The pandemic times were arduous not only for India but for the whole of humanity, lives were constantly at risk due to the outbreak of deadly novel Coronavirus which has claimed over 2.4 million deaths worldwide so far. In India, the first case of coronavirus was reported on 30 January 2020. Its epicentre was initially Wuhan, China from which it spread rapidly to other parts of the globe.
The outbreak was declared an epidemic in more than a dozen states and Union Territories, where provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 had been invoked and all educational institutions and many commercial establishments were shut down.
As the majority of cases were linked to foreign countries, in this view, India had suspended all tourist visas and on 24 March. Prime Minister of India imposed a nationwide lockdown and to maintain social distancing in order to curb the fast-spreading cases of Covid-19. But India saw a sudden jump in cases of discrimination and harassment either in the name of racism or religious discrimination.
Racism is deeply rooted in Indian society, everyday news channels and social media platforms are flooded with racial abuse and bullying. Most vulnerable to these incidents are Muslims in India albeit the Constitution of India under Article 14 guarantees its citizens protection from any kind of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. 2019-20 saw a tremendous rise in cases of Muslim lynching, Dalit suicides, rape, harassment etc.
In these trying times of pandemic, discrimination happens to be a new normal in India. Instead of strengthening the human bond, people around are busy setting the new demarcations of discriminatory India which ultimately adds up deteriorating the international image of the nation. It seems that pandemic has become an instrument of targeting minorities in India.
India being the diverse nation in terms of culture, language, dialect, region brotherhood and cooperation has always been the essence of India. From the last 40 days of public curfew, India has witnessed numerous cases of discrimination. People from the north-eastern part of the country living in Bengaluru say that discrimination has only increased since the spread of the virus. Racism against northeasterners has always prevailed in India.
On 24 April, a 25-year-old woman from Manipur was spat paan on by a 40-year-old man when she stepped out to buy groceries with her friend in the Delhi University area. The man, who was riding a scooter, called her ‘corona’. This incident took place in nation capital Delhi. This is not the only incident against northeasterners, there are numerous incidents of harassment against them like a similar type of incident took place in Pune, where a young woman from Manipur was teased by men at a mall, who told her “coronavirus aa gaya” which means “here comes coronavirus”.
I have myself been a witness to such an incident when back in 2018 at Delhi International Airport while going through security check-in queue, there was this young girl from north-east part who was been continuously abused by men there. Even pregnant women are not spared. Recently in Jharkhand, a pregnant woman was accused of spreading coronavirus and was reportedly made to clean up her blood by a hospital which eventually led to the loss of her unborn child.
A few days ago, a Muslim vendor in Delhi was abused and thrashed while selling vegetables. The video of the same went viral on social media. There are many videos surfacing on social media where Muslims were brutally attacked and made to sing Jai Shri Ram and later told to go back to Pakistan. After India’s Health Ministry repeatedly blamed Islamic seminary Tablighi Jamaat for spreading the coronavirus as people who attended the seminary came from Malaysia and other countries, a spree of anti-Muslim attacks has been broken out across the nation.
Just look at this friends …
Is it not true that #TabligiJamaat is a super spreader??
Is it wrong to speak the truth so that right contact tracing leads to containment of COVID
And who’s attacking India’s Muslims?
Tablighi’S rather are spitting,stone pelting etc!! https://t.co/5Yc1elcQ9Q
— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) April 13, 2020
Muslims have been beaten up, nearly lynched, attacked in mosques, and branded as virus spreaders and so on. New words like ‘Corona Jihad’ were associated with the Muslim population. A wave of violence always engulfs its special targets; Muslims. Those who participated in the seminary and tested positive for coronavirus later after recovering donated their plasma. It can be seen as an example of kindness and graciousness and people who fan this hatred are always at receiving end. Muslim minority in India fear for their life as Muslims have long faced marginalization in almost every aspect of life.
Lately, more or less, it is being realized that Muslims in India have become scapegoats for the spread of coronavirus. People have long back turned their backs to morality and universal brotherhood. A person belonging to another caste, race, religion, or community is seen as an enemy by a person belonging to the majority population. In this way, the fight against pandemic is making things complicated as a whole.
We have made such structures where we no longer pay heed to such incidents, we often are tone-deaf when we hear about such incidents unless and until we are not the victims.
In all the above incidents, there has been no collective outrage on our part in being the citizens of the world’s largest democracy. Somehow if there is any outrage, even if confined to our social media handles, the outrage is selective.
The world is at its lowest of lows in terms of humanity. Day by day, we as humans live a life of shame, our conscience is dead, and our behaviour towards fellow beings is no less than inhumane. The cruelty and misery which is rampant in the world is our own creation. We have not only destroyed the ecosystem but we have also terribly failed as human civilization.
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” -Arundhati Roy