I have been trying to avoid depressing news so I don’t really follow minute by minute updates on the whole Corona situation as a concession to my fluctuating sanity and blood pressure levels. Even so, unless you are committed to isolating yourself in a non – sensory environment which would entail burrowing into a hole in the ground and staying put, it is impossible to miss being bombarded with news items on the idiocy of human beings.
For the past few days, all people can talk about is the Tablighi Jamaat meeting which took place in early march at the Markaz Banglewali mosque in Nizamuddin and has since emerged as a hotspot for the dreaded virus with the dubious distinction of resulting in the cluster spread of Covid – 19 in India. Thousands from all over India and abroad have attended and the authorities are having the roughest time trying to track the movements of all those who were present.
Naturally there has been widespread condemnation of all those who attended this religious gathering but the situation has quickly turned ugly as the news reports continue to pour in documenting the worst hits states, with numbers spiking as many who were present at the Tablighi Jamaat meeting have tested positive. Now there is so much outrage and thinly veined Islamophobia out there, it is appalling. It is sick that no matter how sick the situation is we can always find a way to make it sicker by giving it a communal twist.
The internet is rife with hate – filled hashtags accusing all Muslims of bio – terrorism and what not. Those protesting against all the hatred and Islamaphobia spew hatred themselves by adopting a definitely Hinduphobic stand which is not okay either. It is just too awful for words. There have been reports of incidents where those quarantined for being present at the Tablighi Jamaat event have misbehaved (at Tughlakabad, some of the detained had spat on the medical personnel and that is inexcusable and indefensible) or failed to cooperate with the authorities. Even more have been accused of failing to step forward and identify themselves. But in the latter instance, I can’t say I blame them even though it is a social responsibility to get tested and self – quarantine if exposed to the virus.
There are big time hooligans and other antisocial elements out there who are using the pandemic to unleash their inner demons by attacking, doctors and other health – care personnel by pelting them with stones or refusing to allow them to enter their own homes. (These miscreants who have ignored government orders to practise social distancing and are prowling the streets like rabid dogs should be at the receiving end of police brutality and locked away for good.) And doctors are usually highly respected in our society and accorded a quasi-demigod status second only to Cricketers and Celebs. If this is how we treat doctors, how will those belonging to a minority religious group, currently abhorred and hated for being ‘carriers of infection’ expect to be treated? If their homes are marked with the quarantine stamp won’t they be exposing their families and neighbours to the ire of the mob? Unfortunately, it is a legitimate concern.
Of course, I am not endorsing the shirking of social responsibility but as long as we play the blame game and treat the infected with revulsion, it will be hard for anybody to do the right thing and cooperate with the authorities. And we only have ugly bias and our own selves to blame for that. Why do we even feel the need to blame someone or the other during a crisis? First, we blamed the Chinese for eating bats and now we have turned on our own. How is any of this helpful? What will become of us if doctors and nurses decide to return to the safety of their own homes, instead of putting themselves at risk and left us to fend for ourselves? It would actually serve us right for being so inhuman. And if we refuse to learn from the past and insist on fighting with each other over the countless Gods that have blessed and cursed this country, we will all end up in all the versions of hell described by various faiths. Again, it would serve us right!
Now more than ever, it is important to be kind and pay it forward by lending a helping hand to all who need it in whatever capacity we can. Or at the very least, keep a lid on communal hatred and violence. And it would not hurt to cease and desist being a covidiot.
It is not enough to criticize the government for not doing enough when we aren’t doing enough either as citizens of this great nation. I have said it before and I will say it again, this land belongs to all who call it home be they Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Atheist or tree hugger And yes, even those among us who have tested positive for Covid – 19 are citizens and it is our national duty to be supportive and non - judgemental. Only, if we can find it in our hearts to accept this and embrace all things good and decent in us, can we defeat this thing. And just about anything else.