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India’s Hindu nationalists begin new phase of crippling Muslim livelihoods

24th Sep 2021

Sajeda Haider

The lynching of Muslims using allegations of “illegal cow slaughter” has become a common occurrence in Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist India. However, a new trend of attacks on the livelihoods of Muslims has emerged over the past few months.

A multi-million-dollar company selling packaged food across India, West Asia, the Far East and the US has become the latest target of an Islamophobic campaign. “Every single Hindu” is urged to boycott vegetarian retailer iD Fresh Food Ltd because Hindu supremacists allege their products contain bone marrow, calf digestion enzymes, and rennet from calves.

Headquartered in Bangalore, Karnataka, south India, iD Fresh Food Ltd offers a wide range of vegetarian ready-to-cook products such as Idli and Dosa Batter, Malabar parotta, curd, paneer, vada and filter coffee decoction.

Far-right and self-proclaimed “proud Hindu/Indian” Srinivasa SG launched the campaign on Twitter. Referring to the religious identity of the company’s owners and employees, which is the real grouse for his campaign, Srinivasa asks, “How many really know that this company employs only Muslims, and it is Halal certified?”

A group of Muslim cousins founded iD Fresh Food in 2005 with only Rs 25.000 (£250). By 2015, they had reached revenue of Rs 1 billion (£10 million).

iD Fresh Food called the allegations “baseless and fake propaganda” aimed at undermining the trust of millions of customers. “We would like to clearly specify that iD uses only vegetarian ingredients to make its products. iD Idli-Dosa Batter is made from rice, urad dal (lentils), fenugreek and water only, which are 100% natural and vegetarian agri-commodities.

There are no animal extracts used in any of our products,” the firm said in a Facebook message.
With the campaign against iD Fresh Foods, a disturbing trend of attacks based on religious identity has extended to the most basic of services. While the few wealthy Muslims in India find their businesses under attack, poorer Muslims bear the brunt of the attack on their bodies and livelihoods.

Last month Abdul Rasheed, a middle-aged scrap dealer, was attacked in a village in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh simply for being a Muslim who dared to enter the area to collect scrap. Rasheed was not new to Sikli village and had been doing business there for a long time.

When Rasheed arrived to answer a call to collect scrap, he was intercepted by two men who assaulted him. “How can you do business in our village?” They asked Rasheed, alluding he was a Muslim in a predominantly Hindu village.

His humiliation was exacerbated when he was made to chant “Jai Sri Ram [Hail Lord Ram],” a religious greeting now politically weaponized by Hindu nationalists, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Having looted all of Rasheed’s scrap, he was ordered never to return to the village again.

Similarly, earlier in August, a Muslim bangle seller was assaulted in Madhya Pradesh’s capital city Bhopal by a group of men associated with the Hindu far-right. The bangle seller was stopped and asked his name. When he identified himself as a Muslim, the thugs beat him up, stole his takings, a cartload of bangles and sent him off with the warning never to return to the village.

A few days later, Taslim Ali, another bangle seller, was beaten up in the Indore city of Madhya Pradesh for allegedly using a fake name. Instead of arresting the people who attacked Ali, the police arrested Ali for allegedly touching a 13-year-old girl inappropriately while selling bangles. The police claimed that two Aadhar cards with different names were seized from his bag.

Aadhaar cards have been created so that people below the poverty line can avail themselves of Government benefits and it is not mandatory for people to carry them around. However, under the Modi regime, the biometric card has become a de facto mandatory identity card.

A Muslim hawker selling toast on a roadside stall in the Dewas District of Madhya Pradesh was assaulted by several men after he failed to produce an Aadhaar card to verify his identity. Jaheer Khan, 45, was verbally abused and beaten with sticks and belts when he said he had left his card at home.

The attacks are not limited to Madhya Pradesh. In neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, two brothers were assaulted for daring to name their food stall after the Hindu deity Lord Krishna. Living in the district of Mathura – believed to be the birthplace of Krishna – Irfan had, like many local businesses, named his stall Srinath (another name for Krishna) Dosa Corner.

A group of men tore down the board and demanded he explain why he had not used a Muslim name for the stall. They vandalised the stall and told Hindus not to eat there and urged the “Krishna devotees” to “purify Mathura” by ejecting all the Muslims. Irfan and his brother have been too frightened to restart their business.

Kamal Nath, former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and a senior member of the opposition Indian National Congress Party said such incidents were part of a larger plan.

“The Government is watching everything as a mute spectator,” said Nath and went on to ask “Has it been happening under a specific agenda?” The Hindu right-wing has made noises about segregating Hindu and Muslim economies.

During the 2020 Covid lockdown, poor Muslims found themselves without jobs, and they took to selling fruit and vegetables to earn enough to feed their families. Far-right groups used social media to accuse Muslims of spitting on the fruit before selling it to spread Covid.

Fake and doctored videos went viral and even in the capital, New Delhi, some Muslim vendors were assaulted and prevented from selling their wares in Hindu complexes and gated colonies.

Such insidious campaigns like the one against iD Fresh Foods are conducted with one aim, to financially cripple the Muslim minority community. They are part of the long-term plan of a segregated society where Muslims will live as second-class citizens at the mercy of the majority community.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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