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Covid-19 and politics of funeral pyres

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Proud Indian-Irish, Proud Sanatani, Proud Technologist

Covid-19 has clutched hard on humanity’s lungs since almost 2 years now. The virus has spread its deadly tentacles across the globe shattering the fragile lives in countries as far apart as China, Italy, Brazil, US, India and countless others. The pandemic has not spared anyone, it has infected farmers at Dublin, daily wage workers at Delhi and even business executives at Denver. The resultant healthcare crisis has exposed the deep cracks in medical infrastructure in all countries around the globe. Humanity will persevere in spite of the loss of millions of lives and will eventually beat the virus. But for now, the disease has made us all retreat into the safety of our small abodes, forcing us to vacate the real world and operate in a virtual realm like never before.

There have been tales of bravery, tenacity and perseverance from the frontlines across all the severely impacted countries where doctors and nurses have stood their ground and are giving a tough fight to the virus. Vaccines have been produced in remarkably short times and drive is on to shield everyone with the serum doses so that humanity can reclaim the lost “real” space. There have been warriors disguised as grocery store workers, delivery guys, ambulance crews who are risking their lives on a daily basis to keep rhythm of life as normal as possible for all of us. I recently came to know of a doctor at a Delhi Hospital who kept working at saving lives even when her teenage son was struggling for breath at a different clinic and her other two elder daughters were recuperating at home. She kept on fighting, holding the fort firm where the virus had laid siege. She is still there at the battlefront, the only grace is that her son is now able to breathe on his own.

But as in all battles fought by humanity, it’s not just the tales of bravery all around, there have been acts of treachery, subterfuge and negligence also. There have been stories abound of the scums from the deep gutters of human filth who see a calamity as grave as this also as an opportunity to profiteer or just to advance their own fantastical petty agendas. They don’t realise that this virus is just lying in wait and given a window of opportunity, it will raise its sinister head again. One example of the virus’s ingenuity was evident in Ireland where government thought that the worst is behind it and relaxed the restrictions for a few weeks to provide some respite to its population during X’mas holidays. But virus crept in stealthily and overwhelmed this beautiful small nation killing thousands. And this happened on the watch of a leftist coalition government which opportunistically came together to keep a right leaning party out of power in Ireland.

This virus doesn’t respect human hierarchies or care for which side of political class one belongs to. It does not matter to it, if ruling regime is conservative or liberal, it will take any opportunity to strike at the lungs and hearts of humanity. This is the time to pose a united front against this strong adversary but looks like it is too much to ask that from some of us who are intent to ply their ominous agendas even in these grim times for humanity. This is most evident now in Indian political landscape where such vultures in the garb of opportunistic journalists or ideologues are out in full force to virtually dance upon the funeral pyres of hapless Indians. India was spared the worst in the first wave of Covid-19 and government machinery was able to effectively manage the spread through a series of lockdown measures and other restrictions.

The government in those early days of virus spread stepped up, created temporary care facilities, ramped up the production of preventive medicines, PEPs and vaccines. Ever after beating back the first wave, government advisory remained cautious and people were asked to adhere to the masks wearing at public places and avoid any big gatherings. But general populace got complacent after months of severe restrictions and let down their guards. There were peer pressures to attend hastily organised marriage functions and birthday parties, there were sacred religious events to go to.

The political class also did not help, there were elections to be fought, political rallies to be held. More incriminating on the ruling political party was their relaxed approach to the vaccination drive. This gave an opportunity to the virus to strike back and now second wave of Covid-19 has overwhelmed India. Hospitals have filled up within days, there is a general shortage of essential medicines and oxygen cylinders, people are dying in great numbers, funeral pyres are burning round the clock and graveyards are filling up. This is the time to up the ante, join forces and fight back. Criticism and scrutiny can wait as otherwise any distraction will give more space to the virus putting more precious lives at risk.

But alas, for some even in these ominous times, political and ideological battles take precedence over fighting this common invisible foe. For these low lives what is emanating from these burning funeral pyres and still wet graveyards is not the reeking stench of death but an enticing smell of opportunity to undermine the efforts of the health care workers or to demonise the ruling regime. This is as sinister as it can get. There is a business woman who masquerades as a journalist in India going around the International news channels trying to encash her father’s sad demise. Everybody can understand her anger at the sad turn of events and her loss. But is there really any need to make your father’s death a spectacle to demoralize millions of health care professionals fighting across hospitals in India.

Barkha Dutt claims that her father died because there was faulty oxygen cylinder in the ambulance carrying him to the hospital and more so as she claims, because of a medical system that has collapsed. She is declaring all this notwithstanding the fact that her father was provided first rate care at one of the premier private hospitals at Delhi for days till Covid finally took his life. The hapless driver of the ambulance has since given his side of the story that oxygen cylinder was working fine and that he even helped move the patient to the ICU after reaching the hospital. This is a new low in the sad saga of Indian left-wing journalism known at best for its limitless capacity to self-flagellate. Not everything has to be up for sale and least your own father’s passing.

Barkha Dutt’s reporting over the years is a classic tale of dough taking precedence over truth. For her the maxim has been that truth can wait but first comes the advancement of any personal agenda or an agenda of those who has her on their payrolls. She is notoriously close to the top echelons of Indian political and business class and is paid handsomely to lobby for anyone who is ready to dole out the maximum. In November 2010, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the premier investigative agency in India announced that they had 5,851 recordings of phone conversations made by a fixer named Nira Radia, some of which outline Radia’s attempts to broker deals in relation to the 2G spectrum sale. The 2G spectrum scandal was recorded by Time magazine as second in their all-time list of worst abuses of power. Barkha Dutt’s conversations with Radia were reported and Barkha Dutt became the face of the tapes scandal.

The investigation later showed that Barkha Dutt’s role in the Radia Tapes did not seem to point to an individual act but an institutional malaise. While covering the events of 2002 Gujarat violence, Barkha Dutt identified attackers and victims of a riot as “Hindus” and “Muslims” on television, flouting the guidelines of the Press Council of India. During 2008 Mumbai attacks, she was blamed for sensationalising the events, putting lives at risk and causing deaths by identifying on live television where the hotel guests might be located. Barkha Dutt has been previously criticised for “secular shrillness”, betraying the cause of Kashmiri Pandits, over-the-top nationalism in the reporting of Kargil conflict, and for soft-pedalling Hindutva. She has no credibility left in Indian journalism but is still welcome in Western press who are always looking for any negative stories coming from the East.

In Hindu tradition Antyesti (Sanskrit: अन्त्येष्टि), last rites for the dead literally means “last sacrifice”, and involves cremation of the body. It represents the last step or samskara in the rite of passage in the endless cycle of death & rebirth till one achieves Moksha or liberation. The Sanskrit word for death, Dehanta (Sanskrit: देहान्त), means “the end of body” but not the end of life. One of the central tenets of Hindu philosophy is the distinction between a body and a soul. Hindus believe that the body is a temporary vessel for an immortal soul in the mortal realm. When we die, our physical body perishes but our soul lives on. A funeral pyre is a deeply personal ritual, in-fact not to be seen by anyone other than the immediate family of the deceased. Making it a spectacle for the world to see is showing utmost disrespect to the dead and also to the cosmic order. But that would be too much to expect from someone like Barkha Dutt who going by her reports from cremation ground, obviously is not a practising Hindu and has been twice married to individuals from Muslim faith.

But Barkha is not the only one, the left cabal is out in full force to demean their bête noire, the nationalist PM Modi of India, now that they have an opening. There is another liberal face, an economist turned biographer but who rather pretends to be a historian harping in an article written in Financial Times that all the ills including Covid-19 has been thrust upon us because of the black magic of one Mr. Modi who is responsible for “unmaking of India”. For Ramchandra Guha, the oxygen cylinder shortages are the proof of the culpability of the Modi government in this tragedy. He is absolutely willing to give a clean chit to previous Congress governments who made Indians stand in long lines just to get the LPG cylinders for their kitchens. I can’t even fathom how a government like that would have fared in this emergency but am sure they would have made the situation much worse.

In Modi government people are getting what they need, there might be delays but government is quick to course correct and find solutions for any road blocks, bottlenecks, oversights or outright mistakes. The government is working actively to pump up the production of oxygen like they did with PEPs last year and also to increase the availability of home grown vaccines like Covaxin. Going by the track record of previous Congress governments, any other leadership in India would have, by now, got embroiled in huge corruption scandals involving the procurement of such medical essentials from abroad and India for sure, would have been far less self-reliant than it is now.

Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign has made India virtually self-sufficient in vaccine or PEP production and India now is well placed to handle this crisis of infinite magnitude considering the size of its population. But these pseudo-liberal ideologues see this calamity as an opening to pile up on the government. In his article, Guha also has problem with Modi because a cricket stadium was recently named after him by board of cricket control of India but then he sees nothing wrong in the fact that names of almost all infrastructure projects including Airports, Stadiums, Townships etc. in India bear the names of either dead or living scions of Nehru-Gandhi family. In fact in the case of stadium, it was BCCI an external body which conferred the honour on Mr. Modi quite unlike Nehru, India’s first PM who actually awarded himself the highest honour of the land, Bharat Ratna while he was still alive.

Then there is the strange case of Suzzana Arundhati Roy who goes all lengths out to hide her Christian identity but is ever ready to demean India and its Hindu culture at all International forums. Her pathological hatred for right-wing BJP and Mr Modi is understandable. A self-reliant, united, awakened India does not fit well with her self-flagellating Abrahamic world view where India is just a conglomerate of different castes with no right to present a united front or even to exist as a cohesive unit. Of all the members of leftist cabal, Suzzana aka Arundhati Roy is the most vitriolic and biggest fabricator of lies.

In her recent article in Guardian, she invokes a 2017 speech of Mr Modi where he’d called for an end to the religious discrimination by the then government in the largest state of India. She as usual picks up only those lines from Mr. Modi’s speech which fits well with her narrative like the statement on Shamshan (Hindu Cremation Ground) and Kabristan (Muslim Graveyards) but conveniently fails to mention that Modi explicitly called for equitable treatment saying immediately afterwards in his speech that if state government provides electricity for Hindu festival of Holi then it should ensure the same for Muslim festival Id also.

Yes, you read that right, things were so dismal in the biggest state of India that citizens had to plead to government to provide them electricity to enjoy their most important religious festivals, forget about other days. Things have been much better since Mr. Modi’s nationalistic BJP party wrested control of the state and citizens have been getting almost uninterrupted electricity supply now on daily basis. Further in the article Suzanna aka Arundhati Roy tries to trivialize the adroit management of Indian government in containing the first Covid wave. For her India was lucky that it had far less mortality rate compared to first world countries which were all left hapless against the relentless tide of the virus. There is also a mention in the article of the tallest statue of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, the Ironman of India who united the country after British made an absolute mess with their haphazard partition of the subcontinent. Patel is not a BJP or right-wing stalwart but was a Congress leader and a towering personality of Indian independence movement who was not given his rightful due by Nehru-Gandhi family interested more in cult building and side-lined everyone whose name did not start with a Gandhi or Nehru.

Modi has just corrected a historic wrong just like he is doing for another Indian stalwart Subash Chandra Bose whose armed struggle was the real reason why British vacated India rather than the myth of Gandhi’s non-violent movement being the cause. Even irrelevant construction projects does not escape her ire in the article. Indian government’s has been operating from the facilities at Lutyens Delhi that British left them after independence but now after 70 years, an upgrade is long overdue. Indian government has now plans to create a new state of the art administrative block but for Suzzana aka Arundhati Roy, Modi can’t do anything right and the construction plan has been needlessly invoked & criticised by the author in her article on Covid-19. Her pseudo-Christian roots and neurotic hatred for pagan culture gives away the reason for her criticism on the rebuilding of Ram temple.

Lord Sri Ram is the principal deity of Hindus, the predominant majority in India. Sri Ram’s birth place was demolished during brutal Islamic invasion of India spanning centuries in which more than 40000 Hindu & Buddhist temples were razed to ground and millions died in heroic resistance to the invaders. Rebuilding the Ram temple is important for India’s resurgence as no country can rise unless its civilizational imprints are lying in ruins. It is imperative of Indians to reclaim and rebuild their civilization ethos or anything that represents these moral codes.

This is not the time for pandering the nation like these pseudo-liberal ideologues are intent on doing on International forums. There have been cohorts, the likes of Aatish Taseer, Rana Ayyub and others who have also jumped into the band wagon trumpeting similar disinformation campaigns on new channels and print media. There is no point in giving any cadence to them as for them breaking India is their rightful duty anyways. Aatish in particular has not served well the legacy of his illustrious father who died for the cause of secularism in Pakistan. Looking at the track record of the past 6 years, it is very much evident that BJP government in India believes firmly in the secular credentials of the Indian constitution but this government is not going to indulge in the policy of minority appeasement like their predecessors. The past governments have not done any good to the cause of minorities, the dismal economic slide of Muslim community in India over the last few decades is there for all to see. This is new India, it will not discriminate between Indians whether on religious or caste lines. It believes in the equal opportunity for all Indians, sabka saath aur sabka vikas.

Together we’ll overcome this menace of Covid-19 in India and will in turn, also help the world eradicate this disease. Now India has been crippled by second wave but just a month back India was sending millions of doses of vaccines and PEP kits to the vulnerable nations around the globe. India launched a massive vaccination campaign early this year, which sought to inoculate more than 300 million people by summer. The country also sent more than 60 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (known as CoviShield in India) and its domestically developed Covaxin to other parts of the world since the start of the year. Agreed the domestic vaccination campaign lacked a sense of urgency, with a relatively low case count in the first few months of the year and some hesitancy around getting the vaccines. So far, just 150 million doses have been given and less than 3 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. But this second wave has shown that there is no time to relax or be complacent.

The vaccination drive has to be carried out at the war footing now that everybody have learned their lessons. India and South Africa- with backing from nearly 100 countries – have pushed a proposal at the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive certain trade and intellectual property rules for Covid-19 vaccines to increase production and manufacturing capacity around the world, especially in lower and middle-income countries but big Pharma is still wavering in relaxing these rules. This is the need of the hour, we should remember nobody is safe till everybody is safe. Meanwhile there is no gain to be had from pointing figures at the political class in any country. Now is the time to leave aside our political differences but for once stand united as one humanity in fight against a common enemy.

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Proud Indian-Irish, Proud Sanatani, Proud Technologist
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