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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 16 New Delhi, April 4, 2020

COVID 19 Lockdown, Fleeing Masses, Rohingya Refugees of Delhi, Jayshree Misra Tripathi’s Poetry

Saturday 4 April 2020, by Humra Quraishi

Musings, April 1, 2020

What takes place when the rulers of the day turn a medical emergency into a human nightmare! Yes, our masses are getting subjected to the worst forms of abuse. Shots of our migrant workers and daily-wagers getting sprayed with poisonous disinfectants, walking hungry and weary and forlorn, only to be blatantly humiliated and thrashed by the lathi- yielding constables, who seem to be new rulers of the day! In fact, a Jaipur based artisan had told me in all earnestness that in today’s India “only two types of people can live like human beings — politicians or police-wallahs!”

Writ large the police-wallahs are overtaking all possible roles. Controlling the lives of our masses by the brute force in their total control In fact, two very recent images have left me so anguished that its even difficult to even describe adequately — one image is that of a cop sitting and writing with a huge black pen details to the lockdown on a young innocent looking boy’s very forehead; in fact, all over his forehead! It seemed worse than those absolutely dark ages! The other image is that of cops ruthlessly thrashing a group of young Muslim boys who had gone to the nearest mosque for namaaz. Instead of explaining or even scolding them for stepping out of their homes, they unleashed lathis and threats...With this sudden lockdown announcement, lives of our countrymen are endangered. Even before the corona virus decides to strike, the brute force unleashed on the masses is sure to demolish them, in one way or the other.
Those oft repeated one-liners that one got to hear in the Kashmir Valley are to be heard here, in and around the capital city: “Does this sarkar wants this stretch of land with its people or without its people!”

With the masses sitting unfed and uncared for, what would remain of our land! Already a strange eerie quiet stretches out. What future holds out, with factories and mills and warehouses shut. Shutters down! How long with the stocks last!

The political rulers of the day have been exposed like never before. To suddenly announce lockdown, without even the basic level of preparedness, is akin to dictating: from this hour no food and water and shelter and no money…do as you please to survive in these corona- ridden times !

I’m told that even during the Partitioning times, relief-camps were functioning with the food and shelter bandobasts. If that level of preparedness could have been seen in 1947, then why not today, in 2020! What about the funds and money collected by the government in the name of relief work and out-reach schemes? Will it reach out to our people today or the day after when they are gone or going…fleeing like refugees in their own ancestral land, in their own country. We have made our people run about so very helplessly, like hapless frightened refugees in their own country …very, very disturbing shots of our masses running from here to there! Parched and hungry and sprayed upon by poisonous sprays!

Not sure what lies ahead, who all will be uprooted if not declared dead., unheard and uncared for. Mind you, even at this fragile stage, there are arguments whether the fleeing masses are from this state or from that other state — whether from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar or Madhya Pradesh! They are our people. They belong to this country. They have been there working in our factories, mills, construction sites… Rattled and fearing for their children’s survival, this hapless lot decided to walk on and on…Unbothered of the consequences. Unsure what new destined turns would come their way in the form and shape of the brute force and dictates of the day.

No, there can never be a full-fledged revolution in this country because we have become too weak and fragile, physically and emotionally. But,yes, voices have started coming up , asking: is this the way to combat a medical emergency, is this the way to treat your citizens, is this the way countries like South Korea and Japan have combated this virus, is this the way to silence your farmers and workers and labourers, is this the way to half your population, is this the way to rule, rather misrule to such an extent that we, the masses, want azaadi from all possible viruses — corona and fascism!
It would be naïve to even expect any answers except hollow and shallow assurances intermingled and mingled in the political speeches of the political who’s who! Don’t know if they these speeches are prepared in the Hindutva laboratories, but one thing is certain, more and more have stopped hearing them. They are seen running for their lives, so where’s the time or the inclination to hear a word of the well -crafted speeches!
Meanwhile as I see more and more images of our masses running from here to there, I am reminded of the Rohingyas fleeing here, not too long ago. And the manner in which we treated them… so very brutally and shabbily. Ironical it is, that though more than half of New Delhi’s population had been refugees at some stage; if not they , their parents or grandparents fleeing from the undivided Punjab during the Partition ,yet their brazen attitude towards refugees!

The condition of the Rohingya refugees remains unchanged , surviving like outcastes, in several towns of North India and also in the capital city, New Delhi. We have been mute spectators to the plight of the Rohingya refugees.
In fact, earlier this noon, I received this message from well -known human rights groups and well- respected activists of the country. Putting down one such appeal from an intern with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

It’s Pranav this side, I worked as an intern at CHRI...
I am writing to you to seek your assistance.

146 Rohingya Refugee ‘families’ living in the ‘jhuggis’ of Kalinidi Kunj are starving!
They do not have enough food supplies, they do not have work owing to COVID-19.
No outside support from civil society or the like.

They either live at our love or die at our indifference.

Please Contribute to crowd-fund their life. We aim to raise Rs 3 Lakh to provide food supplies for a month.
Requesting you to contribute and share with your network.

Read more about our campaign on the link below.
https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/help-me-distribute-food-to-refugees?payment=form
Thanks & Regards,
Pranav Bhaskar Tiwari

***

DARK TIMES MAKING MANY MORE RESTLESS, UNLEASHING SENTIMENTS …

New Delhi based poet-writer, Jayshree Misra Tripathi, wrote this poetic verse in the early hours of 28 March 2020…wrote in the backdrop of the hitting realities of the day. To quote her, “The images of migrant workers, carrying a few belongings, walking away from the city in throngs, has filled me with such dark despair. Another picture of an inhuman policeman making young boys, with bags on their backs, squat and jump a few paces at a time, to the border, fills me with shame. They naturally want to return home. There are no daily wages for them during the lockdown. No proper homes to live in. So, they walk to the bus terminus. The buses are full, so they walk on. I could not help but wonder what thoughts must be flitting through their troubled minds. How unkind are we in these desperate times - with the imminent fear of death from the COVID 19 virus? And what about those who live by themselves, their angst…?”

Jayshree Misra Tripathi’s
Poem entitled
Disquiet in Isolation.

“Are you scared
of being alone too long
with thoughts that spill over
from the past,
memories drowned,
you do not wish to dredge?
Are you scared
of being alone too long
with whispers from empty corners,
visions that float unbidden,
like dust rising with the breeze,
you cannot yet evade?
Are you scared
of being alone too long
tomorrow, with premonitions,
uncertain of the infrequent shadows
walking beside you, if any,
for they may all be unknown?
Breathe deeply,
Inhale, exhale-
Angst is just another word.”

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