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How hate factory 'swamped' Indian middle class attitudes as millions suffered

By Rajeev Khanna*
The COVID-19 outbreak, subsequent lockdown and curfew, have exposed the Indian chattering middle class in a big way. The façade is off and the dark reality is for everybody to see. Right from promoting communal and caste hatred to its indifference to the poor and also its greedy self, the middle class is putting its ugly side on display on daily basis in these times of corona virus.
One can start with the hate campaigns that have been run against Muslims through the social media and even otherwise following the Tablighi Jamaat episode. The damage has been intense as there are reports from almost all quarters of the country of Muslims being targeted.
 In the otherwise quaint Himachal Pradesh, Mohammad Dilshad of Bangarh village in committed suicide two days ago as he reportedly faced ‘social boycott’ and harassment over his being a contact of one of the tablighis. He ended his life despite having tested negative.
Hate has been propagated against Muslim labourers hailing from Kashmir as well as parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and in cities like Shimla and Solan. The most ironical part is that the Kashmiri labourers are till this day carrying essentials to the middle class houses as they climb steep heights to deliver gas cylinders and other stuff. The same middle class that in general talk is promoting hatred against Muslims welcomes a cylinder delivery man with a smiling face.
In neighbouring Punjab also there have been reports of Muslim Gujjars being beaten and harassed in Hindu majority villagers of Hajipur and Talwara areas of Hoshiarpur district. The result is that they had to dump huge amounts of milk in streams.
It is perhaps the international pressure with organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) coming to say that countries should not profile COVID-19 cases in terms of religion or any other criteria that has led to a crackdown on those spreading fake news through social media. It is no secret that from which section of the society comes these ‘tik tok’ making and meme circulating hate factory.
Not only in terms of the communal hatred the middle class has been behaving in a manner that it is only this section that has the right over all the resources available. It was a sight to see middle aged couples who reside alone in fancy apartments going in for hoarding food stuff the day the lock down was announced.
Imagine one such couple purchasing four kilograms of pasteurized butter from a grocery mall. The immediate thought that struck me was that they would surely develop some other health complication if not corona with such consumption.
I have relatives in tier two cities who have been saying, “We have not even opened the door of our flat for the last 10 days even to purchase milk from our regular vendor that delivers at our door step. We are just consuming pulses and have given up vegetables since they pass through various hands before they end up in our kitchen. We do not even step out in our balcony.”
The question is that till when will they continue like this? They should ideally be following the precautions instead of launching themselves towards hysteria.
And who can forget the viral video of the harassment of a lady doctor by her neighbours in Surat just because she is a health professional who works in a hospital where there are bound to be corona patients. Just a few days back the residents of her society had been banging thalis expressing gratitude towards health workers.
Friends in Ahmedabad as well as Mohali disclosed how various residential societies have banned the newspaper vendors from entering the premises to distribute the daily paper. This is going to be a big hit on the livelihood of poor newspaper vendors who survive on the commission of every paper they sell. 
Only when WHO said countries shouldn't profile COVID-19 cases in terms of religion the crackdown on those spreading fake news began
This is despite the fact that there have been various campaigns by newspaper industry as well as others that a newspaper is not a carrier of infection. “It is also certain that many among the middle class will give up reading the newspapers even after the lockdown is over", remarked a friend based in Surat.
It is being pointed out that vegetable vendors are also being denied entry into residential societies in many cities.
Among the worst hit have been the domestic helps who have been told not to come for work because of the fear that the pandemic has unleashed. While a section has paid them their wages and intends to do so even in the coming days, there is also a segment that is thinking of doing away with their services altogether even when the lockdown is lifted.
“This lockdown has taught us to do the household work by ourselves. So why engage a maid in future,” said a resident of Pune. It is another thing that the domestic helps are paid pittance by majority of the households.
“I am not sure whether I will get employment after this corona time is over. I have to work to sustain my family. As of now some of my employers have asked me to stop going to their houses for work”, pointed a domestic help Paromita.
The attitude of the middle class to the mass exodus of migrant labour from big cities after the lockdown was announced makes an interesting case study in itself. “The government had no option but to announce a lockdown at a very short notice. To save the majority there was bound to be some inconvenience to a small group of people,” was what a woman in one of the Facebook groups said. It was only when she was pointed that the ‘small group ‘of people that she mentioned amounts to crores of people that she stopped arguing. 
“These people should have stayed where they were. Food would have been arranged for them,” pointed another from the bureaucratic set up. She had to be told that thousands of workers were rendered helpless in remote construction sites with not even a shop in the vicinity and the contractors vanishing without making their payments.
The attitude of the middle class towards the misery of millions and the seriousness towards the pandemic was visible when there were parties that followed the ‘diya jalao’ campaign last Sunday in places like Ludhiana. There was drinking, dancing and merrymaking as if marking a grand celebration. There would be no answer if someone asked, “What were they celebrating?”
---
*Senior journalist based in Solan, Himachal Pradesh

Comments

S.R. Darapuri said…
Very apt description of selfish middle class mentality.

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