By Shaik Zakeer Hussain

BJP MLAs Satish Reddy and Ravi Subramanya turned the ongoing COVID crisis in Bengaluru into communal hate-mongering on Tuesday, when they, along with Bangalore South MP Tejasvi Surya barged into a BBMP COVID War Room and asked officers present if BBMP (city municipal corporation) was a Hajj Bhavan or a Madrasa to recruit only Muslims.

The video of the incident which has since gone viral on social media shows the trio aggressively questioning a female IAS officer and other BBMP officials accusing them of running a racket of allocating hospital beds to COVID patients in exchange for bribes.

Surya is seen asking the BBMP official what process was followed to recruit the volunteers in the COVID war room, and read out a list of 17 people, who all happened to be Muslims. Bommanahalli MLA Satish Reddy and Basavanagudi MLA Ravi Subramanya are then seen going on a communal tirade asking if BBMP was a madrasa or a Hajj Bhavan to only recruit “these people”.

Surya and the MLAs on Tuesday accused city municipal officials of accepting bribes to allot hospital beds. They alleged that a “nexus of BBMP officials and frontline health workers” were creating artificial scarcity and that beds were being booked under the name of asymptomatic patients who were in home isolation.

Once the bed is booked, it gets blocked for 12 hours and if the patient is not admitted to the hospital by then, the beds automatically get unblocked. In the span of 12 hours, the officials would find a patient who is willing to pay for the hospital bed and once it is unblocked, would re-allot it to the same patient, the MP alleged.

Two people, identified as Rohit and Netra were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly charging between ₹ 25,000 and ₹ 50,000 for a bed.

While the MP and the accompanying MLAs embarrassed their own party which is in power in the state by exposing the alleged widespread corruption in allocating COVID-19 beds by their own authorities, they also tried to deviate the topic by bringing up a communal angle.

Soon messages started flooding on WhatsApp and social media with the names of the 17 people listed out by Surya, with provocative messages targeting the Muslim community.

One Sandeep Ravi, who claims to be the State Media Convenor at BJP YuvaMorcha Karnataka on his Facebook page, accused BBMP Nodal Officer Dr Rehan Shahed and the 17 people listed by Surya as taking bribes for allotting beds. “Dr Rehan is the in charge of Bed allotment in BBMP Bengaluru South Covid War Room. He and his team of terrorists listed below are involved inhospital bed booking scam (sic)”, he wrote.

Similar messages floating on WhatsApp asked how many Muslims have lost their lives and even targeted BBMP Joint Commissioner Sarfaraz Khan, prompting him to issue an immediate statement.

Khan took to his Facebook page and wrote that he has no role in the war room and that it was run by a special health commissioner.

“Dear friends , extremely pained to see a watsup message being circulated in Socail media, were in my name is being dragged for alleged mismanagement in the Bbmp war room, established for allocation of beds . It was shocking for the simple reason that , I hv no role in War room nor do I know any doctor in war room . War room is headed by Special commissioner health . My job is to take care of Bbmp Covid care centres and Solid waste Managment , Dept . ( may please see the order above which I hv circled).The recruitment of Doctors or any other staff in the war room is the job of health department and the respective zones of the Bbmp , it has zero connection with me (sic)”, he wrote.

Whether the top echelons of the BJP were involved in circulating these hate messages against Muslim doctors, frontline workers, officials, and the community at large needs to be investigated.

Last year, at the height of the nationwide lockdown, TV channels, like most of the country went berserk in targeting Muslims and accusing the community of spreading the coronavirus pandemic.

While BTV, a Kannada news channel called Tablighi Jamaat a ‘terrorist virus’, BJP Lok Sabha MP from Udupi Chikmagalur Shobha Karandlaje termed the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Delhi’s Markaz Nizamuddin as “Corona Jihad”, insinuating a Muslim-led conspiracy behind its spread.

Many in the state now fear, if the same would be repeated again to deviate the attention of the government’s monumental failure in providing beds and emergency oxygen cylinders.

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