May 30, 2020 – On March 23, two days before the nationwide lockdown was imposed in India, Deepak Bandele, was going to the hospital for treatment when he was stopped by on-duty patrolling policemen. Bandele tried to explain that he has a history of high blood-pressure and diabetes and was required to visit the hospital for regular treatment, but police officials thrashed him ruthlessly without listening to what he had to say.
Two months after the incident, neither has he been given access to the CCTV footage nor has his police complaint been acknowledged. Instead, Bandele says he is constantly being pressured to withdraw the complaint.
Following the brutal attack, two police officials who contacted Bandele’s residence in order to record his statement revealed the “real reason” he was thrashed. Bandele has since shared call recordings in which police officials can be heard saying:
“All those people are ashamed that they did something like this to a Hindu brother without knowing his identity.
“We do not have any enmity against you. Whenever there is a Hindu-Muslim riot, police always supports the Hindus; even Muslims know this. But whatever happened with you was because of ignorance. For that, I have no words,” he said.
When Bandele clarified about no riots taking place that day, the police officials replied, “Yes, exactly. You had a long beard. The man (who assaulted you) is a staunch Hindu… In Hindu-Muslim riots whenever a Muslim is arrested, he beats them up brutally, always.”
Islamophobia in India has exploded ever since the enactment of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019, introduced by the ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, paving the way for such shameful incidents where individuals are attacked just for sporting a beard, a feature that is mostly characteristic of Muslims.