COVID-19 and Violation of Human Rights

Arup Kumar Sen

In a recent communication, United Nations has linked COVID-19 and Human Rights (April 23, 2020). It observed in this context: “Against the background of rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism, and a pushback against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic”.

The apprehensions of United Nations have come true in India. Pamela Philipose has documented the phenomenon of human rights violations in India in the wake of coronavirus-induced national lockdown (The Wire, April 25, 2020). To put it in her own words:

“As if in parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic, we now have a pandemic of arrests, with prison gates clanging shut on those marked by the state as anti-nationals…It began with Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde , prominent intellectuals and political activists, being jailed…Similarly, there are excellent reasons why credible, argumentative journalists also invite the displeasure of the powerful. The Wire has had a taste of state repression…Hunting journalists down has now become part of active policing in these COVID-19 times. Over the course of a week, at least four mediapersons in Kashmir have had FIRs filed against them”.

The paradigm of power which is in operation in India reminds us of Giorgio Agamben’s conceptualization of the State of Exception: “Although the paradigm is, on the one hand (in the state of siege) the extension of the military authority’s wartime powers into the civil sphere, and on the other a suspension of the constitution (or of those constitutional norms that protect individual liberties), in time the two models end up merging into a single juridical phenomenon that we call the state of exception

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Apr 29, 2020

Arup Sen

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