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When vegetables get a communal taint

A direct-to-home vegetable seller in Hassan was shocked recently when one of his employees refused to take vegetables to one particular household.

He then learnt that the worker was hurt because when he had gone to the customer’s place, he was asked if he had licked the vegetables to spread COVID-19. The worker never anticipated the question from the customer, to whom he had been supplying vegetables for the past several months.

Muslim fruit and vegetable sellers have faced many such experiences in the last over a month in Hassan after the outbreak of COVID-19. People in powerful positions giving statements targeting the community and accusing it of spreading the infection made it worse, they say.

The owner of the shop, who takes orders over the phone and delivers the bag of vegetables the next day to houses, said: “We were getting on an average 70 to 80 orders a day before but now it has come down to 40 a day.” He was, on the contrary, expecting good business during lockdown as people had difficulty in going out. The police had given him special passes as he was delivering essential items to houses.

Last month, a few miscreants circulated a video purportedly showing fruit-sellers tasting fruits before selling them at Uttara Badavane in Hassan city. The video clip went viral until the police intervened to term it fake and misleading.

Superintendent of Police R. Srinivasa Gowda clarified that they were only selling the fruits, and the video circulated was misleading. He also warned those who upload and circulate misleading videos to disturb communal harmony of strict action. However, the video had done the damage by then, said another vegetable sellers.

A vegetable seller in Belur, who used to go around the villages in the taluk carrying vegetables, was sent back in many villages without doing business. A majority of them who asked him not to visit his place again had known him over several years. He felt he lost their trust owing to fake stories and baseless accusations made by certain leaders in power and misleading videos and a section of media picking them up.

“Some people respectfully asked me not to visit their village. I had no words to say,” he said. Further, he said a majority of his customers had been Hindus all these years. Now, they “prefer sellers with Bhagwa Dhwaj tied to their vehicles” over people like him.

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