17 April 2020: Shoaib and his co-worker Rahul Dongar had gone to spray sanitizer in the city’s Jamalpura area when a man accosted Shoaib, claiming that he had been spitting to spread the infection. Rahul, who belongs to the Valmiki community, then came to his rescue and started filming the whole incident on his mobile phone. He is seen arguing with the person, urging him to produce evidence that Shoaib, or he had been spitting in the area. The man in a pink shirt goes on to say that he “cannot trust one particular community because of the various media reports that show them spitting in 50 different places and spreading coronavirus.” Rahul captured the whole incident on a video. The man in the video persistently accuses them of spitting deliberately to spread the infection. “I have seen you spitting. I don’t trust you people. There is one community whom nobody trusts,” the man says, exposing his prejudice against Muslims. Both Shoaib and Rahul have been working as sanitation staff with the city’s municipal corporation for the last 12 years. They said they hadn’t encountered such aggressive communal discrimination before.
Ever since the Tablighi Jamaat cluster has been discovered, there has been a spurt of media reports that have attempted to falsely pin the blame of coronavirus spread on the whole Muslim community. This has not only communalized the pandemic but has fuelled distrust and suspicion against Muslims among large sections of Indians.