Round Table India
You Are Reading
COVID-19 and a more dangerous virus
0
salman farissi 2020

Salman Farissi

salman farissi 2020COVID-19 hit India in March 2020. Nationwide lockdown prohibited all forms of political or religious congregations. Protesters on the streets of India against CAA, NRC, and NPR retreated as responsible human beings but the deep state and the Indian state (RSS-BJP) seem to have been searching for their prey hiding in the lurches. On April 15th an event that happened in Delhi caught the spotlight. It had turned out to be a COVID-19 hotspot as it was an international event. The event was organized by Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic organization. The following days saw the deep state and its media actors springing into action calling it an act of ‘Jihad’ upon India by Muslims. A new word was added to the Islamophobic narrative of the country -‘Corona Jihad’. As they were busy establishing Muslims as ‘viruses’ working to destroy India, the Northern and North Central Part of India started stigmatizing Muslims making their livelihood hard there.

The situation was quite different in South India. They took a strong exception to this and firmly upheld the secular character by publicly supporting Muslims against the deep state’s communalistic propaganda machinery.

Tabligh was irresponsible for which they publicly apologized as was the Delhi’s authorities in allowing the congregation when COVID-19 was making headlines during the initial days of March. The Central government too, in permitting international travelers without checkup during such a time but the Indian mainstream media (literally bought by RSS-BJP) saw only a Muslim organization and the opportunity to destroy them.

Afterward, when the locust attack took place in the farmlands of North Central India, the Indian mainstream media termed it as biological warfare upon India by Pakistan without any scientific basis. The Northerners fell in line and stigma worsened resulting in a riot-like situation in West Bengal state. The Hindu daily and thewire.in reported Muslims being denied treatment in hospitals of North. However, in South India, there were no such incidents and instead, state language media of South exposed and trolled them on social media for the malicious claims.

On June 4th, Indian mainstream media based in Northern India called a district in Southern Part of India as ‘Communally polarized, cruel and bestial’ with a claim that people there killed a pregnant elephant with a pineapple filled with firecrackers. The district’s name is Malappuram and is one of the very rare Muslim dominated districts of India. The reports from Mainstream media claimed the tweet of former women and child development minister of the country as proof for their claims. The tweet is true.

On the same day, the state language media called out the stupidity in the tweet and reports. The death happened in the neighboring district, not in Malappuram. They explained how the death happened was an accident as the pineapple was kept by local farmers to ward off wild boars to protect their farmland who often destroy the former’s source of livelihood at night.

The stats of the Human Development Index (HDI) show that Malappuram district scores high in HDI than any of North and North Central India. State Chief Minister of Kerala in which Malappuram is situated made strong comments against the source of misinformation and said that such poisonous propaganda won’t work in his state. Reputed intellects and personalities along with politicians of Southern India rallied behind the Chief Minister and Malappuram’s cause. A First Information Report was filed by the State Police Department of the state of Kerala against the tweet and false mainstream media reports.

Homogeneity of any sort other than being humans based on caste, race, sex, gender, or religion is unrealistic considering the amount of diversity that India has. Hence, India has been often called as a sub-continent rather than a country.

Background

COVID-19 has been making waves among the global community becoming one of the major threats of this century. With economic activity reverting to a standstill owing to the most strict lockdown seen by the world, India, already reeling under massive unemployment and stagflation, suffered an unprecedented crisis. Migrant workers within the country scrambled in panic owing to the future of uncertainty. At least 53.8 people are working in the unorganized sector in the Country and about 8 crores of them, migrant workers. The shock of the sudden complete lockdown which lasted for at least 60 days all over the country with a short notice of 24 hours caught them off-guard (thewire.in). For men and women working 12–16 hours a day to feed their children how much ‘guard’ did they have against any form of misgovernance in the first place?

India the world’s largest democracy is a term that exists only in papers. In reality, this salutation became obsolete on November 8th, 2016, when the Prime Minister of the country unanimously implemented the demonetization of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 rupee notes which accounted for 86% of the currency in circulation. At least 100 people died in the aftermath. An event where the Central government poked out its authoritarian head by shunning any form of dissent to the move as ‘Anti-national’ elements who are black money hoarders.

After the Indian state announced a complete lockdown on the 25th of March 2020, the autocrat and his government don’t seem to have time to care for the mere mortals but rather they seem to be busy making the country into a theocratic authoritarian state with majoritarian agenda. After the lockdown, the Indian state ignored the plight of migrant workers and the economic situation where GDP was running in negatives because of the lockdown. They seem to have been busy gently stroking the majoritarian sentiments by making celebrities and ministers to stay at home and endorse watching the Hindu-mythologies of Ramayana and Mahabharatha streaming on the government-run channels in the Television.

The Hindu daily and Thewire.in continuously reported of migrant laborers who came to major metropolitan cities searching for livelihood dying on the streets. They were traveling back to their home villages at least hundreds of kilometers on foot. Presently nearly 300 deaths have been reported due to starvation, exhaustion, suicide, and other causes. The biggest humanitarian crisis in India seemed to have been towards the minorities but now it has expanded to the poor and marginalized after the lockdown.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister masquerading as a spiritual guru seems to be winning the optics for the ruling class. He called out to the Indian citizens for the clapping of utensils as a thanking gesture towards the healthcare workers. This made the sycophants and blind followers of him and his party to come out of their homes on 21st march, flouting the social distancing norms and went on a procession in many of the cities and towns of northern India. A spectacle that was reminiscent of the celebration of the fan base of Narendra Modi. As political pundits and the opposition tried to expose the absurdity of such dramatics, voracious claims of the vibrations from utensils killing the virus started circulating on social media. Platforms named Mat journals and Zenodo published a scientific article which claimed of the scientific wisdom of Narendra Modi in asking citizens to clap utensils as the virus could get killed by the vibrations. Later a complaint was sent against the article of biased and unscientific claims from Southern India to the publishers of the article which prompted the Mat journals to reconsider the article and removed it.

On April 5th, 2020, Modi called out to his followers for another task. This time by switching off lights and lighting candles. As usual claims of the fire of the candle killing the virus started circulating on the internet. The followers of the RSS-BJP came out on the streets flouting the social distancing norms once again and there were cases of houses that got burned due to the event. The power grid failure that the engineers of the country feared off was intelligently prevented by them by manually shutting off power before the event was to take place or was it made according to the dictates of people above them? Anyway, the spectacle that followed again showcased the RSS-BJP’s influence upon the Indian populace and derided the intellects of the country.

A stark contrast

Southern Part of India which consists of five states namely — Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka — when all these dramatics happened in North India trolled them and made fun of their stupidity. Narendra Modi who is revered as even a god in North India (he has a temple in Uttar Pradesh of Northern India to his name) is the most unpopular leader in Southern India (The Hindu-CSDS data). The support that Narendra Modi’s RSS-BJP ever enjoyed in Southern India was in Karnataka whose state throne had been recently won by them by hook-and-crook.

The state of Kerala is ruled by the Communist government while Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana are ruled by regional powers whose leaders capitalize on the legacy of social justice. In Tamilnadu, the name ‘Periyar’ would induce a sense of pride among the people who consider the former as a die-hard maverick of social justice and rationalism. In fact, ‘Thanthai Periyar’ means great father in Tamil, the salutation that Tamil people gave to E.V. Narayanasamy Naicker. His legacy is responsible for the inability of RSS-BJP to conquer Tamilnadu even with all the money and muscle-power the party enjoys. Periyar’s rationalism prompted Tamilnadu’s self-respect movement which gave rise to a high standard of education, healthcare, and social justice not only in the state but in the whole of Southern India. This is contrary to the situation of the North where RSS-BJP thrives on communal polarization and riots.

The state of Kerala has been hailed by the Telegraph along with other countries like New Zealand for their prudent handling of COVID-19. Tamil Nadu is the birthplace of Sundar Pichai, the present CEO of Microsoft and the educational standard of Tamil Nadu is revered to as matching the standards of Scandinavian Countries. The state of Telangana was part of Andhra Pradesh until 2014. United Andhra Pradesh had a rich history of social justice. The five states of South India rank high in Human Development Index. Kerala and Tamil Nadu are at the first and second positions respectively (NITI Aayog, 2019) while the other three comes in Top ten in India.

Theses five states have four different languages whose ancestor is said to be the Tamil language spoken by the people of Tamil Nadu. The regional dialects of North India and the main language Hindi have a different language history that comes from Sanskrit.

A brief history

subcontinent divisionsThe colored part depicts the Aryan language spoken region. The grey part in the south depicts the Dravidian language spoken region.

Historically, Sanskrit is an Aryan language and Tamil is a Dravidian language. Aryans are a race of people who came to India from Eurasia and later dominated the Indian sub-continent. They introduced Vedas and Puranas (Hindu mythology) to the people of India. They introduced a world order in which Brahmins are people associated with the divine (de facto making themselves divine), Kshatriyas, the warrior class, Vaishyas, the merchants, and Shudras, the low-class people based on these texts. The Aryan people named themselves the Brahmins, their relatives as Kshatriyas (the Upper caste), and others among them who did trade as Vaishyas while deeming the original inhabitants of India as Shudras.

Original inhabitants of India were called Nagas who were made into Shudras. This laid down the belief that Shudras are by birth destined to serve Brahmins and Kshatriyas along with Vaishyas. Many Nagas revolted against this world order but got violently suppressed through the military might of Kshatriyas who via Brahmins took hold of the local administration. The repression resulted in nagas getting forcefully accepting the Aryan-Brahminical dominance over them. The victory was made easy and possible by the indoctrination of some of the naga groups by Brahmins through the religious scriptures.

Some of the Nagas whose will was stronger than the might of Kshatriyas and the Indoctrination by Brahmins migrated further towards the South of India where the local nagas welcomed them. As a result, Nagas got concentrated in the South of India and held strong to their traditional religion, culture, and civilization. The Nagas became strong and prepared in Southern India. The Aryan dominated North tried to conquer the South but proved no match for the latter due to the liberty, equality, and fraternity between them. Brahmins started pursuing soft power to conquer the South through indoctrination. And the rest is a history whose narration begets another article.

Nagas of the South became more protective and territorial because of their experiences with the Aryans. They safeguarded their identity and their language which was Tamil. Later, a man named Periyar named this identity as Dravidian and the languages which developed from Tamil as Dravidian languages.

The Indian news platform Scroll.in reported that the DNA studies that were published in the journal Science pointed to two genetic types different from each other among which one belonged to North Indians and the other one belonging to South Indians. Accordingly, The Atlantic and Smithsonian.com pointed out that the North Indian race was different from the South Indian race.

The North Indian DNA (probably from Upper Caste community) was found to be from a group of people called Aryans who migrated from Eurasia while the South Indian gene was found to be related to Dravidians or Nagas, the group of people that lived in the Indian Subcontinent at the time of the Aryan invasion. The same article then points to another finding in the scientific paper that the invasion had a violent character.

The intellect of the government and their followers were fast in repudiating the scientific study and insisted that Aryans were the original inhabitants of India and that there is no Naga or Dravidian race.

Thanthai Periyar was a firm proponent of this theory that the scientific paper discussed here pointed out.

Injustice to dravidians

During the 2018 floods of Kerala which caused an estimated 20,000–30,000 crore financial loss with numerous casualties, they asked for assistance from the RSS-BJP led central government. They were given 500–600 crore for the same (The Hindu daily). The discrimination continued in 2019 when deluge happened in Kerala again. The same was the case when Northern Karnataka faced droughts and Southern Karnataka faced floods in 2018. The Flood and Drought scenario of Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s capital were met with similar disdain by the RSS-BJP led central government. Numerous natural calamities that hit Southern India were met with utter disdain by the central government. The citizens of southern India vented their anger in electronic media and regional newspapers. But were dealt with arrogance and threats from the RSS-BJP led government and their followers, literally, bullying the South Indian voices down.

India follows the unitary system. Its states are obliged to give taxes that it collected from its citizens to the central government who reimburses the tax money according to the financial scenario of different states. For the last 6 years of the RSS-BJP’s rule, from the 100% tax given to the central government by states, not even 30–40% have been given to the Southern states. The only exception to this was Karnataka in which after BJP took over the throne, the central government started increasing the financial assistance. In the same period, the RSS-BJP ruled states of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat got a 200% increase in their financial assistance compared to the tax remittance of the respective states.

Anyone who points out this injustice and calls for just treatment for Dravidians was called ‘Anti-Nationals’. If that person is a Muslim he or she becomes a ‘Terrorist’. However, a movement spearheaded by Thanthai Periyar and C. N. Annadurai (the first Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) called the Dravidian Movement seems to be picking up steam. Its main objective is a separate country for Dravidians.

The philosophical undertone

The caste, religious, race, and gender minorities along with the marginalized of the Indian populace were suffering due to the brahminical hegemony of Northern and North Central India for a long time. During the British Era and even after Independence, it continued. Over the last 6 years, this suffering has taken a new dimension that is unbearable to suffer for anyone who doesn’t bow down to their might. During the lockdown, the RSS-BJP was involved in a witch hunt that targets the protesters of NRC-CAA-NPR nexus of whom the majority are minorities and marginalized of the Indian populace. Releasing real offenders and filling the jails with innocent people (The Wire.in). A retrospective reading through Ambedkar (the father of the Indian constitution) would help people to find his warning to the whole of India before India’s Independence in 1947,

‘Political democracy without social democracy is not meant to last long’

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar belonged to the Shudra community. According to him, social democracy is where liberty, equality, and fraternity exists in its full vigor. In 1947 India achieved political democracy while social democracy was not. Today, as brahminical hegemony is revered as divine in India more than ever before, elements of liberty, equality, and fraternity even in the context of political democracy are dying.

The want of separate countries has been simmering for quite a long time in India. Today, social democracy is finding it hard to breathe. The need to survive has prompted this want into a need.

Kashmir boils at the hands of two states whose deep state feeds on religious fanaticism. Kashmiris dream of a separate nation where their children can freely run and play without fear of the state. A Sikh, a Northeasterner, and a Dravidian dreams of a separate nation where political democracy has social democracy at its core. They should strengthen each other. Achieving it engenders a society free from the brahminical hegemony of Aryans.

COVID-19 is a novel virus whose fatality rate is nearly 7% worldwide. Discrimination based on caste, race, sex, or religion has a more serious suffering history and fatality rate. COVID-19’s vaccine is yet to be discovered. The vaccine or cure for discriminatory prejudices with dogmatic basis are Knowledge-based rationalism and scientific temper. Yet in this post-truth era, dogma seems to be having an upper hand but,

‘Lost rights are not won by appealing to the conscience of the usurpers but by relentless struggle…. Goats are used for sacrificial offerings, not lions’.

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

~~~

Salman Farissi is a Research Scholar working in water chemistry at the Central University of Kerala. He hails from Perinthalmanna, Malappuram, Kerala.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.