Casteism, discrimination based on religion and class is not new in India. It has been a reality since the time the Varna system was misinterpreted as a Jati system. History is the proof that only one strata of the society have always borne the brunt of any disaster. Whether it be the Shudras in the ancient times, the untouchable Dalits, the poorest people of the society, or the domestic helpers now.
While some poor Dalits are losing life for a chance to worship at a temple, some Dharavi slum dwellers are berated and blamed for spreading the disease. While some are gathering in groups and bashing other religions by saying this virus is sent by “Allah to punish the nonbelievers and we are safe from it”, some other religion is treating “gaumutra” as medicine for the virus. The ignorance of the largely “educated” people of India is hilarious and shocking.
While thousands of migrant workers are stranded all across India, broke and homeless, trying to survive, the privileged middle and higher classes blame them as carriers of the virus.
After blaming several groups of people on the basis of religion or caste, now the blaming has been shifted to a particular class of our society, the domestic helpers.
The sickness of accusing the poorer class of spreading a disease for simply not existing in a posh neighborhood, with posh lifestyle is disgusting.
After being stranded for months, some poor migrant workers have finally made it to their homes. But that doesn’t make their lives any easier. An 80-year-old woman was refused entry to her own home in Telangana after returning from Maharashtra.
People all over the country have refused to seek service from maids. Although the decision is practical to keep the virus from spreading, people are not paying the maids out of kindness which is making life tough for the poorer strata as they don’t have the luxury of savings. What is sickening is that people are not refusing service to prevent the spread but because they believe the worker herself/himself is infected because they are not well to do.
As shameful as it is some metropolitan cities of India, including Mumbai and Delhi house the intellectuals who are refusing the service of lift or barring the use of toilets or protesting against the domestic workers sitting on a park bench. Some domestic workers of Mumbai were forces to take a bus back to their home in villages near Kolkata on being denied home in the colonies they lived earlier.
Unlike in first world countries, maid or domestic workers in India were always deemed as ‘lesser’ humans by the privileged middle and upper class. But this COVID-19 crisis has taken the things to another level where hate-mongering against this particular strata is normalized to a sickening level. But the other implication of this entire hatred scheme is the superiority complex of the two privileged classes. It’s not a secret that cities like Kolkata and Delhi were first infected by abroad returned affluent individuals who lacked a basic sense of responsibility as a human, yet that didn’t lead to questions against them. Maybe because they have no social power or are “weaker” sections of society, the poor have been blamed for everything since forever.
This is the reality, as disastrous it is. From advertising not to let your maid cook or knead the dough with her ‘infected’ hands to refusing food, shelter, and basic amenities, humanity has been flushed down the drain. The power that money, affluence, a posh house in a posh environment has provided to the lucky classes has turned them into dictators over the helpless class.
During these trying times, while kindness should be of utmost importance, it has been shoved aside and discrimination has taken over the society in a shameful twist.
But that doesn’t mean there are no exceptions. Acting as a silver lining to clouds of inhumanity, several NGOs, Sikh organizations like Khalsa Aid and individuals like Bollywood actor Sonu Sood have gone out of their way to help the needy and oppressed in this despairing time.
Banaras Hindu University
2nd Year, English Hons.
Mohona is an avid reader and an equality seeker. She takes a keen interest in painting and finds solace among books, coffee, nature, and dogs.