Niloofar Qureshi

Responsibilities during Covid-19 lockdown

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Given that there’s no vaccination against Covid-19, the only way of stopping this human-borne dangerous pandemic from spreading is to insulate the people from coming in contact with those infected by this virus. Thus, the government decision to extend the lockdown upto May 03 was more or less expected. The lack of opposition to this move shows that the people have also realised that even though they would be inconvenienced for another two weeks, the decision was in the public’s best interest.

While this positive thinking and response is appreciated, the tendency of some to break rules is very unfortunate as it undoes the very aim of the lockdown. Just yesterday, there was a news item in newspapers about the arrest of 11 locals in Ramban area of Udhampur district for having violated lockdown orders by trying to illegally enter Kashmir Valley by hiding in a truck.

The eagerness of those who have been separated from their families because of lockdown to get back home is understandable, but trying to avoid quarantine while doing so is wrong as it puts their own family members to risk of contracting Covid-19 infection. This is the time when we need to stop being so selfish that we don’t care to even think that some of our acts may end up endangering our own people.

While the Health Department, doctors and medical staff are doing their best, there are many things that we can also do to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and the foremost is to dispel the ignorance that surrounds this dangerous disease. In every locality there would be people who aren’t fully aware or convinced of how dangerous and infectious coronavirus is. These are the ones who consider the lockdown to be something unnecessary, or even some sort of conspiracy.

A news item in ‘Dawn’ has an inspiring account of Lady Health Workers (LHW) of Swat, in Pakistan, who are doing a very good job in educating locals and monitoring Covid-19 symptoms. If the people of Swat can ensure that no suspected case of Covid-19 goes undetected, we too can ensure the same!

The need to educate people about the serious consequences of coronavirus infection is extremely important because the public is being exposed to the double threat of superstitions and fake news through social media. Some mischievous elements are unnecessarily creating panic by exploiting the public’s lack of awareness as well as misleading the ignorant masses with false claims of this global pandemic being a conspiracy to suppress Kashmiris.

Covid-19 hasn’t spared any country and with more than 1,50,000 deaths worldwide due to this infection, this is not the time for anyone to play pranks, politics or provoke people by appealing to their religious sentiments. Instead, we need to unite and help each other by strictly following the lockdown and spreading awareness.

Speaking to the media, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) for Srinagar, Haseeb Mughal noted with great dismay that “even on the eve of Shab-e-Baraat on Thursday night, we were forced to register four FIRs as some people insisted to hold night-long prayers in mosques.” He then made a very relevant point: “People must understand that it’s not a militancy issue or a law and order problem. We are fighting an invisible enemy in the form of Covid-19.” And this is something that the Hurriyat, militant groups and ‘Ulema’ should accept with grace – simply because what the SSP is speaking makes sense, and that it’s something that affects all Kashmiris.

Since humans are the prime carriers of coronavirus, there is a need for the militant groups, Hurriyat and religious heads to ensure that they don’t directly or indirectly encourage activities where crowds gather, because a large number of individuals coming in close proximity with each other can result in large -cale infection amongst our own people.

There’s an urgent need for the militant groups to consider  a temporary ceasefire so that their cadres don’t have to keep changing hideouts – move from one village or one house to another — which increases the chances of them infecting those who provide them shelter, or alternatively, getting infected themselves by staying in a house whose occupants may be suffering from Covid-19.The point is that at a time when the people are already under extreme tension due to the fear of catching the coronavirus, giving shelter to militants who may be infected becomes another source of worry for them. Moreover, today Covid-19 is a bigger ‘enemy’ than the security forces and thus, it’s time for the militants to not harm their own people by unknowingly becoming carriers of this deadly virus.

Similarly, the Hurriyat needs to temporarily announce a ban on people gathering at encounter sites and during the funerals of deceased militants as such large gatherings increase chances of corona virus spreading amongst the people. Recently, there was a huge gathering at the funeral of a Jaish-e-Mohammad militant in the Sopore area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district. And just yesterday, when the army was engaged with an encounter with militants in Dairoo area of Shopian district in south Kashmir, a crowd gathered at the encounter site. In both these cases, it was our own people who were exposed to coronavirus infection. If anyone contracts disease in such situations, it is they – the common people – who will be responsible for it. Why are our leaders putting the lives of the people of Kashmir at risk?

A word to the Ulema. The people revere you and follow your instructions without questioning you. You too have a moral responsibility in ensuring their wellness. At a time when noted Islamic scholars across the globe are advising the people to avoid congregating and even explained that under the existing circumstances, offering prayers at home is as good as doing so in a mosque, why are you all silent about the gatherings here which could be easily avoided?

These are difficult times and since the people are distraught due to fear and loss of income, showing them the Islamic way to bravely face these challenges is the need of the hour. At a time when everything seems to be going wrong, your words of reassurance will mean a lot to public and help it in fighting the seemingly unending and ruthless coronavirus pandemic!

(Niloofer-qureshi@yahoo.com)

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