www.thequint.com/news/india/coronavirus-
muslims-attacked-covid19-karnataka-haryana
122 COVID-19: Muslims and Muslim volunteers heckled, harassed in Karnataka
https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/covid-19-muslims-amd-muslim-volunteers-heckled-harassed-karnataka-121977.
Coronavirus conspiracy theories targeting Muslims spread in India. https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/coronavirus-
conspiracy-theories-targeting-muslims-spread-in-india/ar-BB12yJA7
123 For a list of other Islamophobic attacks motivated by social media information across India, see “India: Aermath of hateful
Islamophobic Campaign and Fake news amidst Corona virus pandemic. https://mediascanner.in/india-aermath-of-hateful-
islamophobic-campaign-and-fake-news-amidst-corona-virus-pandemic/
124 Muslim Gujjars targeted in Hoshiarpur, DC issues warning
https://timesondia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/muslim-gujjars-targeted-in-hoshiarpur-dc-issues-warning/
articleshow/75039388.cms
125 Muslims Not Allowed: Police Says Viral Picture of Banner in MP Village Unrelated to Virus
https://www.news18.com/news/india/muslims-not-allowed-police-says-viral-picture-of-banner-in-mp-village-unrelated-to-
virus-2565083.html
126 Communal hatred posters on NH 66 goes viral on social media
http://www.mangaloretoday.com/main/Communal-hatred-posters-on-NH-66-goes-viral-on-social-media.html
127 Md Asif Khan Twitter post https://twitter.com/imMAK02/status/1247241794544226304 Muslim vendor forced to shut
shop in Haldwani aer 5 Jamaatis test positive; FIR led
https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/muslim-vendor-forced-to-shut-shop-in-haldwani-aer-5-jamaatis-test-positive-
r-led/story-gRz4rtKFK3aAyYuOkmMcYJ.html
128 AngryKangri Twitter post https://twitter.com/i/status/1246836383756369920 Cops probe ban on entry of Muslims
https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/apr/07/cops-probe-ban-on-entry-of-muslims-2126757.html
129 Md Asif Khan Twitter post https://twitter.com/imMAK02/status/1248857508355043329 Alt News video verication:
Muslim vegetable vendor assaulted in Badarpur, Delhi https://www.altnews.in/alt-news-video-verication-muslim-vegetable-
vendor-assaulted-in-badarpur-delhi/
130 Abused, Stopped From Selling Vegetables, Allege Muslim Vendors In UP https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/coronavirus-
uttar-pradesh-abused-stopped-from-selling-vegetables-allege-muslim-vendors-in-up-2210963
131 Don’t buy vegetable from Muslim vendors: UP BJP MLA Suresh Tiwari https://timesondia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/
dont-buy-vegetable-from-muslim-vendors-up-bjp-mla-suresh-tewari/articleshow/75424179.cms
132 Uttar Pradesh BJP MLA Harasses, Threatens Muslim Vegetable Vendor https://thewire.in/communalism/up-bjp-mla-anti-
muslim
133 See the anonymous statements by Tablihghi Jamaat members and law enforcement ocials regarding the challenge
such social stigma poses for contact tracing. Tablighi Jamaat Attendees Fear Ostracisation As Thousands Quarantined
Across India, https://www.hungtonpost.in/entry/tablighi-jamaat-attendees-fear-ostracisation-coronavirus-nizamuddin_
in_5e842254c5b65dd0c5d65ed5, Tablighis Test TN Even As Muslims Face Fallout https://www.thelede.in/tamil-
nadu/2020/04/17/tablighis-test-tn-even-as-muslims-face-fallout, Social Stigma, Fear of Police, Onus on God: Why Cops are
Facing a Tough Time Tracing Suspected Patients https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/techandscience/social-stigma-fear-of-
33 #CoronaJihad: COVID-19, Misinformation, and Anti-Muslim Violence in India
police-onus-on-god-why-cops-are-facing-a-tough-time-tracing-suspected-patients/ar-BB123JG3
134 Police using cell phone data to trace people who attended Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi
https://www.thestatesman.com/india/police-using-cell-phone-data-to-trace-people-who-attended-tablighi-jamaat-event-in-
de l hi-1502873974.ht ml
135 UP police declares reward for tracing Tablighi Jamaat members
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/up-police-declares-reward-for-tracing-tablighi-jamaat-
members/articleshow/75098046.cms
136 Yogi Adityanath slaps NSA on 6 Tablighi Jamaat members quarantined in Ghaziabad, aer medical sta complained of
misbehaviour
https://www.rstpost.com/politics/yogi-adityanath-slaps-nsa-on-6-tablighi-jamaat-members-quarantined-in-ghaziabad-aer-
medical-sta-complained-of-misbehaviour-8226061.html
Mumbai Police register FIR against 150 Tableeghi event attendees for negligence
https://timesondia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/mumbai-police-register-r-against-150-tablighi-event-attendees-for-
negligence/articleshow/75025111.cms
137 Coronavirus outbreak: Police search mosques to trace Tablighi Jamaat members https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/
coronavirus-outbreak-police-searches-mosques-to-trace-tablighi-jamaat-members-1662840-2020-04-03 Over 500 Foreigners
Who Attended Tablighi Jamaat Found Hiding in Delhi Mosques https://www.news18.com/news/india/over-500-foreigners-
who-attended-tablighi-jamaat-found-hiding-in-delhi-mosques-2563791.html, Maharashtra Police books Mosque trustees
for hiding foreign nationals who attended Tabighli Jamaat event, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/maharashtra-police-
books-mosque-trustees-for-hiding-foreign-nationals-who-attended-tablighi-jamaat-event-1661956-2020-04-01
138 Coronavirus conspiracy theories targeting Muslims spread in India https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/13/
coronavirus-conspiracy-theories-targeting-muslims-spread-in-india
139 Narendra Modi vs Opposition in states over CAA-NPR, NIA https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/narendra-modi-
vs-opposition-in-states-over-caa-npr-nia-1640523-2020-01-27
NPR exercise, Census 2021 updation postponed indenitely due to coronavirus, says MHA https://www.indiatoday.in/india/
story/npr-exercise-census-2021-updation-postponed-coronavirus-mha-1659604-2020-03-25
140 How Islamophobia Is Hurting India’s Battle Against The Coronavirus https://www.hungtonpost.in/entry/how-
islamophobia-is-hurting-indias-battle-against-the-coronavirus_n_5e8b3ba3c5b6cc1e47792379?ri18n=true Kondhwa
residents stall COVID-19 survey driven by CAA-NRC fears,
https://punemirror.indiatimes.com/pune/cover-story/kondhwa-residents-stall-covid-19-survey-driven-by-caa-nrc-fears/
articleshow/74699585.cms
141 BJP Workers Have The Power To Make Even Fake Messages Go Viral,’ Says Amit Shah
https://thelogicalindian.com/news/amit-shah-speech/?innitescroll=1
... 25 Meanwhile, the thematic narrative building by some Indians that Muslims are immune from the pandemic or the deadly virus is some kind of divine punishment also woven into broader Hindu nationalist rhetoric. 26 During the pandemic, a new element was used by Islamophobes in their well-established pattern of disinformation, giving an anti-Muslim spin to genuine news reporting. Hindu nationalists were found sharing videos with false contexts on social media widely. ...
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Towards the end of January 2020, COVID-19 made its headway into India. The irresponsible behaviour of the Modi government in containing the spread of Coronavirus forced it to opt for an ill-planned and hastily imposed lockdown. Meanwhile, the poor health infrastructure of the country collapsed. This outbreak also tested the socio-cultural robustness and religious tolerance in India. Pro-Hindutva media outlets and Hindu nationalists employed hate speech to securitize this outbreak as a Muslims-led controversy against India. Furthermore, pseudoscience-based remedies were portrayed as a potential cure for COVID-19. The online disinformation ecosystem of Hindutva extremist groups against minorities used trending campaigns, memes, and sharing of false content. They posted Islamophobic content so extensively that the impact of online disinformation contributed to offline harm to minorities in the form of violent attacks and social boycotts. This paper, therefore, analyses the online and offline activities of Hindu extremists and nationalists during the spread of COVID-19. It concludes with emphasis that the ongoing metamorphosis in the relationship between state, society, and religion in India is a pressing concern for the civilized world, especially the Indian political elite.
... In addition, in early 2020, the Citizenship Amendment Act, a new law that offers Indian citizenship to people from three neighboring countries, but restricted to non-Muslim only, led to protests across the country (see, e.g., Bhatia, 2021). Discrimination and violence against stigmatized groups has been documented in other pandemic settings (Desai and Amarasingam, 2020). et al., 2007). ...
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Widespread misconceptions can be critical, especially in times of crisis. Through a field experiment, we study how to address such wrong or inaccurate beliefs using messages delivered to individual citizens using mobile phones. We focus on misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic in a hard-to-reach population – India’s slum residents. We randomly allocate participants to receive voice and video messages introduced by a local citizen, the messenger, and in which medical practitioners debunk misconceptions. To understand the role of targeting, we randomly vary the signaled religious identity of the messenger into either Muslim or Hindu, guaranteeing exogenous variation in religion concordance between messenger and recipient. Doctor messages are effective at increasing knowledge of, and compliance with, COVID-19 policy guidelines. Changes in misconceptions are observed only when there is religion concordance and mainly for religious-salient misconceptions. Correcting misconceptions with information requires targeting messages to specific populations and tailoring them to individual characteristics.
... 91 The Indian government has been criticized for its poor preparation for the nationwide lockdown imposed in March 25, 2020, as they instead turned all their attention toward the three-day Tablighi Jamaat 92 gathering held in Delhi in early March, which was vilified on local media and social media outlets. The right-wing nationalists deemed the meeting a sinister plot by Indian Muslims to deliberately infect the rest of the population instead of the virus spreading organically across the country 93 . The Tablighi Jamaat congregation became the ultimate punching bag of the right-wing agenda. ...
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... A new term, 'corona jihad', has been coined to describe this conspiracy" (Appoorvanand, 2020). In public discourse in India, Muslims are portrayed as disease-carrying individuals, deceptive and uncivilized (Desai and Amarasingam, 2020). "The current narrative that Muslims are plotting to spread coronavirus and participating in 'corona jihad' is a mere continuation of anti-Muslim propaganda, which has steadily developed on social media and crystallized in anti-Muslim violence since (...) 2014" (Desai and Amarasingam, 2020: 6). ...
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This paper explores how the COVID-19 pandemic affects social relations and social interactions. It will rely on critical discourse analysis in order to identify the patterns of power relations related to various political and media narratives about the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be shown that the pandemic crisis has contributed to the rise of xenophobia and discrimination, which is the result of fear of the Other being perceived as a carrier of the disease. Discourses and narratives about the COVID-19 outbreak portray CO-VID-19 as a foreign virus, emphasizing binary oppositions: we/they, self/other, civili-zed/barbaric, citizen/foreigner, West/East and so forth.
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The multidisciplinary anthology Religious Fundamentalism in the Age of Pandemic provides deep insights concerning the current impact of Covid-19 on various religious groups and believers around the world. Based on contributions of well-known scholars in the field of Religious Fundamentalism, the contributors offer about a window into the origins of religious fundamentalism and the development of these movements as well as the creation of the category itself. Further recommendations regarding specific (fundamentalist) religious groups and actors and their possible development within Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism round up the discussion about the rise of Religious Fundamentalism in the Age of Pandemic.
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Despite not originating in Spain, the 1918 influenza pandemic is commonly known as the "Spanish flu"-a name that reflects a tendency in public health history to associate new infectious diseases with foreign nationals and foreign countries. Intentional or not, an effect of this naming convention is to communicate a causal relationship between foreign populations and the spread of infectious disease, potentially promoting irrational fear and stigma. I address two relevant issues to help contextualize these naming practices. First is whether, in an age of global hyperinterconnectedness, fear of the other is truly irrational or has a rational basis. The empirical literature assessing whether restricting global airline travel can mitigate the global spread of modern epidemics suggests that the role of travel may be overemphasized. Second is the persistence of xenophobic responses to infectious disease in the face of contrary evidence. To help explain this, I turn to the health communication literature. Scholars argue that promoting an association between foreigners and a particular epidemic can be a rhetorical strategy for either promoting fear or, alternatively, imparting a sense of safety to the public. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print September 25, 2018: e1-e3. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304645).
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