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How the War overshadows a Pandemic

The year of 2020 was filled with unprecedented events throughout the world, out of which out stood the global health disaster- medically termed as the SARS COVID -19 or more commonly referred to as the Coronavirus. Its origins were traced back to Wuhan, China, where a market was concluded as the ground zero for the virus. So far the popularity of the virus has peaked so much that it is not the need of the hour any more to further elaborate or justify the origins of the same instead I aim to tackle the socio-political as well as economic attributes that have come to light post the virus becoming a full blown pandemic, spreading to over 200 countries (according to the WHO reports) with special focus on India and the turn it’s state has taken since the outbreak. 

The first case of Coronavirus in India was reported on 30 January, 2020.  As of 24 June 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has confirmed a total of 456,183 cases, 258,684 recoveries (including 1 migration) and 14,476 deaths in the country. India has since become the country with the largest number of confirmed cases in all of Asia. This puts India which was an already dropping economy in a comprising position because in order to wrestle with the disease as big and as communicable as this the WHO suggested a method of total lockdown of the country and introduced the concept of social distancing to animals who are born to be “social“. Therefore the Indian state came up with a sudden lockdown with no prior warning and announcement by any state or any other organ of the government.  The hours given to prepare the huge, mostly herd driven population into hibernation like state led to mass panic and immediate closing down of all the social and economic sectors of the society.

Coronavirus: India records over 57,000 cases in last 24 hours ...
credits: Livemint

The pandemic led to the shutdown of all borders, be it the airways, the highways or rail, the closing down of liquor shops and bourgeois complexes that satisfied our trivial indulgences. But what was mostly affected by the sudden curfew was the left back economically weaker sections of the society, with almost no monetary backbone to support them through the process of social distancing. They were so publicly affected that the labor community or the migrants that were stuck in the metropolitan cities for the sake of their seasonal jobs became multimedia cuisine for the news/entertainment agencies. COVID-19 took over the country with such a storm that the health care system had to readjust itself according to the needs of the pandemic. With continuously growing cases, the country had to gear up for mass hospitalization, for which 1.9 million hospital beds, 95 thousand ICU beds, and 48 thousand ventilators were made available both contributed by public and private sectors of healthcare.  According to the CDDEP researchers, most of the beds and ventilators in India are concentrated in just the seven states – Uttar Pradesh (14.8%), Karnataka (13.8%), Maharashtra (12.2%), Tamil Nadu (8.1%), West Bengal (5.9%), Telangana (5.2%) and Kerala (5.2%).

The government of India did try to use subtle stringent methods like the Janata curfew and declaring the lockdown in phases and for shorter periods of time to help the population ease into the process of social distancing out of which the former was a strategic way of making the population think that they were holding the whip in controlling the coronavirus. It also created multiple portals to help the migrants, or the economically struggling parts of the Indian society like the PM CARE FUND. It also created events like banging the utensils and showering the healthcare workers with rose petals to keep up the spirit of the social distancing voters and after all these measures and methods used by the Modi Government, it still failed to control the spread of the virus. One thing leading to another, India as of the month of July has come to a potential war like situation as it does in every economically threatening period of the Modi reign.

Explainer: Not just Kashmir, how Modi government has weakened ...

According to the India Ratings & Research (Ind-Ra) report, there is a projected of the lowest economic growth in India’s history at -5.3% for the current fiscal. This becoming the sixth instance of contraction in India’s gross domestic product (GDP), the last such instance happened 40 years ago in fiscal 1979-80, which makes it a historical drop in the Indian economy. The economics of the country plays a very important part in the retrieval of the government for another term. If employment rate increases, the ratings of the government increase with it. If the layman connects the dots, he’ll find out that that the drop in the Indian economy started way before the pandemic reached India and the state was more than aware of it. The government could have easily gotten away with it, by outing the blame on the virus, if only t could have tackled it in a more systematic manner, but the atrocities on the migrants and poverty struck parts of the community, all this became more evident. Further stating that it is not only the economic but the social and domestic atmosphere of the country that deeps the fall in the rating of the leader.

The question that arises here is how does the state that would like to control the mass population for another term handle such a situation that threatens its legitimacy? The answer comes to us through the current news channels that have been broadcasting shows on War.

India-China News Highlights (June 17): Galwan Valley incident will ...
credits: The Financial Express

The Indo-China land dispute dates back to 1962, but the manner in which it emerged again during these times of the pandemic creates a typical situation for a certain controversial foreign policy that is known as the diversionary theory. According to this theory the domestic issues that are prevalent in the nation lead to certain international policies. In easier terms it means when the position of a leader is threatened in the domestic scenario, the government often resorts to creating international situations that would create a sense of distraction from the prevailing environment. According to an unbiased and critical history of the Indian government, it is no stranger to such policies. It has often resorted to creating an aura of war to overcome the potential threat to its government.

The most appealing thing about war is that it creates a sense of unity against an out-group and tends to create a need for fraternity amongst the subjects. That is why terms of war are often used against situations that need immediate coming together.  This is the reason why governments use such a strategy to get the rush of unity going in an otherwise struggling community.

Vulnerable leaders often tend to declare war or manufacture international conflicts in such times to garner more support and create a distraction from the issues that threaten his/her position.  Various instances where such a policy has been used is often linked to western leaders connecting the Vietnam War (1963–1969), the Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991) etc to it. In fact amounts of literature have come to light to justify the existence of this strategy.  So why should an Indian leader with massive need of popularity stay behind?

The need to answer the question of how a war becomes more important than a pandemic popped in my mind when I was surfing through news channels to look for a legitimate piece of information to help with a certain project, but all that is being broadcasted is the threat of potential War. Before there was any threat to the Indian claimed territory, the news was filled with cornavirus pieces, the communal angle for the same and debates related to the same topic.  The sudden shift from reporting the pandemic comes as no surprise to me because the news media is a propaganda portal for the government of India.  Where earlier the coronavirus dominated the scene, it seems that the government has found another way shifting blame and raising its popularity. The coverage of migrants, the needs of the healthcare workers, the growing cases of the virus seems to be of lesser importance now that a potential war has come along.  But the timing of the war is what should be questioned, in a country that runs on the shoulders of Farmers and Laborers, seems to favor War more than the health of the aforementioned. In fact, the country that worships its soldiers pushes aside the threat to the same. This leads to the need of an inspection both of this highly militarized period where the war takes over a pandemic who are both equally important but one has more complex incentives than the other. Even though a nationwide unlock has started, the shift from the panic of pandemic to the panic of war seems suspiciously deliberate at least to the critic of the fascist politics.  Is this really the time for aggression, exclusion and ultra nationalism that war promotes, or is this the time to question leadership?  Nonetheless these times reminds me of a quotation by Vyacheslav von Plehve in reference to the Russo-Japanese War (which is also linked with the divisionary theory):

 “What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution.”

Babra Shafiqi is a student pursuing Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.

edited by: Yusuf Aziz

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.

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Written by Babra Shafiqi

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