Following 12 consecutive nights of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s police-involved death in Minneapolis, the demonstrators in Seattle, Washington, did something similar to what the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protesters did at the Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi early this year.
Take yourself back into the 6th Century and imagine the greatest of the Byzantine Emperors, Justinian I (482-565) building an imposing church, Hagia Sophia (meaning “Holy Wisdom” in Greek), in Constantinople, the heart of Orthodox Christianity. Completed in 537, the majesty and grandeur of Hagia Sophia was comparable to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem or to St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
What started as a local outbreak of pneumonia-like fever early this year in Wuhan, China, culminating into international pandemic (unstopped so far), the Black Lives Matter protest estimated to be the biggest in the US history, the Indo-Chinese skirmish in the Himalayas and the pro-democratic freedom movement in Hong Kong are some of the events that will be seared into the memory of generations to come.
There's unanimity in the international community on the Chinese fascist, expansionist and exploitative behavior. It doesn't recognize regular rules of engagement. The 2020's will mark for the first time in world history when an Asian aspiring super power was found picking up unprovoked fights with every country surrounding it and beyond. And it went unchallenged.
The USA has intermittently been in the throes of crises emerging from the killings of African-Americans at the hands of the police. On 25 May 2020, Minneapolis police officers arrested a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, following a 911 call by a convenience store employee that Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Within seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene and his initial resistance, Floyd was dead under the weight of three police officers -- one of them had his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
The USA and India recently got besieged by three crises -- two of them, the Coronavirus pandemic and economic downturns were common. The third, in the case of India, appeared to be the border skirmishes with China; in the US, it was definitely a nationwide protest and rioting in select places against the police brutality motivated by racial prejudices.
In the holy month of Ramadan, as the Muslims around the world were observing fast and offering prayers, horrifying series of incidents were reported from Afghanistan. On 12 May 2020, in Kabul, at 10 a.m., three militants stormed the maternity ward of a hospital and killed at least 15 people. Among the dead were medical workers, a police officer, and mothers with their newborns waiting to see the light outside the hospital.
According to the union health ministry, India registered the biggest single day spike of Covid-19 cases on 25 May 2020 taking the country's tally to138,845, with the death toll climbing to 4,021. The patients’ recovery rate is claimed to be 41.57 percent.
Below are excerpts of an insightful conversation with Shri Upendra Prasad, a senior journalist, that followed publication of my article in this journal on 9 May 2020. A scholar on Gandhi from the post-Independence generation, Shri Prasad also leads a movement, Voice of OBC, through a facebook page which has India-wide 74000 membership.
After nearly two months in the bunker cutting off all social contacts, we are told 3,506,924 people (at the time of writing) got infected with coronavirus worldwide. This has claimed the lives of 247,473 including those of 65,000 in the USA alone. Nearly 1,125,255 patients (32%) recovered, but the pandemic has taken a huge toll on all aspects of people’s lives.
Ever since 15 Dec 2019 when a peaceful protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that turned into disruption and arson around the Delhi Jamia Millia Islamia campus, posters or placards featuring Gandhi were widely displayed.
In the wake of the Delhi riots (Feb. 23-25, 2020), tension or mistrust between the Hindus and the Muslims was bound to rise. At the same time, however, scores of people on both sides were willing to throw themselves into the charged atmosphere to calm the situation. The need of the hour is to salute them on behalf of the nation, bring them together and empower them for the sake of peace and harmony in the community and the country.
Many learned people have been quick to draw parallels between the riots of Feb 2020 and the anti-Sikh pogrom of Oct 1984. The comparison may appear to be ludicrous. However, observers with perspective and experience cannot be stopped from making relative assessments of the two tragic incidents. Both of them took place in the national capital of Delhi.