From “controlled explosion” to “targeted testing,” the excuses for the Kerala government are many. And yet, despite all the literacy and HDI in the world, Covid cases are surging in Kerala. It is currently the only state in the country where active cases are still increasing. With a population of just 3 crore people, Kerala leads in daily new Covid cases, contributing as much as 33% of the daily national total. Evidently, the virus does not respect liberal privilege.
On top of this, the Kerala government has now decided to relax Covid norms for three days during Bakr-Eid. How could this be? Just two or three days ago, mainstream media was holding passionate debates calling for a stop to Kanwar Yatra in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. How can you let religious tradition prevail over common sense? Does human life not matter to you?
The outrage paid off. The Supreme Court took suo moto cognizance of the matter. The state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were shamed and panicked into doing the “sensible” thing. No Kanwar Yatra this year.
Okay, but what about Kerala? How can the state government lift lockdown for Bakr-Eid, that too when the state is number one in daily covid cases? How can they be so brazen about this? Frustrated social media users simply cannot make sense of the blatant double standard.
There are two explanations being offered, but in my view, both are wrong. The first of these accuses one particular community of being far too consumed by religious fundamentalism. The second explanation points the finger at moral bankruptcy of India’s secular establishment. The governments and the Lords will take all possible liberties with Hindu traditions, but they dare not touch Muslim festivals. Sometimes it is vote bank politics, sometimes hypocrisy and just plain fear.
But that is too superficial. Consider this instead.
That is from May this year, shortly before Eid-ul-Fitr. And again, before Bakr-Eid, Pakistan has imposed heavy restrictions on people traveling during the holidays.
Clearly, Pakistan is taking no chances. They are being eminently sensible. They understand the risks. And they are doing what is needed to protect lives. And common people in Pakistan seem to be going along with it just fine.
You see that? No use pointing fingers at a particular community. In fact, Saudi Arabia has banned all foreign pilgrims from Hajj this year. Only citizens and residents will be allowed to make the journey, that too only if they are fully vaccinated, with a cap set at 60,000.
The Saudis don’t want to take any risks. Nor does Pakistan. Then, why is Kerala stepping out of line?
Because, in my view, Kerala is doing something different. The government there is sending a message, to people in Kerala and around the world. This is not about letting people enjoy a religious festival. The government of Pinarayi Vijayan and his son in law is sending a message to “non-believers” in Kerala that they are second class citizens.
If Uttar Pradesh can cancel Kanwar Yatra, why can’t there be a lockdown in Kerala during Bakr-Eid? The Kerala government is not worried about people asking this question. They want people to ask this question and internalize the answer. Because one is a pagan festival while the other is not. The Kerala government wants the idol worshipers to realize this, accept their second class status and bow down to those of the true faith.
They are not ashamed of the double standard. They are proud of it. And they revel in it. Accusing them of double standards is like saying the rulers who imposed Jaziya tax had a double standard. The purpose of the tax was to humiliate the non-believer, not money.
Does Pakistan or Saudi Arabia need to rub it in the faces of “non-believers?” No, because the non-believers in those countries have fully accepted their second class status. There is no point in making a show of it again, especially in times of the pandemic.
But in Kerala, the question is still open. It seems the government of Pinarayi Vijayan and his son in law want to make it clear to the non-believers in the state that they are second class citizens. They are taking a huge risk by lifting Covid restrictions and they know that. But for the ruling Communists, it’s a risk worth taking.