While listening to Bella Ciao, an Italian protest folk song we began reminiscing our memories of lockdowns and consequent razzmatazz of stones, bullets, blood and rushing ambulances in our neighborhoods, melancholy struck us hard on our faces. Being privileged to have spent 30 months of our 28 years of our lives in lockdowns, 21 day COVID-19 lockdown feels like “back to normal”. We (Kashmiris) have somehow managed to strike a cordial accord with such marshaling.
Being Kashmiri children, who used to participate in enforcing lockdowns during our early teens, can tell you with authority that it is easier said than done that too with a population majority of which is unwilling to live in a lockdown under any state of affairs. A successful lockdown majorly needs to withstand two tests, one a clear idea behind the lockdown which shall connect to the minds of common masses individually as well as collectively, and second , a robust, committed muscle power that shall enforce it and maintain the required intensity amid creeping fatigue of each passing day.
In case of Kashmir 5 minutes video or audio message underlying dates and timings suffice it for thousands of school and college going students to turn bustling markets into ghost towns. Although it has more to do with deep rooted mainstreaming of separatism in Kashmir but still can be a convenient example for explaining the genesis of lockdowns.
In Indian context corona virus lockdown is not any movement for rights or a protest against abuses but sole option to ensure survival of 1.3 billion Indians. Indian pubic healthcare system is beseeching not to be tested and every sane Indian who has a basic understanding of the corona virus pandemic & our Public health system will undoubtedly love to fight it by closing down streets, markets and offices rather than taking the battle into our dilapidated hospitals.
India is blessed to have a prime minister like Narendra Modi in this hour of crisis. As somebody has rightly said crises do not create character but it reveals one, Modi has revealed his character by taking a difficult decision of going into a lockdown at a time when our economy is on a downward spiral. Such circumstance would have made any prime minister think hundred times before enforcing a lockdown but then there is Narendra Modi who always made political commentators, economists and prime time TV pundits to consume dust by effecting unforeseen constitutional, legislative, & policy maneuvers (Demonatisation-GST-Article370-CAA).
Prime Minister Modi prioritized life over economy unlike many other world leaders like Boris Johnson, UK prime minister whose government came up with an absurd idea of “herd immunity” only to realize the extent of his absurdity when corona virus came knocking down his office door at 10-downing street, infecting him and his health secretary. Donald Trumps sustained reference to it as Chinese virus only came to a pause when he realized that America has lived up to its tag “Nation Of Immigrants” by welcoming a tinny minuscule immigrant in New York. Italy floundered its robust public health care system by responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in a tardy manner with temperate measures.
Corona virus is a Global health pandemic which poses one of the biggest challenges to post independence India. We all know we have missed the bus on testing, we all know about the unavailability of any drug or vaccine which can treat this virus directly, under such circumstances it is imperative upon us to maintain an aggressive personal hygiene, more essentially practice social distancing in both letter and spirit, isolate those who are infected, identify contacts of infected at the earliest and last but not the least increase testing. This is a novel problem and it needs novel preventive measures too.
In this hour of crises we will be judged by how we looked after the vulnerable sections of our society during this lockdown and we all must do our bit where we are required to do. It will be egregious to assume that everything will be taken care of by the PMO, other ministeries; state government also need to augument all the resources available to fight this pandemic. Various ministries of Government of India are already running schemes for welfare of people on grassroots level especially marginalized. All these schemes have community level volunteers like PLVs or PLEs ,Asha,GRS at village,taluqa, District or state level.All this manpower can be used to create awareness and become a bridge between people and administration in this hour of need. Furthermore a trinity of Halqa Punchayats, Mandir/Masjid committees in collaboration with local administration at village level working in tandem can also help in ensuring a smooth and purposeful lockdown. Opposition which unfortunately is so fragmented that it seems non existent should also leave politics aside and support government in its endavours to fight COVID-19 spread.
Jahingeer Ahmad Dar is lawyer & Phd scholar of Public Administration.
Nazia Hassan is pursuing LLM (constitutional law) at Kashmir University.