Mayhem after sudden announcement of lockdown left poor stranded in their own land

Daily-wagers getting sprayed with disinfectants, walking miles on foot only to be humiliated and thrashed by the cops are some heart breaking images which will haunt us long after the lockdown is over

Photo Courtesy: NH photo
Photo Courtesy: NH photo

Humra Quraishi

What takes place when the rulers of the day turn a medical emergency into a human nightmare! Yes, our masses are getting subjected to the worst forms of abuse. Shots of our migrant workers and daily-wagers getting sprayed with poisonous disinfectants, walking hungry and weary and forlorn, only to be blatantly humiliated and thrashed by the lathi- wielding constables, who seem to be new rulers of the day! In fact, a Jaipur based artisan told me in all earnestness that in today’s India “only two types of people can live like human beings — politicians or police-wallahs!”

The police-wallahs are overtaking all possible roles, controlling the lives of our masses by the brute force. In fact, two very recent images have left me so anguished that its even difficult to even describe adequately — one image is that of a cop sitting and writing with a huge black pen the rules of the lockdown on a young innocent looking boy’s very forehead; in fact, all over his forehead! It seemed worse than those absolutely dark ages! The other image is that of cops ruthlessly thrashing a group of young Muslim boys who had gone to the nearest mosque for namaaz. Instead of explaining or even scolding them for stepping out of their homes, they unleashed lathis and threats...With this sudden announcement of the lockdown lives of several of our countrymen have been endangered. Even before the coronavirus strikes, the brute force unleashed on the masses is sure to demolish them, in one way or the other.

Those oft repeated one-liners that one got to hear in the Kashmir Valley can be heard, in and around the capital city now: “Does this sarkar want this stretch of land with its people or without its people!”

With the masses sitting hungry, thirsty and uncared for, what would remain of our land! Already a strange eerie quiet stretches out. What future holds out, with factories and mills and warehouses shut! How long will the stocks last!

The political rulers of the day have been exposed like never before. To suddenly announce lockdown, without even the basic level of preparedness, is akin to dictating that ‘from this hour no food and water and shelter and no money…do as you please to survive in these corona- ridden times !’

I’m told that even during the time of Partition, relief-camps were functioning with the food and shelter bandobasts. If that level of preparedness could have been seen in 1947, then why not today, in 2020?

What about the funds and money collected by the government in the name of relief work and out-reach schemes? Will it reach out to our people today or the day after when they are gone or fleeing like refugees in their own ancestral land, in their own country? Unfortunately, we have made our own people run about helplessly, like frightened refugees in their own country. The shots of our masses running helter skelter, starved and sprayed upon by poisonous sprays haunt painfully.

To top it all, even at this fragile stage, there are arguments whether the fleeing masses are from this state or from that other state — whether from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar or Madhya Pradesh! They are our people. They belong to this country. They have been working in our factories, mills, construction sites… Rattled and fearing for their children’s survival, this hapless lot decided to walk on and on…unsure about what lies ahead, what the consequences will be.

No, there can never be a full-fledged revolution in this country because we have become too weak and fragile, physically and emotionally. But, yes, voices have started coming up, asking: is this the way to combat a medical emergency? Is this the way to treat your citizens? Is this the way countries like South Korea and Japan have combated this virus? Is this the way to silence your farmers and workers and labourers? Is this the way to rule, rather misrule to such an extent that we, the masses, want azaadi from all possible viruses — corona and fascism?

It would be naïve to even expect any answers except hollow and shallow assurances intermingled in the political speeches of our leaders!

Meanwhile, as I see more images of our people running from here to there, I am reminded of the Rohingyas fleeing here, not too long ago. And the brutal and shabby manner in which we treated them. It’s ironical that though more than half of New Delhi’s population had been refugees at some stage; if not they, their parents or grandparents fleeing from the undivided Punjab during the Partition, yet they have such a brazen attitude towards refugees!

The condition of the Rohingya refugees remains unchanged , surviving like outcastes, in several towns of North India and also in the capital city, New Delhi. We have been mute spectators to the plight of the Rohingya refugees.

In fact, earlier in the day, I received this message from well -known human rights groups and well- respected activists of the country. Putting down one such appeal from an intern with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative:

It’s Pranav this side, I worked as an intern at CHRI...I am writing to you to seek your assistance. 146 Rohingya Refugee ‘families’ living in the ‘jhuggis’ of Kalinidi Kunj are starving!
They do not have enough food supplies, they do not have work owing to COVID-19.
No outside support from civil society or the like. They either live at our love or die at our indifference.

Dark times are making many more restless, unleashing sentiments

New Delhi based poet – writer, Jayshree Misra Tripathi, wrote this poetic verse in the early hours of 28 March 2020. She wrote it in the backdrop of the harsh realities of the day. To quote her, “The images of migrant workers, carrying a few belongings, walking away from the city in throngs, has filled me with such dark despair. Another picture of an inhuman policeman making young boys, with bags on their backs, squat and jump a few paces at a time, to the border, fills me with shame. They naturally want to return home. There are no daily wages for them during the lockdown. No proper homes to live in. So, they walk to the bus terminus. The buses are full, so they walk on. I could not help but wonder what thoughts must be flitting through their troubled minds. How unkind are we in these desperate times - with the imminent fear of death from the COVID 19 virus? And what about those who live by themselves, their angst…?”

Here’s the poem by Jayshree Misra Tripathi titled Disquiet in Isolation:

“Are you scared
of being alone too long
with thoughts that spill over
from the past,
memories drowned,
you do not wish to dredge?
Are you scared
of being alone too long
with whispers from empty corners,
visions that float unbidden,
like dust rising with the breeze,
you cannot yet evade?
Are you scared
of being alone too long
tomorrow, with premonitions,
uncertain of the infrequent shadows
walking beside you, if any,
for they may all be unknown?
Breathe deeply,
Inhale, exhale-
Angst is just another word.”

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own

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