Global Pandemic and Pervasive Subjugation

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  Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa | File Photo

Criticism must be intensified towards the Buddhist-majority Sri Lankan Government’s mandate that anyone who dies of COVID-19 must be cremated – a practice forbidden in Islam  

By Sheikh Imran

AFTER the Covid-19 outbreak, a wave of crisis engulfed the entire globe which left every nation affected by the infection. Its arrival not only marked the exposé of an ill planned medical treatment mechanism in major countries, but also exposed the totalitarian and discriminatory malice of the governments against its own people. Covid-19 outbreak was also greeted by the resurgence of a rebranded and more intense reactionary international block which included countries from India to America.

Governments of such countries had an important job at hand: when the crisis arose for the first time, they went on a rampage of pummeling conspiracy theories to thwart the damages inflicted by Covid-19. How they handled this exigency in their respective countries is something which came under severe criticism from different quarters including the WHO (World Health Organization). We saw people die in apathy and negligence, every affair pertaining to living and dead became an issue of debates and discussions.

Some large and powerful states around the globe also used this opportunity to further “discipline” their citizens, awarding their forces and governments with arbitrary powers, while nothing serious was being done to uplift the standards of healthcare. A discriminatory approach was also adopted by many states when the Covid-19 spread was associated with different linguistic, religious and social groups. In India, there was a islamophobic smear campaign which scapegoated a muslim preaching group called Tablighi Jamaat. The contagion was falsely attributed to them and was used as yet another excuse to marginalise muslims.

A similar news article surfaced from Sri Lanka recently, it reported that Sri Lankan authorities cremated the bodies of Muslim Covid-19 patients against the wishes of the community.

If we go back in history of Sri Lanka, ever since it gained her freedom from colonialism, it initiated a series of discriminatory measures against the Tamil minority of Sri Lanka. Tamils were pushed against the wall, their political rights were denied to them, their identity was snatched away from them and their religious identity also came under threat when the Sri Lankan government made it legal for the State to promote Buddhism, a religion of Sinhala majority. In return, the Tamil leaders pitched for the inclusion of their social identity, restoration of their political rights and autonomy for regions inhabiting Tamils. None of the demands were met by the Sri Lankan government; a brazen display of a stubborn and a majoritarian government was in practice in full public glare. This finally culminated into a violent civil war with LTTE coming into existence amid demands of a separate Tamil State. The decades followed years of bloodshed, it saw killings and destruction of both the majority Sinhala as well as the minority Tamil community in Sri Lanka. After LTTE leader Prabhakaran was killed in 2009, they established a Truth and Reconciliatory Commission to settle the crisis which was a result of their own stubbornness and discriminatory majoritarianism.

More than a decade has passed since then, and the very country is faced by a challenge as a result of an ensuing global pandemic. This time they are forcing the Muslims residing in Sri Lanka to cremate their dead bodies, disregarding their aspirations and religious obligations. In a blatant abuse of power and discrimination against a community, the Lankan authorities first profiled the Muslims racially, and declared the Muslims living in Sri Lanka the most affected Covid-19 community in Sri Lanka. Adding to the woes of the community, the relatives of the victims are forced to bear the costs of the cremation of their loved ones whose bodies are desecrated in front of their very eyes. Sri Lanka is among those rare nations around the globe who have called for the cremation of those who die because of Covid-19 contraction. There are more than 185 countries which allow both burials as well as cremation of such bodies. WHO also holds both the ways as feasible to perform the last rites of Covid-19 affected bodies. This is so reminiscent of the days when Sri Lanka first started a majoritarian campaign of discrimination against the minorities living in their country and the ugly violence which erupted as an aftermath.

These times are abnormal and in such an exigency, if global leaders embark on a journey riding high on the horses of conspiracy theories and superstitious, spurious methods to tackle such a situation can only invite an apocalyptic tragedy. In such times, instead of strengthening the health sectors and educating the citizenry, if a state focuses on exercising maximum arbitrary powers on them then it can only end up inviting a wrath of divisive political instability along-with a deadly pandemic. It should be understood by the governments and leaders that the basic human rights and dignity of an individual remains intact in the absence or the presence of an epidemic. These rights, aspirations and will of the people need to be respected and acknowledged. No room should be left for another Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany to flourish.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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