COVID-19 is showing us the mirror

The decision taken by an Ahmedabad-based hospital to create separate wards for Hindu and Muslim patients is only a reflection of the communalisation of our society

Representative image (Photo courtesy- social media)
Representative image (Photo courtesy- social media)

Dr Vikas Bajpai

My nani (maternal grandmother) had a favorite catchphrase in Awadhi (the dialect she spoke) – ‘Bhagwan tum jau na dikhao wahai ganimat aye’ (Oh God! The only respite is the evil you have not shown us yet). But then she would use this expression to give vent to the big and small, day to day frustrations of life, including the mischiefs we indulged in whenever we visited her at her village in Biswan tehsil of District Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh, during our vacations.

May peace be upon her, but thankfully, my Nani departed for her heavenly abode much in time. I really wonder, were she to be still alive, just how much she would have cursed God for showing her what we all are seeing today, or shall I say, what we have been seeing for past quite some time now.

Not just to bolster my credentials, but genuinely speaking, I take a lot of pride, as a believer in revolutionary ideology, in my willingness to take on any challenge from the perspective of toiling humanity; however, to be truthful, I must admit that the shenanigans of Sangh Pariwar have always kept ahead of people like me by several paces.

Even as we are kept busy combating the last challenge they threw at us, they move ahead to another level of escalation in their poisonous agenda. While I do not intend to dwell upon all the reasons for this folly over here, but one thing is clear, that people like us simply fail to fathom the extent to which evil flows in the veins of their body politic.

While we may take recluse behind our own pure heartedness to explain this failure of ours, but the reality is that we are somehow prone to believe that they will call an end to it once their objective of capturing power is served; that somehow good sense shall prevail upon them or that the system will exercise its power to bear upon them. To put it mildly, such a pursuit is a mirage; and to put it truthfully, albeit harshly, all our good intensions are intended for safeguarding our interests within this system, as opposed to entailing the risk of building a new system wherein even our privileges might get challenged.

Nevertheless, let’s come to the issue at hand, which is that even as we are still struggling with the fall out of the communalisation of COVID-19 outbreak at the Tabhlighi Jamaat gathering at Nizamudding, today’s front page newspaper headlines announced another shocker – ‘Hospital in Ahmedabad splits COVID Wards on Faith, Says Govt. Decision’ (Indian Express, 15 April). At least for this author, it is not even possible to say – ‘I am shocked’ for what this act signifies is simply not captured by this expression.

The report stated – “While the Medical Superintendent Dr Gunvant H Rathod said a ward for Hindu patients and another for Muslim patients had been created as per a state government decision. Deputy Chief Minister and Health Minister, Nitin Patel denied any knowledge of it.” Though the Minister is said to have promised, “to enquire about it.”

As per another staff member of the hospital, this measure was taken for “the comfort of both communities.”

I do not know how to describe this act and the people who did this. The minister could have conducted his enquiry, i.e. provided it actually happened without his knowledge, but he should have first ordered this separation to be reversed forthwith, and promised to take strict disciplinary action against whosoever was found guilty. But let us rest assured, nothing of the sort will happen; like always, they are once again testing the waters, and the results will decide what is to come next.

Meanwhile, in the garb of ‘comfort of both communities’, a clear message has been sent, or shall we say ‘reiterated’, that the Hindus and the Muslims are not the same even in matters of health care. The message has also gone to the management, doctors and other staff of the said hospital, and many others. And let this be stated forthrightly – this has consequences in terms of patients’ wellbeing. So, shall we expect next that Hindu doctors will treat Hindu patients and Muslim doctors will treat Muslim patients; all for the comfort of both communities?

At a time when we need every section of the society, every single being to stand united as a mighty barrier against transmission of the virus and to ensure that those afflicted recover safely, such driving on the thin edge of the wedge to tear apart our social fabric is a thing we needn’t think of asking even in our dreams.

Let’s hope we learn from the aphorism that, while the virus does not discriminate between its victims on the basis of caste, class, gender, region or religion, but we as humans do. COVID-19 is only showing us the mirror.

Dr Vikas Bajpai is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own

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Published: 15 Apr 2020, 6:13 PM