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Coronavirus fear: Recalling Gandhi as Pak refuses to bring back its citizens from China

By Prabhakar Sinha*
The worldwide panic following the outbreak of coronavirus has further strengthened my belief that Gandhiji was one of the greatest human beings in human history like Christ and Buddha. He was so great not because of his politics or political ideology but his great humanity.
Pakistan is not bringing back her citizens from China fearing an outbreak in the country. Thousands are not being allowed to disembark from the ships coming from China. Anyone returning from China to his country is being quarantined and tested to ascertain whether s/he is infected .The precaution is legitimate for savings others from infection and death.
But the worldwide panic takes me back nearly 115-120 years ago to South Africa, where Gandhiji had gone to help Gujarati businessmen with their cases, but ended up taking up the fight against injustice and their humiliation.
It was in March, 1904, that Gandhiji received information that 23 poor Indians (who were freed indentured labour) were down with black plague in a ghetto near Johannesburg. He rushed there with four of his Indian assistants (who were bachelors ). An Indian doctor helped and a white nurse was provided by the authorities. They shifted all of 23 plague patients to an unoccupied building and nursed them day and night.
With the permission of the doctor, Gandhiji tried his 'earth treatment' on three of the patients. Out of 23 patients only two survived (who had received his earth treatment). The white nurse also died , but Gandhiji and his team of four or five Indians survived. Of course, Gandhiji must have attributed it to God's grace.
Think of Gandhi ready to embrace death to nurse 23 poor freed indentured labour living in ghettoes, who were hardly likely to survive
There was no treatment for plague and death was a certainty .When plague struck a locality,the villages or towns were deserted and the people shifted to hutments erected far away to escape almost certain death. But if one was infected, death was inescapable.
Think of Gandhi, a 35-year-old young man with a wife and several children, ready to embrace death to nurse 23 poor freed indentured labour living in ghettoes, who were hardly likely to survive.
Think of the moral influence he exerted, which inspired other young men to rush to nurse the dying men at the risk of losing their own lives. And ,in 1904 , Gandhi had not become a Mahatma. He was a failed barrister in India, who had gone to help Indian businessmen for making a living.
It was his humanity which made this ordinary, conservative Hindu evolve into a great human being in history. Gandhiji used to nurse lepers when there was no treatment for the disease. It was a highly contagious disease, which was also considered a stigma.
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*Former national president, People's Union for Civil Liberties. Source: Author's Facebook timeline

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