India’s Islamophobia creeps into Nepal

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Islamabad

India’s Hindu nationalist fundamentalists and its Islamophobic media are taking advantage of the coronavirus to push hatred to Nepal through popular Indian news channels and social media.
“The rise of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and his link to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh organization and its Hindu nationalist ideology, has strengthened the New Delhi establishment to the remaking of Nepal as a Hindu country again,” Foreign Policy, a reputed American magazine said in its report on Wednesday.
The news publication, that focuses on global affairs and current events, said Nepalis pride themselves on a history of religious tolerance, even in a region where faith has often had bloody consequences. But India’s right-wingers are trying hard to change that.
It has been easy for Indian Islamophobia to spread to Nepal, thanks to the number of Hindi speakers there and the wide range of Indian TV available, it reported.
All this, mixed with yellow journalism in Nepal, has caused nasty rumors to spread fast. It mentioned an incident of April 16 when a few rupee bills were found scattered in Janakpur, southern Nepal. One man picked up a note and offhandedly told a shopkeeper that the bills might be tainted with the coronavirus. A claim that two Muslim women had scattered the bills after spitting on them spread within no time, based on a CCTV video that showed the bills dropping out of their pockets. Islamophobic posts making claims such as that the women spat on the bills deliberately to spread the coronavirus went viral.
Meanwhile, the police tested the two women for COVID-19, and the initial quick test produced a positive result from one of the women. That sparked further hateful posts—but it later turned out that the test had been wrong and further testing gave negative results.
In reality, the two women had just returned from the bank and had dropped the notes accidentally. The police pleaded for the public not to spread further rumors—but this particular incident didn’t spring out of nowhere. The groundwork had already been well laid.
A week earlier, on April 10, India’s right-wing media, particularly Hindi news channels, circulated sensationalized news that Pakistan might have sent coronavirus-infected Muslim men to India via Nepal.—APP