DONALD Trump instantly springs to mind when one thinks of a deranged world leader who surrounded himself with religious lackeys, conspiracy theorists and charlatans touting absurd cures during the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mercifully, the deranged tyrant is gone, leaving the media to concentrate on India’s answer to Trump – Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an arrogant, authoritarian Hindu nationalist who steered a similar course that’s now plunged the country into an unimaginable nightmare that’s left more than 220,000 people dead, over 20 million more infected and an utterly broken health service.
Pictures and reports coming out of India right now are beyond horrifying, but what sparked this piece was a Linked In message forwarded to me by a China-based Gaurav Tyagi, a long-time supporter of The Freethinker:
Priyanka Tyagi is Guarev’s US-based sister. He also sent me a link to a CNN op-ed by Meenakshi Narula Ahamed that makes clear that religious and Hindu political fervour, combined with complacency and gross incompetence, has led to the current situation during which, each day, cremation grounds are incinerating thousands of bodies, sending up never-ending plumes of ash that are turning the skies gray over some of India’s biggest cities. Now witchdoctors are getting into the act by branding COVID sufferers with hot irons.
Lulled into complacency by the declining rates of infection last year, Modi acted as if the battle had been won and made a series of critical mistakes. Instead of focusing on getting the country vaccinated and making sure the health care system had adequate supplies, the prime minister turned his attention to winning state elections. Amid an election year, massive political rallies were allowed to take place without ensuring Covid protocols.
Modi’s minister of home affairs, Amit Shah, who he relied on as his political strategist, was on the campaign trail rather than fulfilling his duties handling the pandemic, as several news outlets in India reported.
They pandered to their Hindu base and allowed the Kumbh Mela to take place, a Hindu festival where millions gathered to pray over two months defying social distancing as Covid cases spiked. Thousands contracted the virus as a result and the events were deemed super spreaders.
In April of last year, writing for Scroll, Aparna Gopalan warned that Covid-19 in India “has been a nightmare waiting to happen” and would “cost the country dearly.”
Gopalan pointed out that:
India’s Bharatiya Janata Party regime is about as science-sceptical as they come. Following authoritarians everywhere from China to the United Kingdom and the United States, India’s government spent February and much of March insistently downplaying the seriousness of the virus and prioritising its political calculus over lifesaving action.
This took the absurd form of Bharatiya Janata Party (BNJ) members gathering in crowds to drink and promote cow-urine as a vaccine to Covid-19, and most recently, in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s penchant for thali-banging, diya-lighting, minority-baiting street theater going viral across the country.
We’ve seen little in the way of genuine economic relief, no word on universalising testing, and no mention of how healthcare will be made more affordable: just showmanship and bluster.
Meanwhile it’s reported today (Monday) that the hashtag #ResignModi trended with tweets roasting Modi over the Covid resurgence.
By evening, the hashtag had notched more than 200,000 tweets that bombarded cyberspace with cartoons and graphics showing Narendra Modi fiddling like Roman emperor Nero while a glut of Covid bodies has led to crematorium parts melting, pyres being lit on pavements and hospitals staggering the release of the dead.
And go he must. For this is the imbecile who, a few years back, claimed that the elephant god Ganesh acquired his head through plastic surgery!
We worship Lord Ganesha. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.
Just two words in that sentence makes Modi unfit to hold public office: “We worship.”