At a time when the cases of COVID-19 are increasing in the country, a bulletin by Kannada news channel Public TV said that four people, who returned from Dubai, refused to get tested for coronavirus in Karnataka’s Bhatkal because they claimed that in their religion there is no scope to get tested for the novel virus.
The anchor goes on to mention that the four people are Muslims. In the bulletin, one can also hear a local saying, “They came from abroad. The health officials wanted to test them but they yelled.”
Right-wing website Opindia, too, published a story, based on inputs from the Public TV bulletin.
Founder of PostCard News, Mahesh Vikram Hegde, who has been caught peddling disinformation on various occasions, also tweeted about the incident.
LOCALS, POLICE DENY COMMUNAL CLAIMS
We searched on Google using keywords ‘Bhatkal coronavirus’ and found a YouTube video uploaded by Sahil Online TV on 14 March, which was a press meet held by the assistant commissioner of police. The officials mentioned that no positive coronavirus case has been tested yet in Bhatkal.
The press meet also stated that people coming from abroad are being regularly monitored and checked for any symptoms of the virus.
Harish Kumar K, deputy commissioner of Uttara Kannada, told The Quint that neither him nor his officials have conveyed any such information as being claimed by Public TV and Opindia.
“The bulletin ran only on the basis of a localite’s quote. I am the competent authority with whom this information should have been verified first. But, they didn’t ask me. Nor have my officials given any such information. Everybody is working in cooperation. People in Bhatkal live with communal harmony. Do you think at the time of crisis, when the situation is about life and death, people will think which religion they belong to and the get themselves tested?”
Speaking to The Quint, KC Gautam, DSP Bhatkal, said that nobody has refused to get themselves tested in Bhatkal, and definitely not on the basis of any religion.
“People come from Dubai to Mangalore first since Mangalore has an airport and then to Bhatkal. Nobody has refused to get themselves tested. We are regularly checking people who are coming from abroad if they show symptoms of coronavirus. There is no communal angle to this,” Gautam said.
DSP Bhatkal is not the only one denying the claims being made by Opindia. A local businessman, Syed Anees, who recently returned from Dubai said that everybody is undergoing the test for the novel virus.
“A group of 12 Muslims returned from Dubai to Bhatkal. All of us underwent the test for coronavirus and were tested negative. It’s just a WhatsApp rumour that started but there is no truth to the claim and definitely no communal angle to this.”
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