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2020, 365 days of the pandemic: For Muslims in Madurai, COVID-19 meant fashioned stigma, ostracisation

Editor’s point out: In 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak upended lives and livelihoods in myriad systems. The novel coronavirus threw up recent and unprecedented challenges, in particular for people from marginalised sections of society. In a multi-half series, Firstpost explores how participants from completely different walks of lifestyles lived thru the 365 days of the pandemic. Here’s half two of the series.

Read half 1 of the series here.

A bunch of Rajinikanth followers are intensely debating whether or no longer Thalaivar will lastly opt a plunge into politics. Two in the neighborhood promise that they’d lag into exile if it involves that while the matriarch pledges that she doesn’t care, her vote is for Rajini it be no longer associated what he represents. Amid exclamations of ‘What, no!’ and ‘Rajini dhaan CM’, the conversation swings back to the assign it started — COVID-19’s alleged Muslimness.

“COVID-19 doesn’t exist; it used to be created to attain conflicts between Hindus and Muslims,” publicizes Nageshwaran.

“Eh? For four days, I used to be knocked out thanks to the virus. I used to be coughing like my lungs would plunge out any minute. What used to be that then?” questions Siddique Fatima.

Her husband Jaffer jumps in to seek info from her why she thinks it used to be the unconventional coronavirus.

“Because I plunge unwell all the contrivance in which thru the 365 days. I do know this used to be completely different. Make no longer talk rubbish. I’m no longer going to sigh that COVID-19 doesn’t exist. COVID-19 is an outbreak, certain. Here’s staunch. So is the actual fact that this virus used to be previous to achieve hatred against us. Here’s an episode Muslims in Madurai received’t omit. We can no longer omit it even though we try,” responds Siddique Fatima.

Everyone in the room nods.

“Gorgeous sooner than COVID-19, huge protests were organised against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The roughly aid we got from non-Muslims used to be out of the ordinary. They participated and organised alongside with us. Extra non-Muslims were recent on the stage than Muslims every day. Which is why what came about with us thanks to COVID-19 came as a shock. These were our folks. What came about to them? How did they turn against us in an rapid?” questions Jaffer.

A month after the lockdown hit India, Fatima couldn’t undergo it any longer. The police autos, barricades and policing were at an all-time excessive in Nelpettai, in particular since it is a ways a Muslim locality. The apprehension associated with the sphere bought to Fatima. To tranquil herself down, she desired to earn a seek of the Kanavai Dargah in Melakkal, the assign she used to be an on a regular basis. She served meals to folks there and likewise helped in its repairs. With out telling anybody, she snuck out and determined that she’ll trail your whole manner till the dargah, which used to be 20 kms away. As she made her manner in opposition to the dargah, law enforcement officials stopped her at loads of checkpoints. She told them that she used to be walking in opposition to the dargah by myself and he or she meant no peril. They cautioned her however she assured them that she’ll be dazzling. She needed to sit down down down at Konchadai as she now no longer had the capability to trail additional. She used to be in tears by then.

As she sat weeping, an auto driver spotted her. “Where are you off to, amma? What came about?,” the auto driver inquired.

She told him that she needed to fetch to her dargah, even though it approach the terminate of the world. The auto driver told her to fetch in and promised to plunge her off as shut to the dargah as that that you simply would possibly per chance imagine. As they drove past Madurai, Fatima looked on in shock. Never had she seen Madurai this empty or tranquil. On the model, a 70-365 days-archaic non-Muslim lady joined them. As soon as she bought into the auto, she cringed on the seek of Fatima. She started mumbling about how COVID-19 used to be being ‘spread by mami’s‘ (a derogatory time length to refer to Muslim females carrying burqas or hijabs) like Fatima and pushed herself to a nook of the auto. She told Fatima to sit down down away from her, on the opposite nook. Unfazed by her co-traveller, Fatima upright prayed that she reaches the Dargah one manner or the opposite as they saved getting stopped at every junction.

“It is thanks to this mami that they are stopping us, advise her to fetch off,” exclaimed Fatima’s co-traveller infrequently. Fatima refused to buy, she used to be assign of dwelling on reaching Melakkal.

Merely as they entered Melakkal, the auto used to be stopped by the residents of the village adjacent to the Dargah.

On the seek of Fatima, the workforce, consisting of around 15 females, started yelling at her. “Why are you coming here? Don’t you know that it is you mami’s who’re the reason in the back of this illness? Catch out of here at as soon as,” they started screaming at her. Fatima used to be unnerved. She recognised faces in the workforce. Pretty loads of them were folks she had served meals to on the dargah, right thru the yearly pageant.

“I upright must sigh a prayer next to the dargah. And I’ll lag away. Let me lag, please,” she pleaded. The auto driver told the workforce that he’s a Hindu himself and requested them to let Fatima be, as she upright desired to sigh her prayer and that she has made her manner there with huge danger. The workforce didn’t care. The heckling didn’t quit.

Fatima walked in opposition to the dargah, sat down next to it and said her duas. Then she bought back into the auto and left quietly. As she started her droop back house, the heckling tranquil persisted. “Why and the contrivance in which is this happening?,” she requested herself. Within the times to return, folks running away on the seek of a Muslim lady used to be one thing she bought conversant in — be it when she took her grandson for a session to the sanatorium or when she went out of Nelpettai, for any roughly work.

“Stigma surrounding the illness used to be very excessive till August”, says Nageshwaran. “Everyone knows of cases the assign folks determined to terminate their lives, no longer being ready to undergo the stigma,” he said.

The memoir of Mydeen Beevi and her son Mustafa is one such memoir.

Mydeen Beevi, 70 and her daugher Ramzan Begum, 39 at Mulai Nagar.Greeshma Kuthar/Firstpost

Mydeen Beevi, 70, is the mom of 5 and a resident of Madurai. After the demise of her husband, she has been living by herself in Thek Vasal. Her youngest son Mustafa, 35, labored in Kerala and used to be her simplest provide of earnings. He managed to carry out his manner back to Thek Vasal upright sooner than the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown used to be announced. Both of them traveled to Mulai Nagar, a few kilometres away, to follow Ramzan Begum, Mustafa’s sister.

That is the assign the stigma started. Mulai Nagar is a Thevar stronghold, with nearly all walls plastered with symbols which extol Thevar pride. After Mustafa returned, he started facing aggressive establish callings of being a carrier of COVID-19. He stayed in as he used to be feeling drained and used to be a little bit feverish after his return. This led his neighbours to abuse him and earn fights with him. Soon after, they summoned the police, who told him to fetch checked on the overall sanatorium. “The police did no longer quit the neighbours from abusing my household,” says Mydeen Beevi.

When the ambulance didn’t near, Mustafa’s neighbours loaded him into an originate truck and told him to pass away. As this used to be happening, the neighbours shot videos of him being taken away, which went viral on social media. As soon as on the overall sanatorium, he used to be examined for COVID-19, and he examined negative for the illness. On returning to Mulai Nagar, the neighbours didn’t quit their establish callings even after being told that Mustafa had examined negative. They demanded that he lag away at as soon as. Now not attempting to set up with this anymore, Mustafa and Mydeen Beevi went back to Thek Vasal, hoping that this stigma would terminate. However it surely didn’t. Even at Thek Vasal, the neighbours having seen Mustafa’s video, insisted that he be checked for COVID 19. They stopped an group rubbish truck and forcibly made him fetch on the truck. Mydeen Beevi, unable to be conscious of her son like this, also went alongside. On the sanatorium, the scientific doctors told him that he had examined negative for it already, so there’ll not be any assign of dwelling off of yet every other take a look at.

Both of them walked back to Thek Vasal after this, as there used to be no transportation as a result of lockdown. Mydeen Beevi comforted her son and told him no longer to model to the establish callings. Mustafa used to be tranquil. The next day to come, he said he’s going out for a trail and stepped out. That used to be the last time Mydeen Beevi saw him.

He used to be came upon a few hours later, on the educate tracks of Kapalur, slow. He had died by suicide. Since then, Mydeen Beevi has tried to petition every person from the police to the administration, however to no avail.

Who’s to be held guilty for Mustafa’s demise? The residents of Mulai Nagar? Or the residents of Thek Vasal? The media, which blared the news of Muslims being carriers of COVID 19? Or the administration?

Abet at Fatima’s room in Nelpettai, seated diagonally opposite me is RTI Hakkim. He’s fondly called that for his tireless work in opposition to exposing the authorities’s shortcomings thru the Gorgeous to Records Act.

For the length of the height of the lockdown, the Madurai Collectorate announced that they wanted volunteers to help with COVID-19 relief dissemination, Hakkim bought himself and 200 others enrolled on the space of job of the District Collectorate. Across the identical time, Facebook statuses started circulating that Muslims are spreading coronavirus thru relief work. Unfazed, Hakkim and his buddy were prepping in opposition to starting up relief work when ID cards of some Muslim volunteers were taken back by the police. Hakkim used to be summoned to the Collectorate and his ID card used to be taken away too.

When this reporter met Hakkim in Would per chance well, he told me this memoir as is. He used to be in tears and disillusioned because one thing like this had by no approach came about to him in all these years. However he used to be resolute about helping out in one manner or the opposite. He didn’t know the contrivance, yet. Nor did he know if he’ll fetch his ID back, as one needed to dangle the ID to produce social work right thru lockdown.

A pair of days after that, this reporter met Deputy Collector Ranganathan, upright to contain his scope of work. Ranganathan used to be also the one who had it seems ordered for Hakkim’s card to be taken away. He took me thru completely different rooms, all stacked with provisions which dangle been donated by folks of Madurai. He also told me that they’ve a bunch of volunteers who help in distribution of these affords. Quickly after, he handed me a list, which had the establish of simplest two organisations talked about. The one on top of the list used to be Seva Bharati, an organisation linked with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It is serious to point out that the organisation used to be chosen by the Collectorate for relief work months sooner than the affirm Assembly election. This is also available in the context of the BJP’s makes an try to produce a foothold in Tamil Nadu.

The official list of organisations working with the Madurai Collectorate, for relief dissemination. Greeshma Kuthar/Firstpost

On being requested about allegations of Muslim volunteers’ IDs being taken away, Ranganathan brushed it aside as miscommunication.He said that anybody can signal in to volunteer, and all they dangle got to is enter their crucial components on an online achieve, fetch an OTP quantity, and quickly afterwards, they receive their card. He handed this reporter a card and said, “Here’s how the cards explore.”

The cardboard he confirmed used to be that of Hakkim.

Hakkim’s volunteer ID card, handed to this reporter by the Deputy Collector at his office. Greeshma Kuthar/Firstpost

It has been six months since. Hakkim did no longer fetch his card back, however that did no longer quit him from volunteering. He signed up with the Madurai Corporation and has since taken half in loads of COVID-19 relief applications. However on the terminate of 2020, he poses a critical query.

“I’ve labored for years as an RTI activist and uncovered many scams. What I’m most unnerved about is, what if in future, when I show an legit who’s unpleasant, folks turn around to me and impart that I uncovered a Hindu legit’s corruption because I’m Muslim? What in the event that they seek info from why I’m in a position to’t as a replace show a Muslim legit’s corruption? Within the event that they seek info from questions like that, imagine how dangerous that would possibly per chance maybe be for our nation. If such things are determined on the inspiration of faith, it questions the very basis of India’s constitutional structure, doesn’t it? Here’s what I realized this 365 days. Even in the event you fancy society and want to work for the society, the authorities will divide us on the inspiration of faith and discriminate. This authorities is a communal authorities. Here’s my takeaway.”

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