What will kill us faster - coronavirus or starvation, state negligence and discrimination?

The callous attitude of state meted out to the people in quarantine centres and especially Muslims during Ramzan makes one wonder- what will kill us soon and more-coronavirus or negligence of govt

What will kill us faster - coronavirus or starvation, state negligence and discrimination?

Humra Quraishi

Those photographs of one of the quarantine centres/camps in Agra are appalling . Each one of those several shots seem plucked right out of the dark ages; its inmates herded like cattle behind huge locked grilled iron gates, with a caretaker throwing about biscuit packets and bottles of water towards those gates and the inmates pushing their hands through those grills, trying to grab any of those ‘mercies …charities’ thrown at them…

So horrifying are those shots that one can’t help but switch off the idiot box, crying aloud that our fellow human beings cannot be treated in this barbaric way! But the reality is, this is exactly the way the State is treating its people! It compels one to wonder what will kill us first and more—Coronavirus or sheer hunger, thirst with the ill treatment meted out to hundreds stuffed in the so called quarantine centres and camps!

In fact, the quarantine centres in the capital city of Delhi, have been in controversy for the last over two weeks, ever since two inmates actually died in there. No, not because of the Coronavirus but because of lack of food and medicines and also because of the utter callousness prevailing in there. In fact, I was more than shocked to know that the two victims lodged in the quarantine centre at Sultanpuri were diabetic yet they were not given adequate medical attention and medicines.

To compound the situation there was lack of food provided to him coupled with the ‘wrong’ food —bananas and bread slices! Absolutely poison food for a diabetic! And to add to that even when the victims’ well-wishers and family tried send fruit, dry fruits and bottled water to them, those items were not allowed in by the policemen stationed at the gates. So the two men died not because of the virus but because the State callousness or whatever apt word can be used to describe the pathetic inhuman situation.

Chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, misses no opportunity in telling the masses about his diabetes and his blood sugar levels. Yes, he talks about his diabetic condition in all possible interviews and speeches and conversations and dialogue-sessions, yet his government doesn’t seem to give a damn about the diet and medical requirements of the diabetic patients… Why this utter callousness? Why this third class treatment meted out to our fellow citizens? Why no apology rendered to the families of these victims not hit by any of the viruses but yes definitely by the State? Why is this term Tablighi played up so much with all possible negatives hovering around it?

it’s a religious group and its members who had come to attend the meet in Nizamuddin were left completely stranded because of the all too sudden announcement of this lockdown and that’s about all to it, but the godi media and also the government machinery tried to draw communal mileage even here.! So much so that these Tablighi men, who were themselves victims, were not treated with the required basic dignity and respect which every citizen of this country is entitled to.

Two other connected factors stand out. In several of these quarantine camps/centres the inmates linked to the Tablghi incident are being to made to stay beyond the required 14 days! To quote Delhi Minorities Commission’s chairman Zafarul Islam Khan and member Kartar Singh Kochhar from the press release released on the week-end, “Delhi Minorities Commission has written to Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain saying that the people brought to quarantine camps from Tabligh Markaz in Hazrat Nizamuddin will be completing 28 days tomorrow, Monday,

27 April 2020, which is twice the mandatory period for COVID-19 suspects’ quarantine as per US and WHO guidelines. This means that these people are being unnecessarily kept in detention when 14 days is the longest period for the appearance of Coronavirus symptoms in an infected person. People in other quarantine centres have been allowed to go home after 14 days if they tested negative.”

The other aspect is that even in this month of fasting, Ramzan, the Muslim inmates of the Delhi based quarantine centres/ camps, who are fasting have not been given the adequate food requirements for the opening of the fast/ Iftar or for the pre-dawn intake/sehri.. This holds out in the centres in Sultanpuri, Wazirabad, Narela and Dwarka … To quote – “Delhi Minorities Commission came to know that the situation in the quarantine camp at the Police Training School at Wazirabad is even worse.

This camp is supervised by District Magistrate North who seemingly is oblivious of the conditions of the inmates in this camp where fans and even mugs and buckets are not provided and inmates are not allowed to buy anything from outside…Saturday was the first day of the fasting month of Ramzan but the inmates at Wazirabad kept fast on empty stomachs because pre-dawn food was not supplied. Then for breaking their fast at sunset yesterday, they were provided each with just two bananas and three dates while again no predawn meal was provided….This is here that Jamiat Ulama stepped in and provided them predawn food, which is a matter of shame for theadministrators of the camp.”

Muslim community sits upset and also very apprehensive!

I can say for sure that the Muslim community in the country sits upset and also very apprehensive at these constant build-ups. The entire Tablighi Markaz incident was grabbed and used to demonise the community to such an extent that even those Tablighi men observing roza are not getting spared by the State apparatus. First, all sort of utter lies and poisonous propaganda was unleashed against them and now even when they are observing this month long fasts, they are not even getting adequate food! I would call this nothing short of State tyranny. …Its very tough to fast and then to top it all, there is lack of food and even tea and bottled water in the quarantine centres. And to further compound the situation the police wallah will not allow food to reach you even if it’s sent by family and friends and well -wishers!

Never before in the recent history of the country, the Indian Muslims have faced zulm of this nature and magnitude from the political rulers and the State machinery. Never ever before this level of discriminations and propaganda and lies and anarchy was unleashed against the largest minority community in the country!

When I was reporting from the Kashmir Valley, my Kashmiri friends would tell me that one has to be a Kashmiri residing in the Kashmir Valley to grasp the sheer trauma an average Kashmiri goes through, day after day. Well today, as an Indian Muslim, I say words along the similar strain to all those who do not seem to comprehend the sheer trauma a Muslim is facing in today’s India. I tell them to read the facts about the disparities and discriminations a Muslim faces today on any given front — housing, education, jobs cum placements, healthcare, governmental schemes. Perhaps, then they would realise the disadvantages and challenges a Muslim faces. ..

I also tell them to go about in a disguise of sorts — he in a shervani and skull cap and she in a burqa and hijab together with a Muslim name and surname, an address of a Muslim dominated mohalla or ghetto. And then wait and watch and see what they get to experience… In fact, my Kashmiri friends tell me that the Kashmir Valley address and a Muslim name and fine-featured face is enough for the cops to get ‘suspicious’ and then hound, more so if you are a man with a beard and a skull cap… The situation has turned so very alarming in recent months that several Muslims were stopped on the roadside by the local goons and yelled at —‘Out …get lost! Go to Pakistan…Get lost!’ All this under the watchful gaze of the cops!

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own

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