Kashmir witnessed its first Covid-19 positive case on 18th March 2020, when a woman infected with Coronavirus who had returned from Umrah, got escorted through the back door of International Airport Srinagar. Her son-in-law happens to be an IPS Officer in Kashmir, and it was on his recommendation that she made an exit and skipped the usual thermal gun examination at the airport.
Days after, panic spread across the valley, and the entire machinery got on tenterhooks. Students returning from abroad were compulsorily put into quarantine, and whatever limited isolation wards Government had installed in different hospitals were put in use. The hospital authorities had built these wards as per a convention where they expected a possible calamity, but when a deluge of people sought quarantine at once, the authorities got berserk. The wards were filled with students, Umrah pilgrims and people having international travel histories.
Things went smooth for a couple of days until the people coming from abroad started to hoodwink authorities and flee quarantine. Two brothers studying in the same medical college in Bangladesh reached Kashmir differently, one was complacent enough to travel as per norms and landed in quarantine, the other was too nimble to skip it by travelling through road. It was only when his neighbour informed authorities that he was taken to quarantine.
In yet another incident and on a top-notch recommendation, a lady travelling from the US escaped medical facilities at the airport and reached home. There are so many examples of irresponsibility, carelessness and dodge the authority attempts demonstrated by people commuting to Kashmir, the district magistrate Srinagar went on to tweet, that if he releases exact data of such misadventures, nobody will sleep in Kashmir. All this was defined by an image that surfaced internet where a doctor on his placard wrote ‘Kashmiris won’t die of Corona but of Ignorance’.
Trust me if I share a summary of daily events NONE in Kashmir will sleep. Let's keep our egos aside, work collectively and instead of raising panic and alarm help eachother to improve. This 3rd World War. Nothing less. If it passes we will have a Lifetime for all that. Good day
— Shahid Choudhary (@listenshahid) March 22, 2020
The internet lockdown that was put into place on 5th of August by Indian authorities persists, 4G services are yet to be restored which adds to the travesty. Doctors are not able to access research papers on intensive care management, and people are not able to take note of different precautions that Google/Youtube might have on store for them. Things in Kashmir are different than any other part of the world; people living here have witnessed curfews and lockdowns since ages and have survived.
The resilience conflict has imparted to us is our biggest asset to combat this medical emergency; we have the edge over all other people and all other places who are new to curfews and lockdowns. The Mullahs and religious clerics need to internalise the gravity of the situation and shut down all the congregational gatherings, at a time when the circumambulation of Kaaba is at a halt, closing a mosque in Kashmir would not be a heresy.
At some places in Kashmir, people are collecting money and rice to prepare a ‘Bandaar’: a typical response of repentance from certain sections of our society when a natural calamity strikes, I believe it is no less than inviting to our doorsteps. People need to understand that the contagiousness of the virus and our response to it are just one step away. In a family of five members, if four take utmost precaution and one slack, the entire family is threatened.
We have in our hearts ages of agony against the Indian state and rightly so, but at this moment of international emergency, no messiah from heavens will descend and pull us out of this travesty. Our health care system will succumb to the monumental casualties that this virus has in store for humanity, our grievances with the state are genuine, but for a while, let’s stall them and avail whatever India has to offer at this critical juncture.
The virus is as lethal to India as it is to us. We can play our part to enable authorities to play theirs. A pandemic of this sort is not an unprecedented one, humanity has survived many catastrophes both natural and man-made, but in all its clashes with them, it’s not the catastrophe that has defined our destiny, but our response to it.