While the world over people have grown myopic worrying about the real or imagined problem to do with corona-virus in their immediate surroundings, the world’s biggest prison has been erected. 1.38 billion people are in a complete house-arrest, with no possibility of leaving home. In scale, this is by far the first in human history.
I am not talking about China. When faced with the first wave of corona-virus, China focused mostly on Wuhan and other hotspots. It didn’t see a need to lockdown the whole country. Moreover, it didn’t think it could get away with that.
Any regime that contemplated locking down the whole country would have realized that not only would it create massive disruption, joblessness, poverty, and dislocation, but also that restarting the economy would be a gargantuan job. Farmers would have found themselves with no money to buy seeds and banks with no cash to lend out, and everyone in a vicious economic cycle.
India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, however, thought that he could enforce a draconian curfew without any legal backing in what is one of the world’s most undisciplined, chaotic, poverty-stricken and backward societies.
Modi’s confidence comes from an extraordinary cult following he has developed, very ironically, centered on the educated Middle-Class Indians, who are well-stocked with beer, chips, and Netflix connections.
On 24th March 2020, the Indian Prime Minister came on the Television to declare that starting four hours thereon would be a complete and total lockdown everywhere in the country for the next 21 days. He instructed that people were not to leave the door of their homes, go out for walks or walk their dogs, and that all offices, factories, shops, etc. had to be shut entirely. All the highways and roads were to be blocked. One of the biggest train networks came to a sudden standstill for the first time in its history of 167 years. Trains stopped wherever they were when the lockdown started, leaving passengers stranded. Every single flight, domestic as well as international, was canceled.
The whole of India went into a curfew.
The only part of the economy that was to be still open were medicine shops and grocery stores. Of course, Modi’s advisers and speechwriters, all of who are yes-men, had forgotten to consider how people would buy food if they could not leave home. Those who went to buy groceries were ruthlessly beaten by the police, who knew well that despite the constitution, courts would ignore the brutalities. A couple of days later when the government realized their mistake, a window to let people go out to buy groceries was opened up. The police had by then already put itself in the image of an invading army, which gives itself the right to rape and pillage the enemy without any restrictions or accountability—people who went shopping kept on getting beaten up.
Alas, Indians accept beatings without any resistance, videos of which are now all over the social media, the reason why I am sure that India never fought with the British for independence. The British left in moral disgust.
This curfew announcement was becoming a replay of the demonetization that happened in 2016 when after the initial announcement, the government realized that they had forgotten to think through simple issues, something a school project-group would have taken care of. Every single day since the lockdown, a new directive has been coming, increasing oppression and tightening the curfew.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.