Indian Official: Mosque Instructed Mob to ‘Manhandle’ Coronavirus Health Workers

Police officers keep guard near a barricade after the locality was sealed following cases of COVID-19 in the area, in Worli village, Mumbai, India, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. India is adding more resources to tackle its increase in coronavirus cases by announcing that private hospitals may be requisitioned to help …
AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

Health workers screening patients for coronavirus were “manhandled” by a mob of 40-50 Muslim minority group members in southern India on Wednesday, local authorities alleged. The reported incident occurred in East Bangalore, the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state.

The health workers, along with other health officials, were conducting door-to-door coronavirus surveys in Sadiq Nagar, a minority Muslim area of Bangalore. They were sent to the area at the request of government officials, who had identified the zones as coronavirus hotspots following a large Muslim gathering in Delhi in March, from which many people contracted the coronavirus – including seven people who later died. Authorities believe that some attendees of this gathering, organized by an evangelical Muslim group called Tablighi Jamaat, returned to Bangalore’s Muslim neighborhoods.

Upon conducting the coronavirus surveys in Sadiq Nagar, the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers – lead by a woman – were allegedly assaulted by a mob of Muslim men.

“Health workers went for surveillance work in Sadiq Nagar. During that time the mosque authorities made an announcement instigating the residents of Sadiq Nagar to surround those health workers. They were physically manhandled by the mob on the instruction of mosque authorities,” Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Dr. Ashwath Narayana told the Deccan Herald.

“I have directed the police to immediately register a case and arrest the people responsible for the instigation and those who have manhandled the health workers,” Dr. Narayana added.

“Caste, creed, and religion are not important here. Your personal interest is not important. The health of Indians … is important. In Sadiq [Nagar], in Bengaluru [Bangalore], some miscreants attacked a nurse. This is a heinous act. We will take legal action against them,” Health and Family Welfare Minister B Sriramulu said of the incident via Twitter. The health minister also shared the ASHA worker’s personal account of the attack.

In a video posted online, the veteran ASHA worker emotionally details her experience:

During our survey at Sadiq [Nagar], an announcement was made over loudspeakers by a local mosque, then people rushed outside and surrounded and heckled us. They manhandled me and told me that I should not inquire anyone about the COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] symptoms. They even shouted that they will die of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] and I should not be worried. They do not want anybody to come to them or [their] locality. I request the government to arrest the person who has announced in the loudspeaker.

A similar incident occurred on Wednesday in central India, when a mob of at least 100 people stoned doctors attempting to work to contain the virus. The stoning resulted in two doctors injuredwho had to be rescued by police. The incident occurred in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, a large state in central India.

On Tuesday in New Delhi – a subset of Delhi, India’s capital – authorities sealed the local headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat, the evangelical Muslim group, after the gathering that resulted in their headquarters being shut down. Authorities said dozens who attended tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus; seven of these died.

The ASHA workers sent to the minority Muslim area of Bangalore on Wednesday were part of this search.
Delhi officials have formally requested criminal charges against the religious group for defying social distancing policy. On Tuesday, Delhi police said they had filed cases, including criminal conspiracy, against event organizers. A Muslim missionary movement, Tablighi Jamaat has a massive following worldwide.

At press time on Friday, India had 2,567 infections and 72 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.

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