Coronavirus: The pandemic under erasure
By: Javeed Ahmad Raina
Novel coronavirus pandemic, a communicable disease of complex nature, apart from the large-scale devastation it has brought about, also provides us an occasion to ponder upon pre-existing maladies of the contemporary capitalist world – be it the racial stereotyping in the West, or the ramping up religious prejudice in the East.
The first case corresponds to the multi-facet racial discrimination prevalent in the West, due to which Black African’s (Afro-Americans) are dying disproportionately by COVID-19. The other consequences of this contagion are more serious and relate to the divisive politics that India and Pakistan often engage in, to suppress the voices of their respective religious minorities. The denial of food to Hindus and Christians in Pakistan’s Karachi province by an NGO, amidst the corona calamity was not only a reprehensible act, but also a gruesome violation of human dignity.
Similarly, in our part of the globe, all is not well; the state surveillance to control the spread of virus is significantly shaded by the over-shadows of authority and subjugation, rather than sincerity and fairness. The coercive practice of repressive state machinery against the Tableeghi Jamaat, castigating entire Muslim community as hosts, germs and vectors of the new virus was in question well cultured malware of falsehood to defame a particular community. These organized acts of hatred and violence against religious minorities not only push them to the margins of subsistence, but also caste a chill in the saner voices. The false and fabricated narratives are circulated through social or mass media with a sole motive to divide the country on religious lines and create a vicious atmosphere of fear, resentment and religious hatred.
According to Karl Marx, political power becomes precarious as soon as economic power passes to a politically subject group. These political subject groups come down with iron fist to suppress voices from the margins. In these pandemic times, Marx’s ideas remind us how powerful nations, possessing substantial weapons of war are unable to provide basic security and sustenance to the poor and working class communities like daily wagers, vendors and small shopkeepers.
Those possessing the least sense of recent events could at once perceive the depth of inaction and apathy towards the plight of migrant workers stuck in different parts of the country. They have been either left to starve in small congested spaces or condemned to die in the unknown terrains from hunger and neglect, while the political regimes remain insolent about their existing pathetic condition.
In a similar fashion, the authoritarian sketches of deep Indian state are quite evident in the conflict riddled region of Kashmir. The scares and wounds of post-August-19 are yet to heal, but novel themes are written under duress. It has been since past eight frightful months, the free speech has been caged in the corner of a further room. The recent seditious charges against the Valley-based journalists speak volumes about the discriminatory enforcement of laws.
Again, in a similar fashion, 4G Internet has long been quarantined either for getting infected from the shocking stories of oppression or for some deliberate vengeance on the people. Not only this, the state is controlled by what Plato calls “omnipresent policeman’s club”, an ever vigilant watchdog to dismantle any kind of saner discourse that might emerge from the backward recesses of the people.
These repressive strategies are incarnated at both ideological as well as epistemic level to produce a class of people, conditioned to represent the ideas of the system, by imposing set of rules, beliefs and discourses otherwise unacceptable to the people. The tone and tenor of these debates seem more pungent than the virus itself, the ammunition of words more lethal and deadly than the corona calamity.
Hence, unlike the god’s of war, wreaking a prolonged “illness upon us,” backed by naked threats, the virus didn’t yet show any selective signs of communal prejudice, nor did it discriminate people on the basis of class and race. The dorsal dead creature moved freely in the mighty world and then passed the wealth of nations into poverty, organizations into disintegration, the power and pride into decadence and apathy. It made the promising cities fade back into the undistinguished hinterland and the busy roads into despair.
Thus, the novel virus assumes significant symbolic significance. It becomes a purveyor of the East and West; a reporter of yesterday; an eye witness of “garrison governance,” the mouthpiece of surveillance, of enmesh and coercive control in conflict riddled contemporary Kashmir, where normalcy alludes to a “catchall phrase,” a misnomer, an interpreter of infinite maladies. At the same time, the novel virus becomes a potential textbook, an open book of counter-canonical narratives, a vehicle of conveyance and convergence, and an aporia of asymmetrical issues.
It brings numerous viral and envious syndromes under erasure and decodes various codes of contemporary politics. It also questions the quibbles of powerful countries and tests the caliber of world organizations. Above all, the pandemic mirrors the might of nations, echoes the emergence of future commonwealth and exposes the darker holes of contemporary politics. The virus thus, compels us to scrutinize the existing political systems and communicates us how to govern imperfect states with perfect policies, while necessitating the need for change, from arsenals of destruction to the amenities of essential use. In future, it may serve as a souvenir to awaken politicians and guide them how to govern nations by rule of law and legislation, rather than by mere rhetoric.
- The writer is a school teacher and can be mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org