When the entire world is fighting a common enemy, everyone expects that other externalities must be kept aside and global solidarity emphasised on. However, ones expectations fail as one lives in a fascist regime. The current situation says a lot about how a fascist State acts. It feeds on every circumstance, which is evident—as the State is not failing to appropriate its agenda even in this crisis.
The process of marginalisation continues in full pace, which is ultimately serving the greater goal of the regime’s ‘dream project’. The state of the economy, already in pieces, is now facing the wrath of the corona pandemic. The social degradation seems to be at full pace without any interruption.
However, the political unrest owing to the policies of the State, such as the CAA-NPR-NRC movement, has lost its momentum. Yet, the momentum of hate has been omnipresent for the last six years and has only upgraded to a higher level with the anti-CAA protests, which served to widen the already-propagandist divide between Hindus and Muslims.
Amidst the crisis of the global outbreak of the disease, the government has not failed to capitalise on the situation. The new normal aimed for 24×7 surveillance on its citizens. However, some may argue that this surveillance is the need of the hour, but it may put the life of citizens under serious threat if its permanency is established.
The concern is not about the present, but the aftermath of this epoch. This is because the policies that have been adopted now have provided the opportunity to control the citizens in the future. With frequent and arbitrary lockdowns being enforced by the State, it is already in the process of becoming the new normal.
In this epoch of crisis, almost every State has tried to tackle it with some kind of measures, like lockdown and social-distancing, but with some sort of prior planning. Unlike some European States, the lockdown in India has been highly unplanned, arbitrary and an unprecedented display of abuse of power.
One must keep in consideration the fact that the Indian population is neither homogeneous, nor a simple horizontal heterogeneity, but vertically heterogeneous with multiple hierarchies, which only deepens the brunt of the crisis.
Struggling with the ongoing economic crisis, the unplanned lockdown will surely push the economy off the cliff. The pain of this crisis would be faced by non-agricultural labourers viz. migrant workers, vendors constituting people from socially-stigmatised groups. This reveals the nature of the crisis, essentially determined by the intersectionality of caste, class, religion and gender.
In India, every crisis is multifaceted; it has not one dimension, but multiple. Taking the instance of ‘social distancing’, which has become a popular worldwide measure to deal with the crisis. When a State calls for social distancing, it must be assured that social distancing doesn’t get converted into social stigmatisation.
In a social set up like India, the mentioned categories of intersections are always vulnerable to this stigmatisation. The socially oppressed castes, including Dalits, considered ‘impure’ by many communities even today, have been socially distanced and are now facing stigmatisation in the name of the State’s call for social distancing. And this call, by and large, serves the goal of promoting the ‘greater idea’ of the regime.
Again, there are low-income daily wage earners who are mostly in informal sectors viz. vegetable vendors and other labourers who have to sustain themselves. The mere package of a sum of ‘n’ rupees and food grains cannot fulfill all of their essential material needs. They have been seen as diseased objects due to their exposure to the open environment.
This is adding to the prejudice against them of being impure, or carrier of diseases or germs. Already situated under the burden of caste and class, women and people from the trans community have been tormented during the pandemic under their various performative notions.
Besides all these, religion plays an important role in differentiating sacred from profane groups. The already-inculcated Islamophobia is evident, seeking expression in the recent incidence of a few cases of COVID-19 in Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi. The incident has actually fed the greater agenda of the State.
Media platforms that took up this issue, trying to portray religion as the cause behind the outbreak, have only added more fuel to this agenda. This serves the ‘dream project’ of the regime to perhaps disease-ify religious minorities? Due to this, more communal hatred has accumulated, and has further added to the stigmatisation rather than social distancing.
The term ‘social distancing’ itself is problematic, serving discrimination and othering in disguise. The term for the situation must be ‘physical distancing’ rather than social distancing, as the latter’s literal connotation is problematic and contributes to terrifying marginalised groups. The situation does not need to be tackled by terrifying the citizens with surveillance and stigmatisation, but rather by empowering them.
However, scepticism strikes, call it social distancing or physical distancing. Whatever may be the terminology, it will ultimately manifest socially. With a whole lot of deep-rooted problems in the structure of the Indian social setup and the self-serving agenda of fulfilling the ‘dream project’ of the regime, every crisis is more than a mere event.
It is a grand epoch with complex characteristics which cannot be solved by banging thalis or lighting diyas, but with well-thought-out and inclusive plans, which seem rather unachievable under this exclusionary regime.