Arundhati Roy criticises Modi’s handling of COVID-19; dubs lockdown ‘punitive’

Arundhati Roy criticises Modi’s handling of COVID-19; dubs lockdown ‘punitive’

Writer and activist Arundhati Roy launched a scathing attack on the Narendra Modi dispensation over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that for two months after the first case was reported in India, the government did nothing.

During a video interaction with British political activist, writer and journalist Tariq Ali and former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on the topic ‘Coronavirus, War and Empire’ which was organised by ‘Stop the War Coalition’, Roy said during the initial days of the pandemic, the government was busy dealing with the anti-CAA protests in Delhi.

As the virus was spreading, the logical move would have been to shut down airports, but airports were open, she said, adding that thousands of people came in from the US for the ‘Namaste Trump’ event.

“Even after the WHO declared it a pandemic, nothing was done,” she claimed. Slamming the move to lock down the country without giving people enough time, Roy dubbed the lockdown “one of the most punitive lockdowns in the world.”

“Working class people were stranded in cities, and they began this spectacular long march home,” the writer said. While lockdown in the West meant social distancing, in India it meant, physical compression, she added.

“This country’s economy was devastated and the virus continued to grow,” she said, adding that no other country has seen an upward spike in COVID-19 graph like India when the lockdown was lifted.

Pointing out that normalcy can’t be restored anytime soon in India, Roy said lakhs of migrant workers were forced to flee to their villages and they will have to come back as there is nothing for them back in their villages.

Speaking about classrooms moving to the online space, she said this will deprive thousands of underprivileged children access to education.

“The government is trying to change the narrative, to make people forget the economic hardships, coronavirus, by ratcheting up its cold Hindu nationalist, anti Muslim rhetoric by arresting students, by arresting activists, by preaching the most horrific bile through mainstream media which it controls,” she said and added that “the government will pit people against each other to sell the story to a devastated nation, and you know that Modi can sell anything because he is so adored by this particularly powerful middle class and the media.”

“Every day you wake up wondering who is going to be the next person to be arrested,” she said, and slammed the government’s handling of the anti-CAA protests.

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