Karnataka: How Corona Scare was used to whip Islamophobia in a water scare Village

Lack of awareness coupled with panic and Islamophobia is leading to many such incidents throughout the country. Who is to blame?

Muslim

In the scary times of Coronavirus and with the panic frenzy created by the media, the rumor mills are feeding the anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.

In a recent incident from Raichur, Karnataka, a lake was emptied after a Muslim man threw a stone into it.

Raichur district of Karnataka has seen the irrigation system very recently. The availability of potable water is still a difficult task. Summer makes it even worse.

There have been protests, appeals to release water in the canals, lakes to be filled, and so on. In such a situation, an incident happened where one lake was emptied by the locals.

The incident

Attanuru, Shakhapura, and Ganadinni are three adjacent villages of Sirivara Taluk of Raichur district. Attanuru lake and Shakhapura lake provide drinking water for these three villages. Mohammad, who works in Attanuru gram panchayat happened to throw a stone in Shakhapura lake after he drank water from there.

Some villagers who saw Mohammad throwing a stone into the lake, have expressed their suspicion that this man has thrown a poisonous stone into the lake and asked some others not to drink water from the lake. The news spread fast and created a big furore in the village. Throwing a stone into the river led to rumour that the lake has been poisoned. The villagers become so scared that they decided to empty the lake completely with the help of a motor pump.

The battle to fill the lake

The incident is tragic if it was not so ironic. The same villagers who have been fighting a struggle to fill the Shakhapur lake with clean drinking water, now wanted to empty it.

In past, villagers had staged a protest in front of the district collector’s office and alleged that the drinking water is contaminated; they had given a memorandum asking for clean water to be filled in the lake or an alternate system be put in place for clean drinking water. Since then, the lake is filled with drinking water every year. This year too, drinking water was filled in the lake through the Tungabhadra canal.

The case goes to the police station

The matter was brought to police’s notice, then the villagers and police summoned Mohammad who had thrown a stone and a meeting was held. Mohammad reiterated that he threw the stone just for play and there’s nothing else to it. He was made to drink the water and bathe in the lake, Mohammad did what was asked and clarified that he hasn’t poisoned the lake. Finally, the police came to the conclusion that Mohammad has thrown only a stone and tried to convince the villagers but villagers were not ready to believe.

Reasons for suspicion

Corona scare too is a reason for people to become suspicious. Media, especially TV channels have been making news about corona every minute and creating fear among people. Naturally, residents of Shakhapur were also scared. And the person who threw the stone being Muslim made their suspicions stronger. And some others have alleged that water in the lake is getting contaminated and is not fit for human consumption. Hence a water purifying machine too has been installed besides the lake. Adding to this, there was a minor fight between people of Shakhapura and Attanuru over a girl. So, people of Shakhapura suspected that someone from Attanuru poisoned the lake.

Water woes resume

People who emptied the lake over suspicion are now struggling for drinking water. For Shakhapura, with 450 houses and a population of over a thousand people, this lake was the only source of drinking water. Now, not able to drink water from the lake and not able to procure water from any other source are demanding the gram panchayat make some other arrangements for drinking water soon.

Gauri Lankesh news correspondent spoke with Mr. Marappa Haravi, who has ties with both the villages, “A small fight that happened last month, corona scare and Muslim phobia have resulted in villagers emptying the lake and now they are repenting their act. Not having proper awareness is the reason for this. Now, some say, they shouldn’t have acted in haste and empty the lake and there are some who are defending the stupid act.” He said.

One can blame the stupidity and ignorance of the villagers. But can we let go of media which was complicit in whipping anti-Muslim sentiments and connecting Muslims with Corona?  The 24/7 news cycle of corona news has also created fear and panic in general citizenry.

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