India Stands Together

Harbhajan Singh recently tweeted the picture of Dhauladhar ranges that were visible from his home in Jalandhar. He tweeted in ecstasy, “Never seen Dhauladar range from my home rooftop in Jalandhar..never could imagine that’s possible”. The pandemic has become an opportunity for many to clear the haze that surrounded their hearts and minds. Before the entire globe was struck with the Covid19 virus, everyone of us was in a race, to catch some goal, to reach some destination, to give their children a better education or to feed their families. For many the race was more real, for others there were invisible gains in future. Covid19 has caused great misery and loss of life to thousands of persons living across the world. India too has not remained untouched by this pandemic. At the same time, it has caused everyone to slow down and pause.

We live in times of twenty four*seven news and more often than not see images of violence, riots, lack of human empathy and dying emotions. We see this day in and day out and had almost become immune to other’s suffering. India was particularly engulfed with lot of negative news before the advent of the pandemic. There were attempts to divide us on the basis of caste, religion, region and ideologies. There was a missing sense of brotherhood, or so we believed!

The preamble to the Indian Constitution resolves in the name of ‘We the People’ to secure for all its citizens ‘fraternity’. Fraternity or universal brotherhood forms the core of the virtues we Indians should stand for. And for me this pandemic has been an opportunity to see firsthand this fraternity and the large heartedness of the people of our country.

The state of Arunachal Pradesh borders Bhutan, Myanmar and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. It is in the remote corner of North East India with nature abound and beautiful people. The state has limited connectivity with only a few train options. Due to the lock down, many workers and students in various parts of the country could not go back to their homes. There was initial panic and concern about managing food and ration. State administration started a helpline number and we were getting frantic calls. It is in this hour of crisis, common people and other state administrations, all came out and helped. National Disaster Management Act was invoked to assist migrant labours and there were calls from civil society groups around the country to offer help. All the organizations helped without any discrimination and in the spirit of service. Be it in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi or Uttarakhand, every where the prompt support that people offered would fill one’s heart with gratitude.

People opened their hearts and doors. They are helping like they would do for their loved ones. A simple search on social media platforms will show how the entire country has flooded with acts of common people offering whatever they can, without seeking any recognition and name. To mention any one initiative or organization in this herculean task would be an act of travesty.

As the lock down had just begun, there were acts of racial discrimination against our fellow citizens in certain parts of the country. They were reprehensible incidents and I felt a sense of shame and guilt to be unable to do anything then. But my conversations with students over last week have been re-affirming. It is not only Arunachalees who have received help but people from other North Eastern states too have found home away from home. Similarly, migrant labours and workers in North East from other parts of the country have found constant help and supply of food. Arunachal on its part has started a door to door delivery using phone app and WhatsApp. Cash support to migrant labours in distress is also being offered.

The fight against Corona has just begun and will test our resilience. While the support that our sisters and brothers from different states received was heartening, but it isn’t enough. There are people who are still struggling with one time meal. While the government and district administrations are doing their best, as citizens we need to do much more. These acts of kindness might seem small but will go a long way in strengthening the unity of our nation. Let us recall ‘The Preamble’ and inculcate the virtue of fraternity, so dear to the makers of our Constitution. We must promise ourselves that in this time of crisis we will not let anyone go without food, help those in need and stand by our elders. Every act of generosity shall bear the fruit greater than each of us. In the spirit of physical distancing let us resolve to ‘Stand Together, Alone’.

(It was originally published in India Today. https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/coronavirus-pandemic-spirit-of-fraternity-arunachal-pradesh-1663852-2020-04-06?fbclid=IwAR0OOj_w6OlsVHPr6MvkqsTvraVyMjFghbNi-dbQKu2ZTKYlEtrBbUXy2nY)