CASTEISM IN COVID-19
Updated: Jul 21
~ Harshdeep Singh
Coronavirus may go away, but there is no medicine which can cure the disease of casteism. One can see it through an example of a hate tweet by a twitter handle Jyoti Sharma, who is ready to relate even coronavirus infection with caste-based reservation. The tweet can be loosely translated to mean that coronavirus should first affect the SCs and STs who are beneficiaries of caste-based reservation. This is a kind of small example of how hateful and inhuman society we have become.
Public debates around coronavirus are largely revolving around the claim that the pandemic knows no race and class. The intent behind such messages is to counter racist assumptions and discriminations. However, ignoring and glossing over the questions of how different levels of vulnerabilities are produced during this crisis and the sole emphasis on ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ .
Text messages from shopping complexes, departmental stores and app-based food delivery chains are assuring their customers that they do not have to move out of their home to avail these products and services. Narrating the experiences of caste and untouchability Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in his autobiographical note “Waiting for a Visa” describes the experience of an untouchable teacher whose wife had to be attended by a Hindu doctor: “The doctor came but on condition that he would examine them only outside the Harijan colony. I took my wife out of the colony together with her newly-born child. Then doctor gave his thermometer to a Muslim, he gave it to me and I gave it to my wife and then returned it by same process after he had been applied”. Whether the psychology of pandemics will be understood during public health cannot be guaranteed, but its sociology of caste needs to be taken into consideration.
The government must take all the necessary precautionary measures to control the effect and impact the coronavirus, making sure people’s health will be taken care. But along with it, one must also have to think how health facilities are going to deal differently with different people, what are the measures taken for people who live in remote areas, manhole workers, cleaning staff, and wage labourers. It is largely observed that the urban middle class, who can afford air-travel abroad and within the country, have primarily been the carriers of the coronavirus. However, their participation in distributing class-specific, self-righteous awareness messages in social media often reflects a mob mentality in condemning and othering the lower castes perceived to be living in ‘unhygienic’ conditions in the slums.
Instead of questioning the caste-bias of the ‘social-distancing’ method and acknowledging the practical difficulties in following this when one lives in a slum, or reflecting on why Indian patients are fleeing from the public hospitals, social media appears to be a tone-deaf platform.
Source : The Economic Times
Picture : icytales.com