Monday, June 21, 2021
Column

Coronavirus Cogitations:  Racism & RED

Monalisa Changkija

Why are some people in social media and elsewhere so judgmental and hypercritical about Nagaland’s first COVID-19 patient? Do these people know the patient’s exact circumstances and the sequence of events till the time of his detection? Do they know what anguish and ordeal he and his family are undergoing, especially now that he is being rendered almost stateless? Have they questioned the Government why Dimapur’s COVID-19 Hospital is still not ready to admit positive patients, if more are detected? Have they considered that it could have been them? Have these presumptuous, self-righteous and supercilious Smart-Alecs thought about how they would react if the same fate befell on them?

Would they react the same way if the patient was a Naga? Yes, this patient had lied about his travel history to Zion Hospital but he didn’t lie to the concerned Government authorities. He had reported his travel history to the authorities and had undergone 14 days of quarantine. Have any of these social media Smart-Alecs questioned why the concerned Government authorities failed to test him and regularly monitor his health status? Yes, he lied to Zion Hospital but can any of these presumptuous, self-righteous and supercilious Smart-Alecs claim that they have never lied in their lives? Aren’t they aware that so many co-passengers of this patient hadn’t reported their travel history but were traced, tracked and quarantined only after this patient was tested positive on April 13? Many among them were Nagas. Why don’t these presumptuous, self-righteous and supercilious smart-Alecs question why these co-passengers remained quiet about their travel history and also question the concerned Government authorities why there was no tracking, tracing, testing and quarantining of all passengers after the lockdown was enforced on March 25?

Are they also aware that many positive patients had actually fled from medical facilities in some parts of the country? People react differently to their circumstances, especially in relation to health issues. Is it possible for these Smart-Alecs to understand that there is such a thing called human psychology? A lie or two, spoken in fear and panic or in mis-judgment, doesn’t make a person the Devil incarnate. Now, juxtapose these Smart-Alecs reaction of this patient’s lie with their reaction to the 2 videos ~ one of a group of Nagas harassing and bullying non-locals and the other of another group of Nagas thrashing non-locals, including a woman. No doubt the culprits were arrested but what were some of the reactions on social media after a person from Delhi posted them and commented on them? Shockingly, there were reactions that actually justified these crimes “because they lied”! How do we know that? What if the culprits themselves lied about the victims’ lying? This is racism at its worst ~ justifying racist-based violence is the ultimate manifestation of racism. I wonder if these Smart-Alecs have heard of Hitler and his progroms. Now, think again, if the victims of the 2 instances, as the videos show, were Nagas, what would have been these Smart-Alecs’ reaction? There would most likely have been full-scale tribal wars. That again is racism. The question still remains who allowed these self-appointed “enforcers” of the lockdown? Will our Smart-Alecs publicly question the Government and the village and colony authorities?

Naga manu bee misa beshi koi dey ~ Garmen bee preparedness laga misa kuwa nohoi? Therefore, let’s clean ourselves first being condemning others of being unclean. Let’s also learn to discern between perceptions and perspectives and facts, as also between suspicions, allegations, accusations and insinuations and the truth. Otherwise we do great harm to our society and state. The 2 videos have gone viral and news channels are merrily televising them with comments exposing us for exactly what we are. Why can’t we face the truth? Instead, we are making matters worse by justifying a lie for our racism. A lie, which anyone of us could have said. And God knows how many of us have lied about our travel history. How many of us have reported our travel history to Guwahati and Shillong to the concerned authorities? Why are we also so unforgiving to non-locals? What makes us think that it is okay to turn a blind eye to our own people? Racism again.

Reports state that our first patient’s second test is negative. I wonder if we would find it in our hearts to celebrate this and accord him a hero’s welcome when he returns. Countries across the world are celebrating people who have defeated this dreaded disease. Do we have a heart big enough to do this? Or would we continue to be sanctimonious and racist just because a person is not a Naga? Come on Nagas, what’s it gonna be? That is the time our true colours as Nagas, as Christians, as enlightened, cultured and civilized people, would emerge. By the way, I hope social media activists are aware that posts on Whatsapp groups and various other digital platforms can be reported to Central and State Cyber-Crime agencies and their administrators and individuals can be arrested under appropriate Sections of the law for racist posts, re-posts, comments and forwards? Anyone can report. So, be very careful, because your, and the law’s, perceptions, perspectives, definitions and interpretations of racism could and would differ as widely as the sky and earth. Also remember, it is very easy to trace and track racists on digital platforms.

I wonder when Naga manu khan grow-up koribo and see our true and real selves ~ and not look at what we imagine ourselves to be? Everyone knows that the world will no longer remain the same after the novel Coronavirus pandemic. Yes, the world will change ~ it has already started changing since the outbreak of this pandemic last December. But for me the main issue is: amakhan Naga manu change hobo ne nohobo? Of course, we will change our ways of living, doing things, interacting in our social, cultural, religious and political spheres, etc. but will we change our basic nature, our thought-processes, our mentality, our biases and prejudices, our perceptions and perspectives, our values, principles and ethics? To be sure, we have changed beyond recognition from the days of our forebears but has the totality of our nature changed? Perhaps in a few aspects but seeing our larger political, social, economic, religious and cultural behaviour and interactions so far, I think not. So, will the threat of this lethal disease be able to achieve what the irresistible forces of history and the insurmountable forces of the market couldn’t? Somehow I feel that in the post-Coronavirus world, it will be change or perish. The choice, as always, is ours.

Now then, there is some very disquieting noise coming from our private education sector ~ if I have heard it right. Like all sectors, it too is being hit hard therefore it is no exception. Meanwhile, so far we haven’t heard anything from our Minister/Advisor in charge of School Education and Technical and Higher Education regarding how they would address and redress the issues that will arise in the post-lockdown and post-Coronavirus private education scenario. Issues like tuition and other fees, teaching and non-teaching staff salaries, etc., will give rise to varied and various opinions and interpretations. Students, parents, teaching and non-teaching staff of private schools, colleges, institutions and universities are most likely to be victimized more than these educational institutions’ proprietors and managements. Unconfirmed reports are already surfacing that some of these private educational institutions are deducting a certain percentage of teachers’ salaries ~ these percentages appear to be quite hefty. Have our Minister and Advisor of the aforesaid sector given any thought to the issues that will arise, as also rescue plans, provisions and packages for our private education sector and ensure that students, parents and teaching and non-teaching staff are not short-changed by the maliks? If and when our Government bails out this sector, what would be the main focus and objective? To help the maliks recover moolah and profits that was paused during the lockdown period or to ease the financial and psychological burden of parents, especially those who aren’t Government-salaried, and of teaching and non-teaching staff ~ all equally affected by the lockdown? Prices have skyrocketed unabashedly and if salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff are deducted, the private education sector will have proved to be just another money-making enterprise in Nagaland. But the Central Government guidelines on the issue will be there for our state Government to follow. No doubt, our Government will follow it but we also have a very powerful private education sector lobby here ~ so, much would depend on how unflinchingly resolute our Government, especially the Minister/Advisor in charge of School Education and Technical and Higher Education, would be to ensure that justice is dispensed impartially.

I actually planned to write something nice and pretty today ~ being Sunday and all. But after reading some of the infantile racist raving and ranting posts on social media about the COVID-19 patient of Dimapur, I saw RED. I am still raging with fury. How dare we forget our own human frailties and fragilities! And then, I also saw that video of some guys illegally poaching wildlife! I just wanted to go to the wilds, hunt for these guys and drag them to the Police Station. I hope the authorities have hunted these guys down and lodged them in the inner-most darkest cell. Also, hunt down the village authorities of the criminals, who have blatantly violated the Wildlife Act. Book them too for not maintaining discipline amongst their citizens and for abating violations of lockdown norms and Sections 144 and 188. Yes, we are incorrigible flesh-eaters but this is too much! Especially keeping in mind that experts have always warned that the environment and human health are intrinsically linked. Oh, is nothing sacred anymore to our people?

Ah, before I let myself give in to my rage and breach the lockdown norms by wielding my walking stick out in the streets, I better stop here and take a walk in my compound, soaking in the afternoon rays of the sun. Hehehe, I can almost hear the cops and the medicos heaving a sigh of relief. But mind you, if these terrible racism and impunities go on and the authorities don’t act immediately, I shall do something regrettably drastic. Come on, man, even I can take only this much of being locked-down and writing gaalis and haranguing everyone every day. But it helps me let off steam and I hope you have also found your own ways of letting off steam in these lockdown days. It’s not easy living these days ~ so just imagine life in a real jail. So, better you stay home and safe ~ far away from real jails ~ and hospitals with needles and tubes in your orifices or on ventilators.

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