Skip to main content

These are not the gimmicks expected from the leader of a nation in this time of crisis

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
The famed political cartoonist Manjul has a very powerful cartoon in his Mumbai Meri Jaan, series in "Mid-Day". There are two frames. In the first frame there is the idiot box (TV) blaring “Friends! I’m here to ask for something!”
There are four respondents: one apparently the hoi-polloi (the daily wage earner, the migrant, the unemployed???) who says “ask for me life”; the second, obviously a ‘bhakt’ replies with an unthinking “sure”; the third, with his hands folded, all dressed up but with a cricket bat under his arm (a celebrity??) says “please do”; and the fourth without doubt belonging to the corporate sector saying, “why not”.
Moving on to the second frame the idiot box booms, “Stop applying your brains till further order” and pat comes the four responses “never had it” ; “of course” ; “already did!!” and “ masterstroke”. In typical brilliance, Manjul’s cartoon says it all! It sums up the state of the nation today, in the wake of the terrible pandemic COVID-19!
The pandemic has already taken the lives of thousands all over the globe, with many more times that number who are affected. In India, there are already four thousand three hundred positive cases and the death toll has reached well past 100. Medical experts expect that over the next few days the cases and the deaths, in India will be exponential.
The first case in the country, of this corona virus was reported as early January 30. There were global alarms and fears that this virus would reach pandemic proportions even as it kept galloping through nation after nation. 
However, the Government of India and their cronies, continued to be absorbed in its own agenda: spewing hate speeches, engineering riots, toppling governments, organizing jamborees and the like. They showed an absolutely callous approach in responding to this terrible calamity with needed sense of urgency and professionalism.
Finally, only around the middle of March, the government ‘woke’ up: first calling for a voluntary curfew on March 22 which ended in many road shows in several parts of the country. Then, on March 24, with just about a four hours’ notice, the Prime Minister announced a ‘lockdown’ of the whole country of 1.3 billion people for a twenty-one-day period, which is scheduled to end on April 14.
The abrupt announcement of the ‘lockdown’ has had a severe impact on millions of the poor and marginalized sections of society and particularly on the daily-wage earners, the migrants and the unemployed. 
Voltaire, the French philosopher, puts it succinctly: It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere
The sudden suspension of all public transportation, particularly the trains and buses meant that large groups of them had to walk hundreds of miles to return to their native places. Many of them even died on the way. In some places they were stopped by the ‘authorities’ and remanded to detention centres and at least in one place, ‘disinfectant’ was sprayed on them. 
The sad and cruel fact remains that India, as of today, does not have the wherewithal to counter this pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO)-prescribed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) , the N95 masks so essential for doctors, nurses and other caregivers are virtually non-existent; there is a criminal shortage of ventilators, sanitizers, testing centres/ kits, hospital beds, isolation wards, intensive care units and other necessary medical equipment, if this pandemic accelerates in the next few days and weeks. Strangely enough India was exporting, till March 24 ban, some of these essentials.
Courtesy: Twitter account of Manjul
On the ‘voluntary curfew day’ (March 22) the PM had suggested that the people end the curfew with clapping etc. Once again for April 5 he suggested that candles and diyas and flashlights are lit, whilst all other lights are switched off. 
Both the ‘dramas’ were obviously ‘populist acts’ and given the frenzy in certain areas, would have certainly earned him some ‘brownie points’ , sadly these are not the gimmicks which are expected from the leader of a nation in this time of crisis.
On both days, there were huge crowds everywhere, serenading as though they were victory processions; on the first day, it was beating steel plates and drums, whistling and shouting; on the second day, besides the lights , there was a huge display of fireworks everywhere; almost a Diwali celebration.
A BJP leader in Uttar Pradesh, Manju Tiwari, decided to be different. In a video that has been widely shared, the BJP leader is seen firing a shot in the air to the sound of cheering. In a place in Rajasthan, a house caught fire because of the carelessness of others. The responses by and large could be categorized as acts of idiosyncrasy, sycophancy and ludicrousness! Of a behavior highly irresponsible in these serious times. 
American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote: Pity the nation whose people are sheep/ And whose shepherds mislead them...
The irony of these acts were that whilst there was seemingly all-round adulation (thanks to the ‘godified’ media we have in the country today) the stark reality remains that millions of our fellow country women and men have to eke out a survival; given the situation today, they really don’t know from where their next meal will come.
The ‘celebrations’ (without social distancing), the loud clapping, the fireworks were certainly not sensitive acts to the plight of a sizeable section who are suffering. One cannot deny the fact that this is the way that fascism works, this is how it spreads its devious tentacles.
Fortunately, there are still a fairly large group of thinking citizens in the country: who among other engagements, write, sketch, compose, sing and are also active on social media. There are several who are unable to accept the nonsense that has gripped the nation.
More than twelve years ago, the well-known American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote an incisive poem (based on a similar work written earlier by the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran) ‘Pity the Nation’. It is so apt for us in India today! The poem runs thus:
"Pity the nation whose people are sheep

And whose shepherds mislead them 
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars 
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerers
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
With force and by torture 
Pity the nation that knows 
No other language but its own
And no other culture but its own
Pity the nation whose breath is money
And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed 
Pity the nation oh pity the people 
Who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away
my country, tears of thee 
Sweet land of liberty" 

Voltaire, the French philosopher puts it succinctly, “it is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere”; but Manjul’s cartoon says it all!  
---
*Human rights and peace activist and writer. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

India reaches 8th of 10 stage genocide: US Muslim advocacy group raises 'alert'

By Hena Zuberi* India has reached the 8th stage of genocide with the persecution of the Muslim community. Stating this, Professor Greg Stanton, who heads Genocide Watch, declared a Genocide Emergency Alert for India today at Justice For All online briefing.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Mayawati's 'success' depends on how BSP taps new crop of young Amdekarite leaders

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Whatever be the election results in Uttar Pradesh on March 10, it is extremely important to understand: that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and its leader Mayawati have the potential to rise like a Phoenix any time.

Believe this: US' 95% of Covid cases are Omicron, India's 2%, model Gujarat's 0.43%

By Rajiv Shah  Scanning through news stories on Omicron, the new Covonavirus variant said to have been found in South Africa, I came across an interested in story, published in the New York-based network, CBS News. According to this story, published a couple of days ago, “The Omicron variant made up around 95.4% of new Covid-19 cases in the US last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.”

Holding militant rallies across Punjab, farmers 'forced' Prime Minister to retreat to Delhi

By Harsh Thakor*  The farmers' spirit, elevated and reverberated at a boiling point in Ferozpur like a spark turning into a prairie fire, appears to be behind Prime Minister Narinder Modi having being compelled to retreat to Delhi due to a virtually boycotted pandal. Demonstrations held just ahead of Modi's visit, especially in Firozpur, seemed to have already created tremors in the belly of the ruling party.

Barbaric, inhuman attack on Odisha villagers to implement JSW project: NGO networks

Counterview Desk  A “solidarity statement" issued by three top civil society networks, Friends of the Earth India (FoE India), Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has asked the Odisha chief minister to ensure that the “inhumane barbaric attack on the villagers of Dhinkia, Odisha” in order to implement a corporate project.

Democratic leaders silently greeting Modi's 'increasingly autocratic' rule: HRW

Counterview Desk The Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s new “World Report 2022: Events of 2021”, claiming to “investigate abuses, expose facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice”, has identified India as one of the countries where “autocracy is ascendant and democracy on the decline” because of emergence of leaders with autocratic tendencies.

India's actual Covid death rate about 2500 per million, third highest in world: Study

By Rajiv Shah  There is now well-researched proof, if it can be called that, indicating that the Government of India may have fudged data to show lower Covid death rate. A new paper, published in “Science”, has said that while officially the Government of India’s Covid-related death estimates as of January 1, 2022 – 345 per million population – are one-seventh of the US death rate, the actual analysis of crude death rate in India suggests, this may be a gross underestimation. 

Not-so-Catholic priest expels parishioner from church: 'Woman improperly dressed'

By Rosamma Thomas*  On Sunday, January 9, 2022, Fr Emmanuel, parish priest of the Lady of Guadalupe Church at Murikumphuzha, Pala, Kerala, sent his sacristan Joseph to ask a middle-aged woman to please wait a little after the morning mass – the priest would like to meet her. The woman waited, and the priest called her to his office room. “You know we are Malayalees,” he said, and asked her whether she knew what would follow. “No, please tell me,” she said. “You know women cover their heads in church, and dress politely,” he said. The woman, who had just returned to Kerala a few months prior after living elsewhere, had been getting her house repaired and had not yet unpacked all her clothes.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".