“BSY must act against communalisation of COVID” demand Bengaluru activists

Civil Society against Communalisation

BBMP's 'war room'. Pic: BBMP Commissioner's Twitter handle

Several civil society organisations and individuals on Thursday, called upon the Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa to act against four elected representatives of the Bharatiya Janata Party who, in the name of exposing a scam in BBMP’s bed-allocation for COVID patients, had targeted Muslims working in the relief effort.

The demanded that Bengaluru South Member of Parliament Tejasvi Surya, Basavanagudi MLA Ravi Subramanya, Chickpet MLA Uday Garudachar and Bommanahalli MLA Satish Reddy be made to apologise for their actions and compensate Rs 50,000 to each of the targeted 16 muslim employees of a private firm drafted by the BBMP in the COVID War Room. Simultaneously, the Chief Minister should have the Chief Secretary inquire into the incident, they urged.

Open Letter to CM by Civil Society- 6 May 2021

Statement condemning efforts to communalise pandemic_6 May 2021

The meet was addressed by advocate Maitreyi Krishnan from the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), historian Ramachandra Guha, coordinator of Environment Support Group (ESG) Leo Saldanha, Students’ Islamic Organisation representative Abdul Suhaib, Dr. Sylvia Karpagam from the Campaign against Hate Speech and Mani PRS from the All India People’s Forum. The meet was moderated by environmentalist and researcher, Bhargavi Rao.

Press Meet organised by Civil Society groups condemning communalisation of the pandemic

Incitement, a punishable offence

Maitreyi expressed outrage over the communal remarks made by Tejasvi Surya and the 3 MLAs against the 16 Muslim professions whose names were read out in the Bangalore South War Room. She asserted that comparisons of the Corporation to a “Madrasa” and the War Room to a “Haj Committee” are clear attempts to promote hatred and enmity against Muslims.

She reminded everyone that these are punishable offences and an FIR must be registered against the four elected representatives from the BJP.

Mr. Guha said that even during the Partition, leaders belonging to opposing ideologies got together in order to build the constitution. He expressed faith in the “wisdom and experience” of CM Yediyurappa, Oppositon Leader Siddaramaiah, and former PM Devegowda who, according to him, “understand the gravity of the situation” and should get together to course-correct. 

Need for Decentralisation

Leo said decentralisation is the need of the hour. “You shouldn’t have to call a central number to get oxygen to a local ward or local panchayat. Every ward and panchayat is elected under the Constitution and they have the Constitutional authority to deliver that right to life to the local people,” said he. He also pushed for the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to be adopted rather than the Epidemics Act, 1897. 

Read More: Do Bengaluru’s COVID helplines help?

Suhaib said that volunteers, stretched beyong their capabilities, were exhausted and fatigued. “In these times when numbers are slowly turning into names of family members, statements like this actually bring in a lot of pain especially for a community like ours who are putting in every effort possible to do something for humanity.”

Dr. Sylvia said that the Campaign against Hate Speech has been active in filing complaints even in the first wave when state officials were wasting valuable time communalising the pandemic instead of preparing for it. Mani compared communalism to the virus which threatens to infect the society at a time of vulnerability. 

Call for Accountability

Women’s rights activist and independent researcher, Madhu Bhushan, praised the efforts of frontline workers and volunteers and pointed out how the attempt to demoralise and derail them must be condemned. She called for accountability on the part of the Bengaluru South Member of Parliament. Focus should be drawn back to the real crisis at hand, she said.

Suhaib narrated, “After the Tejasvi Surya incident, a lot of our volunteers are in deep anguish. They are actually scared to make calls to BBMP, even though their own friends and families are in trouble. We are actually sitting on the backseat and thinking – What’s happening?” Dr. Sylvia echoed that livelihoods of Muslims are endangered by such irresponsible remarks.

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