Guest post by MANISH THAKUR and NABANIPA BHATTACHARJEE
Much has already been said and written about the plight of the migrants during the lockdown necessitated by the current Covid-19 outbreak in India. The visual images of their endless walk – which reminds us of the flight of Partition refugees – in their desperate bid to reach home in the scorching summer heat on almost empty stomachs with throats parched (women in tow with the children on men’s shoulders and their meagre belongings on the heads) is heart-wrenching to say the least. Whatever be the cause, it is a living testimony to the entrenched structures of poor governance that define our polity. It is also revealing of the class character of the Indian state, a term that has for long left the public discourse of our republic. One need not invoke Marx or be a communist to see the glaring contrast in the ways say, for instance, state functionaries conduct themselves at airports in Delhi or Kochi and railway stations at Barkakana in Jharkhand or Bapu Dham, Motihari in Bihar.
Continue reading Covid-19 and the Idea of India: Manish Thakur and Nabanipa Bhattacharjee
No doubt the clarification that India will not map Covid-19 infections on the basis of religion has many heaving sighs of relief. But will the peace last?
Image Courtesy: AP
“Move for community-based mapping of coronavirus?” a recent news item in a prestigious daily asked, getting tongues wagging about “closed-door meetings at the highest level”, though no “official” decision had been taken in them. The Ministry of Health declared that any such news is “baseless, incorrect and irresponsible”. Lav Agarwal, the top bureaucrat in the ministry—who interacts with the media on Covid-related developments—called such news reports “…very irresponsible”. “The virus does not see people’s caste, creed or religion,” he said, quoting the Supreme Court’s directions on controlling non-factual or fake news.
No doubt the official clarification has many heaving sighs of relief.
The relief is understandable, because it was only last month—when the Novel Coronavirus pandemic had started taking a toll—that Muslims were being stigmatised as “super-spreaders” of the disease.
Taking a grim view of the situation, in its press conference on 6 April, the World Health Organisation had given the Indian government some simple advice. The WHO said, in response to an India-specific question, that countries should not profile Covid-19 infections in religious, racial or ethnic terms. The WHO Emergency Programme Director Mike Ryan also underlined that every positive case should be considered a victim.
( Read the full article here)
Guest post by MAYA JOHN
On the occasion of the birth anniversary of Karl Marx, the greatest intellectual of the millennium, it is best to steer clear of hero-worshipping. Instead, let us commemorate Marx’s ideas by re-enacting his way of knowing things. Much can be drawn from his writings wherein we can see Marx reinvigorating the revolutionary agenda at a time of deep despair and defeat. Reflecting and writing after the failed revolutions of 1848, Marx provided an introspective critique of unfolding conditions in his essay The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852). Closely examining the events of the successful coup and assumption of dictatorial powers by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte in republican France in 1851, Marx was the only contemporaneous political thinker to liken the ascendancy of Louis-Bonaparte to that of his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, who seized power in revolutionary France through the coup of 18 Brumaire (7 November 1799).
Continue reading Remembering Marx in Lockdown Times – Beyond the “Corona” Paradigm: Maya John
Guest post by MAYA JOHN
This essay is the second part of a two-part series on Society in the Time of Covid 19. The first part appeared in Kafila on 5 April and can be read here.
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas…Karl Marx, The German Ideology (1845)
The Bolshevik slogans and ideas on the whole have been confirmed by history; but concretely things have worked out differently; they are more original, more peculiar, more variated than anyone could have expected. – V.I. Lenin, Letters on Tactics (1918)
रहिमन विपदा हू भली, जो थोरे दिन होय / हित अनहित या जगत में, जान परत सब कोय
Crisis of a few days is better/ For it reveals who is friend and who is foe. – Khanzada Mirza Khan Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana, ‘Rahim’ (1556 – 1627)
Looking at what transpires each day of this epidemic coupled with lock-down, people appear to be plucked out of heterogeneous circumstances and placed in the homogenous time of “Corona”, putting all things in abeyance. The battered housewife whose alcoholic husband grows restless with every day; mourning relatives who’ve lost a loved one and struggle to make it to the last rites; the live-in ‘maids’ whose workday begins at the crack of dawn; the municipal worker who continues to de-clog our sewer lines to prevent the chance of reverse flow in our commodes; the young, newly-wed construction worker who’s anxious about his wife in the village; the tired nurse who fears she’s contracted the wretched infection; among many other circumstances of life are part of this moment, the epidemic-cum-lock-down. The coupling of epidemic and lock-down has created confusion for some people in terms of which of the two is deadlier. For many this is an unprecedented, exceptional time. But for others this moment is not new but rather a repetition of the similar course of life, with the addition of just another fear. Many are puzzled by how, among all the life-threatening contagious diseases and illnesses in circulation, “Corona” gained prominence.
Continue reading Agony of COVID-19 and the Lockdown – Who is Afraid of ‘Class’? Maya John
A medical emergency is no pretext to impose a political emergency.
How many policemen in civil clothes are required to deliver a mere summons to an editor of a web journal 700-k away in an age of email and WhatsApp? The recent action of the Uttar Pradesh police, where it sent a posse of 7-8 policemen, in civil clothes, in a black SUV with no number plates, to Siddharth Varadarajan’s residence in Delhi to deliver a summons has prompted this question.
Definitely the police did not bother to ponder over how Varadarajan, editor of The Wire, will present himself to the authorities during a lockdown which has brought trains, flights and even private transport to a standstill.
The manner in which the issue has unfolded has caused an international uproar with 3,500 jurists, scholars, actors, artists and writers condemning Uttar Pradesh Police’s actions against The Wire, and saying that a “medical emergency should not serve as the pretext for the imposition of a de facto political emergency.”
How Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s government will respond remains to be seen, but the story in The Wire on the Tablighi Jamaat, which also noted that “Indian believers” responded late to the viral epidemic obviously provoked the powers-that-be into action. The episode has brought into sharp focus the priorities of the government during the epidemic, which it is supposedly fighting a “war” against.
( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/Brutalising-Labourers-Jailing-dissidents)
This is a Guest Post by ANITA GURUMURTHY and NANDINI CHAMY
In 2007, in her book, ‘Shock Doctrine’, Naomi Klein argued that history is a chronicle of “shocks” – the shocks of wars, natural disasters, and economic crises, but more importantly, of their aftermath characterised by disaster capitalism, calculated, free-market “solutions” to crises that exploit and exacerbate existing inequalities. This is why Big-Tech-to-the-rescue in times of the virus does not strike the right chord. It started with the lockdown order issued by the central government on March 24 with the exemption for essential services and supplies getting extended to delivery of foods, pharma products and medical equipment through e-commerce channels. The upper classes had to be assured that their means of shopping would not be affected. Notably, the order issued no such explicit exemption on the movement of foodgrains through Food Corporation of India channels, integral to the Public Distribution System. The lockdown order was a candid admission that e-commerce companies have now become infrastructural utilities indispensable to India’s aspirational middle class.
Continue reading E-commerce platforms: Corona Warriors or Disaster Capitalists?