In the Name of ‘Social Distancing’

Arup Kumar Sen

The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) talked about approaching the issue of COVID-19 from a humanist perspective, in a recent press conference (March 20, 2020). He advised: “Check in on neighbours, family and friends. Compassion is a medicine”. He also clarified his humanist perspective: “COVID-19 is taking so much from us. But it’s also giving us something special - the opportunity to come together as one humanity - to work together, to learn together, to grow together”.

There is a huge gap between thought and reality. This becomes evident if we follow what is happening in India in the name of ‘Social Distancing’, as a response to COVID-19. To put it in the words of Suraj Yengde (The Indian Express, April 5, 2020):

The Indian government got far too excited and hastily implemented “social distancing” by force, leaving a heavy-handed police to enforce an overnight curfew that left thousands stranded.

Plus, social distancing in India comes with an edge, of caste…What makes the injustice to migrant workers even more acute is the fact that many of them are Dalits or Adivasis…Crisis tests humanity in its worst form. Not just the poor, even the minorities have been targeted by those trying to give COVID-19 a communal colour.

We have no doubts in our mind that the “Social Distancing” policies being followed by the Indian State has given birth to new kinds of discrimination against the minorities, Dalits, Adivasis, and the poor, in general.

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May 27, 2020

Arup Kumar Sen

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