It is inevitable that the virus will spread anywhere people gather in numbers.
India went for the world’s toughest lockdown in March, when just about 500 Covid-19 cases had been reported. And it has started withdrawing the lockdown when India has become the seventh-worst pandemic-affected nation, with over 1.91 lakh infections and close to 5,500 deaths. India is registering giant spikes in active cases of Covid-19, but the home ministry has come out with a phased plan to unlock India. The current phase of re-opening will focus on the economy. It has been decided that malls, hotels, restaurants and places of worship will reopen from 8 June onwards.
Concerns over the economic downturn are understandable. The latest GDP data shows the slowest pace of growth in 11 years in the last quarter of 2019-20, and the economy has been hit hard by the Covid-inspired sudden and complete lockdown. But one fails to understand the decision to open religious places at such an early date.
It remains unanswered whether religious places are being thrown open to pre-empt Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, who has announced that her state would open all places of worship from 1 June. It is also not known whether this is being done, as BS Yediyurappa, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, wrote in his letter to the Prime Minister, because devotees are insisting that religious sites be opened.
The Ayodhya judgement is out; Pandora’s box has been opened and I suppose the hope fairy is fluttering amidst us all. That there haven’t been riots is being seen as a sign that “the country has moved on”. My personal sense is that the absence of riots simply proves that riots are rarely spontaneous: adequate security has ensured an uneasy calm.
It’s still too early (at least for me) to make sense of this verdict, so I thought we could kick off the debate on Kafila by posting a list of links and resources and perhaps take the conversation forward as more and more information comes in.
To start off, the Judgements can be accessed at http://rjbm.nic.in/ . The top half of the page contains the gist of the judgments while your can find the entire judgement below the fold.
I walked into Anjali’s house. She lives in one of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement colonies in Bombay which were developed to provide housing for slum dwellers and railway slum dwellers affected by the creation of roads infrastructure in Mumbai. Her house is a one-room tenement. She has created a litte bedroom space by placing a large showcase unit which separates the living room and the bedroom. I sat down to talk with her when my eyes fell on the Mecca-Medina mosque photograph which was placed on the wall facing her kitchen, above her newly purchased washing machine. For a moment, I was not sure if I had seen correct. Then, while continuing the talking, I glanced carefully again. It was the Mecca-Medina mosque photograph which is usually found in the homes of Bohra Muslims, Shias, Iranis and Sunnis as some kind of a visible mark of religion or show of faith and practice (or perhaps something else, I am not sure). I was both intrigued and amused. Continue reading Faith, religion, ritual, identity, dogma – how do I understand this?→
The star of fortune has risen for Malayali women, not in this world but in the next. Catholics in Kerala celebrated the canonization of Sr. Alphonsa, a young nun from Kudamaloor in Kottayam district, who passed away after a life of intense bodily suffering and prayer in 1946, as a ray of hope in hard times. Becoming a nun and leading a life of asceticism were never easy choices. That too, for a eligible, beautiful young woman in early 20th century Kerala, born in a small village, whose guardians were determined to see her respectably married. Given to excruciatingly difficult forms of prayer even as a child, Alphonsa resisted her maternal aunt’s plans dramatically by trying to disfigure herself. She jumped into a smouldering ash-pit; badly burned, she climbed out. The family was so taken aback that they gave in to her desire to become a nun. Continue reading Do gods and saints weep?→